Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fireworks

I've recently been listening to Katy Perry's "Firework" song, and while the song makes me feel really good inside, and while I have related to a lot of the non-chorus lines (the "Do you ever feel?" parts), there's something in that message that I don't agree with. Don't get me wrong here - I do believe that everyone has amazing qualities to share with the world, like fireworks inside. But, as I mentioned in The Uncrypted Truth, I am wary of songs that tell people to just go out there and be your awesome self. Yes, that is a great thing to do. But I feel like it puts too much focus on people feeling unaccepted rather than the people who are not accepting them. There's a tone indicating that people are just holding back because of their own insecurities, not because they know for a fact that people won't accept them. This might be good message for certain people, but the truth is, there are lots of people who would be kicked out of their homes or be in some kind of really bad situation if they came out as who they really are, and songs like this give the message of "it's not real, it's all in your head, get over yourself."

A lot of people think that I'm reserved and holding back just because I'm introverted, but really, I don't try to hide much. When I entered college, I was really out there showing off my real self to everyone, and I got cut down time and time again. So no, I was not holding back the firework show - I was being a firework, and people didn't like it. All of these "encouraging" songs may feel good now, but when I was really feeling bad, they made me feel so much worse.

But there's more to this message: Our entire culture is focused on self-defense, and while that is very important, we need to stop treating attacks like they're inevitable. When I first arrived on my college campus and we discussed sexual assault, everyone told us not to walk alone at night, not to take open drinks, keep an eye on each other at parties, and so forth. Not ONCE did anyone say, "Don't sexually assault other people." Not once did anyone talk about affirmative consent. We were told to protect ourselves rather than prevent assaults from happening.

One time during senior year, a first-year friend asked me to fill out a survey where I would give advice to new students. I wrote things like, "Don't be afraid to change dorms if you need to," "Don't be afraid to walk away from people if you don't feel good around them," "Don't feel pressured to do things you don't want to do." It was hard - I was holding back a lot. A part of me wanted to just say, "Run away and never come back!" But then, I wasn't talking to my younger self. The majority of students liked it there. The majority of students probably wouldn't need the advice I gave them. I thought there was no advice I had to give to people who were already happy at Colby. But then I realized what I did wrong. I was just like someone who advises people not to walk alone at night, who tells people not to feel bad when other people treat them badly. But the best advice I could have given would have been, "Don't look down on people who are different from you," "Don't pressure people to do things that they don't want to do," "Accept that what other people are going through is as bad as they say it is."

That's what I'm doing here, on this blog. That's something a lot of my posts have in common.  I address the people who are doing the invalidating and pressuring and bullying and assaulting. I show people how to validate others and respect their boundaries. When I write fictional stories from the point of view of someone who is being hurt by someone else, I am almost always addressing the people who are doing the hurting. The tone is more, "Look what you did! Stop hurting people!" than it is, "How to heal from this inevitable problem." I will NOT discuss preventable problems as if they're just a part of life. I will not treat other people like storms we have to protect ourselves from. I WILL encourage people to respect other people's desires and to welcome other people to get out there and be themselves, like fireworks.

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