On making generalizations:
We need to stop making generalizations, accepting stereotypes, and spreading them into the world. I am not trying to make stereotyping and generalizing a political issue. I will certainly admit our political climate has changed the ways we talk to and about one another, and that brings this issue to mind.
Making generalizations continues to create divisions when there may not be any, and it further separates and emphasizes the divides that exist. Even though a conservative said that I am mean-spirited, I don’t assume that all conservatives feel that way. Generalizing means that you take the actions from a few specific cases and apply that logic to a whole group. I read a post yesterday from a conservative woman, stating that the women involved in the marches would be terrible mothers. Despite my obvious pain in the world of infertility and my deep desire to be a mother, I wondered… what in the world would possess someone to make such a cruel, sweeping, obviously untrue statement. Maybe some of those woman would be bad mothers, but is it helpful to generalize all of them, and share it in a public setting? Sure, people liked her statement, and piled fuel on the fire. Does that mean that all those people believe the same thing? I’m hoping that instead of that woman being heartless and cruel, that she is thoughtless… and doesn’t actually mean those things.
What is the motivation there? I’m honestly curious as to why people make terrible generalizations, especially in such a public forum. Is it to gain attention?
I’m agonizingly thoughtful in the words that I choose and the way I use my public influence, because words do matter.
Social media has given us each an audience, and we need to choose our words carefully in our newfound positions of influence.
On kindness being equated with weakness:
Being kind and caring toward others doesn’t indicate anything negative about my character. Taking care of those who need help- yes, including safe spaces for those who need it- is not a strike on me. We all have safe spaces. Some people find their safe space in a book. Or a video game. Some people use a cold beer. Or a cup of tea. Or a cigarette. Or from hugs in their mother’s arms. Needing a safe space is human, and the implication that is it an insult is deeply disturbing. I know some of you are reading this and must be thinking that me being disturbed by your statements taunting and making fun of “safe spaces” means I’m a snowflake. That brings me to my next thought…
On being a snowflake, I guess:
Snowflakes are beautiful and unique. It would be such a flattering statement for you all to think that I’m beautiful and unique. I can be delicate like a snowflake but stand up for myself. I can be caring towards others and strong at the same time. Being politically correct, when it puts someone at ease or makes them more comfortable, is a kind and strong decision, not a fragile one. I ask a lot of questions when I don’t understand something. I don’t consider myself weak, either of character or body. I work hard. I’ve run marathons! I thrive without a thyroid. These things are not easy. Why do people use the word snowflake to try and tear me down for being kind and thoughtful? Of course I’m hurt when people I love say mean things.
Any implication and generalization that liberals don’t work hurts me. It really bothers me when people I love say things like that. I’m not easily offended, and I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, which is why it is so painful when my family and friends make generalizations about the work ethic of liberals.
Don’t they know me?
Do they not respect me?
Do they not mean what they say?
Do they not realize that when they make untrue generalizations in a public forum, they’re further separating us?
Literally, us. Me. And you.
I read those statements and want to keep those people at arms length, because they must think differently of me. Why wouldn’t they say those things to my face? They feel so strongly enough about it that they’re willing to say it to everyone they know online.
I don’t have time to defend myself against every attack on my work ethic because I’m too busy running two photo businesses, serving as an elected official, being a wife and puppy mom, studying for my master’s, and teaching undergraduate students- if I have spare time, I’m volunteering my ass off.
When I am upset that people I care about are spreading hatred, sometimes people around me (ahem, Mr. Mustache) try and make me feel better by saying, “Heidi, it’s not about you. They’re not talking about you.” Unfortunately, when you make public generalizations about women, or conservationists, or politicians, YOU ARE. It is about me. As soon as you make a sweeping statement about one of those groups, I’m in there. Please think about it before you hit the “share” button on some meme saying politicians are like dirty diapers.
Rehearsal isn’t a bad thing. I saw an interview with a young Trump supporter where he echoed the sentiment of several that I’ve heard and read about. I’ll paraphrase his statement, “I voted for Trump because when he gets up and speaks, he’s really saying what he’s thinking. He’s not rehearsed. No one has told him what to say.”
