Empathy 

T/W: I talk about victims of sexual assault in this article.

So back in May I had one of the most humbling experiences in my life and it really made me want to talk about empathy.

empathy

ˈɛmpəθi

noun
“the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”

I’ve always thought that I was empathetic towards others, but there’s always room for improvement, hence this post. We live in a society where people lack empathy for others because the other person’s situation does not impact on their life and it’s wrong. A lot of people lack empathy and respond to the misfortune of others with their cold and callous opinions which usually consists of victim-blaming. Or the person is pompous and starts speaking of how they would have done things differently and how the victim is “stupid, silly, entitled, lazy, should not have been out late at night” etc. the list goes on. I’ve seen this narrative used against rape victims (since the beginning of time), more recently Grenfell tower victims and even more recently the Hollywood sexual assault victims.

When someone is talking about their painful experience(s), the best thing to do is shut-up and listen with the intent of understanding. Not listening with the intent of responding or with judgement. This is where people fail, they don’t care about what the other person has to say, they just want to talk over them. People also lack the ability to perspective take e.g. putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. For example:

Benefit Seekers:

Benefit seekers are judged as lazy, entitled people who are living a lavish life provided by the taxpayer. This warped view is created by Channel 4 shows like Benefits Street and every tabloid that like to post a “Single mum with 6 kids by 7 different dads lives in an £2.5 million 8 bedroom Kensington town house that YOU pay for” on their front page.

People should be more outraged by wealthy individuals and corporations avoiding paying billions in tax, but, hey! focus on the poor who need the welfare system to survive. The UK is in serious need of a tax system reform, though, but I’ll save that topic for another day.

Now, yes, there are a small number of people who exploit the benefit system and commit fraud because they don’t want to work or because they’re greedy but you can’t tar everyone with the same brush. Most benefit-seekers are those in need, in low paid jobs, have dependents or disabilities, they need the welfare provided to them (which is usually just enough to survive btw).

Imagine your quality of life if you didn’t have a support system, you did not come from a loving home, you’ve unexpectedly lost your low paid job which did not allow you to save because your pay is minuscule, the family breadwinner has died or is extremely ill, your landlord has decided to raise your rent and now you’re homeless because you can’t afford it. Now, imagine there was no system to help you out and you were left to fend for yourself. I read a story this week about a mum who died as a result of her benefits being cut. She missed her benefits meeting because she was in A&E, when she, died she was found in her home wearing a coat and scarf leaving her 4 children behind. Her death could have been avoided, which is why it broke my heart. Hence why the benefit system is needed, to protect the most vulnerable in society.

Grenfell Tower:

I still find it crazy that this atrocity even happened. 6 months on and most of the former residents are still living in hotels. I’ve seen people complain that former residents should “not be picky, they should settle for whatever the council gives them.” which is ridiculous, they shouldn’t settle for anything, their homes were destroyed and they lost family members and friends in a fire that was completely preventable. It’s Rydon and Kensington and Chelsea council’s fault and they have blood on their hands.

T/W: Victims of Sexual Assault:

Rape is always the rapist’s fault. Victims are judged and condemned in many ways, thus perpetuating rape culture, it could be done in the following ways:

  • “Why did she wait so long?” The sad truth is reporting rape is not an easy or simple process and women are barely believed when they report rape or sexual assault. Instead of being listened to these women are condemned. Just because a woman didn’t report an assault, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
  • “What did you drink?” Someone could down a bottle of Rosé and rape will still be the rapist’s fault because he/she has exploited the victim’s vulnerability. Which will always be wrong.

rape

  • “What were you wearing?” whether you go out naked or dress like the Michelin man, rape is still the rapist’s fault. No one is entitled to your body, regardless of the clothes you wear.

The list of condemnation is exhausting, but not limited to the above. Men are not called out on their disgusting behaviour E.g. grabbing a girl’s butt, then turning around acting like you didn’t in a club, getting a girl drunk to sleep with her because you know it will be harder to sleep with her if she’s sober. This behaviour is predatory, it needs to stop, men must be called out by the men around them. I’m also tired of women only getting empathy because of their proximity to someone else, e.g when something bad happens, someone usually says imagine if this was your “mother, daughter, sister” etc. Women should receive empathy for being human, not because they are connected to you in some way.

Rape culture will continue to exist because victims are blamed, shamed and then silenced. All accountability is placed on the victims, not the men who rape and it is so frustrating. It’s frustrating to see disproportionate media coverage on false rape accusations, it’s frustrating to see how entitled men feel to women’s bodies, it’s frustrating to see victims vilified and not receive the empathy and justice they deserve because men are still viewed as animals who lack self-control. Men are not animals, nor are they babies to not know what they’re doing, they should be held accountable for their actions and ostracized or they will continue to rape. It’s that simple.

Discrimination against people with special needs:

If there is anything that grinds my gears, it’s this.

Too many people are vile and abusive to those with special needs and it drives me insane. If it’s not abuse on nights out when someone is minding their business, it’s abuse on public transport. Public transport is an important one, earlier this year I saw this video:

First thing first, the wheelchair space is meant for wheelchair users first then buggies. If your buggy can fold, then fold it and let a wheelchair user use the space. They need it more than you. If a wheelchair user is “taking too long” to get on the bus do not tut or sigh for once imagine if you were in their position, have some compassion and use your common sense.

How can you be so horrible and have such disregard for human life? Also I hate when people make jokes about people with special needs. No one asks to be born with special needs. I can’t respect you if you don’t respect them.

White Privilege and Racism:

White privilege is real, please click here.

Racism still exists and will continue to exist if people deny its existence. Whether it’s institutional, systemic, police brutality, etc. It still exists. Just because you:

  • “Don’t see colour”,
  • Interracial relationships are on the rise,
  • America had a mixed race president,
  • You have a black bf,
  • Some countries have it “worse” than others,
  • Rappers say “nigga” in their songs.
  • You’re a person of colour (POC) and like being seen as “compliant/good POC.” So you hate when black people speak up,

Doesn’t mean people should refrain from protesting the injustice they face. You should empathise with people and see how you can help combat the injustice they face instead of telling them to “get over it” or start victim blaming.

Last but definitely not least fat-shaming:

People go out of their way to be horrible to fat people and say/do nasty things for no reason. Whether it’s saying horrible things while they’re minding their business in the street, at a club or on public transport. Even on twitter, people decide to tear people’s appearance apart and it’s insidious.

This comic illustrates my point perfectly:

People become big through different reasons, the main reason not burning as many calories as their intake, they’ve had a baby, they have a medical condition, food tastes really good (duh) or they have been using food as a coping mechanism. This could be from when you’re young, being overweight when you’re young can set you up for obesity for the rest of your life and ruin your self-esteem. All the foods you were given are now bad for you and it’s hard to give them up. Coupled with a low esteem because of how you look, clothes not fitting well enough, your size not being catered to and fear that someone will say or do something, it’s not a fun life, sometimes you can feel trapped in your own body.

If you’re overweight and reading this, your weight does not define you as a person.

Those who are overweight already know what they look like, some are happy and comfortable kudos to them. I can only imagine how it feels to be 100% comfortable in the skin you’re in. Others are not happy and look at themselves daily and want to make a change but feel like they can’t. Losing weight is hard and they don’t need your unnecessary comments which are usually born out of spite, not because you care about their health. Again a fat person could post a pic of themselves and get hateful comments for being confident within themselves and people will hide it under the guise of caring about their health. When really they don’t like it when overweight people are confident because they think fat people don’t deserve confidence and should be hidden. Same thing happens to confident women who others don’t deem attractive, people love to shut them down relentlessly.

Fat Shaming v Thin Shaming:

I’ve seen a lot off fat vs thin shaming tweets and thought I might as well address it here:

“Thin Person: How come if a fat person posts a pic, society says “woo body positivity, slay girl etc.” But if I (a thin person) post a pic I’m told to go and eat something, stop showing of etc.” — Let’s be real, there maybe some body-positivity for fat people but usually its Ashley Graham in a buzzfeed article. Ashley Graham is like the poster girl for the body positive movement, she’s a plus size women with hour-glass figure and a relatively flat stomach, to me she’s a conventional fat. She’s not like other women (and this is no dig at Ashley) who have saggy bellies, several love handles, stretch marks everywhere and rolls. Those women are usually told to put some clothes on, hide, or even die if they share pictures of themselves online. If people are telling you to eat something because you’re thin, tell them you’re fine, you have a fast metabolism and to mind their business.

Or

“How comes if a fat person can ask me if I’ve eaten but If I call them fat it’s an issue”

—Whenever I see this type of tweet I have two thoughts.

  1. Is it only fat people that shame you? I’ve seen people get thin-shamed by people of various sizes but only choose to call out fat people because they’re fat. Unless the person is asking you out of concern e.g your mum, best friend or partner tell them to mind their business.
  2. Is it a family member who said this? From first hand experience I know how annoying family members can be with their fake concern and irrelevant comments about your body/why aren’t you married yet/why don’t you study more etc. If it is a family member (especially a distant one) tell them to mind their business or change the subject.

With the Fat vs. Thin shaming stuff it’s best if everyone just minded their business. It’s not hard.

From looking at the responses to the tweets above, you can probably tell that I don’t believe thin-shaming and fat shaming are the same, because I don’t.

“Thinness is not only the beauty standard but also a false gauge of health, wellness, energy, cleanliness, ambition, intelligence, and morality. A study from the University of Albert showed that “when a thin person is seen lying down watching television, people assume they’re resting. But when people see an overweight person relaxing, it’s automatically assumed they’re lazy and unmotivated.” Yet, clearly, this is not the case.”

-Taken from The Body is Not An Apology, very interesting article if you want to read more.

However, I do think both are damaging because no one should feel that their body is not good enough. I understand how statements like “Real Women have curves” and “How can you be a girl and have no boobs/bum you might as well be a man?” because it can make you feel horrible about your body because they are horrible especially the latter. The size of your bum or chest should not define if you’re a woman or not and not having curves is OK. I know it’s easier said than done but don’t let society dictate how you feel about yourself.

To conclude, society would be a better place if people empathized with others, showed some compassion when people are in a rough place and remembered that they could end up in a rough place too if their life goes down hill (God forbid). Society would also improve immensely if people thought about people’s feelings and how their actions affect others on a daily basis— not only when someone commits suicide. Remember your words have power and can have a negative or positive effect on people, hence why it would also be great if people remembered that not everything you think needs to be said. Therefore, before you say something negative about someone else ask yourself “is this really needed?” if it’s not then don’t say it. There’s enough negativity and pain in the world that you should not be adding to.

If you struggle with empathizing with others below are some tips:

4 Replies to “Empathy ”

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