I want to make it very clear that I think rehearsal is incredibly important for almost every aspect of my life. Rehearsing what you want to say doesn’t mean that you’re influenced by anyone. I do most of my rehearsing alone, with a highlighter over a city council agenda or reading my grad school papers to my dog.
There is a language to public speaking, to persuasion, and to professionalism, and while I don’t believe that we all need to rehearse every single thing we say, there needs to be some practice. There needs to be an understanding of the context in which you’re speaking and the audience you’re addressing.
This feels like the difference between asking a 7th grade saxophonist in jazz band to improvise, and asking Wynton Marsalis to improvise. There is a period of learning: you learn the language, you learn the context, and you practice how to say what you intend. You have to learn the notes, the chord progressions, and figure out how to use those notes to convey feeling. Eventually, after lots of practice, you can say exactly what you mean, and be very clear in your message. If you’re not rehearsed, you can get bogged down by logistics and not be a good communicator.
I know politicians that make eloquent statements, probably rehearsed, but completely authentic. I know this because I know them. I literally know them- send Christmas cards, have conference calls, sit in meetings together, “let’s have lunch!” kind of know them. The words that they say in press conferences and that they type in press releases are just cleaned up versions of what they are thinking. Rehearsing and prepping your material is a part of political professionalism, and not always a sign of impact from outside influence.
(Disclaimer: this post has been heavily thought through, rehearsed, and edited. It is definitely still authentic, and straight from my heart.)
On hearing “Get over it”:
At the end of every meme challenging the #notmypresident movement, there is seemingly the same sentiment, Get Over It. This is troubling because I believe that it has little to do with Trump supporters thinking that others need to accept who our new president is, and is an indication of an entirely different style of political involvement.
I believe that those who say “get over it” subscribe to a style of politics with involvement once every four years. If they didn’t like President Obama, they “got over it,” and didn’t worry about it until it was time for the next election. I don’t subscribe to that style of politics- I believe in being active as often as possible at every level of government. Change is made incrementally at all levels, and it is being accomplished constantly. I don’t think I need to get over anything- what is on the other side of that statement?
“Get over it” and don’t think about politics until it’s time to vote again?
“Get over it” and don’t talk about your concerns with policy with anyone?
“Get over it” and get back to work?
Other people may say, “get over it,” but I’m going to pretend they’re saying, “get on with it.” We’ve got work to do. I hope that’s what they are actually intending to say.
On science, facts, data, and the media:
I will have to write a separate post about these issues, because I honestly don’t know how to begin writing and starting conversations about the attack on facts. I don’t know how to make a persuasive argument when facts are now considered up for debate. I do know that this issue is tied to the media, and the real and perceived bias. I consider myself a part of the media, and I have been doing tons of research in grad school about the field of visual communication within the field of political communication. I just have one thought to leave with you on this topic until I write about it again: covering an event with no perceived bias is almost impossible.
Here are a couple non-political examples:
Example one: bridesmaid looks at wedding photos and says, “You made me look fat. I’m not that fat.” Yes, different angles could change the way she looks, but in reality, photos often capture a pretty accurate picture of what is actually happening.
Example two: commercial client sees his headshots and says, “Whoa, I look like I’ve lost a lot of hair in these photos! Is it the angle, or the light?” I didn’t try to make him look worse, in fact, I tried to make him look better!
Even if I captured that bridesmaid or that businessman in a 100% accurate photo, they could feel that I was not doing them justice, or portraying them in a bad light. I could edit the photos to make them thinner and with fuller hair, but then I’m showing bias in the opposite way- which I often do. 🙂
In our political climate, imagine if candidate one had a huge booger sticking out of their nose in a debate. If the newspaper wrote that the candidate had a booger, it would appear that they were biased against candidate one. If the newspaper didn’t say anything about the booger, it would appear that they favored candidate one. This is a tricky situation, and not as easy to solve as it would appear. Accurately reporting on events will always favor one person over the other because real life isn’t exactly equal and fair all of the time. Sometimes one person has a bad hair day. Sometimes one person just got a speeding ticket and they’re coming in to the event already angry. Someones one person has a Freudian slip and says something wrong and embarrassing. Covering these types of things accurately will portray someone in a more negative light, and it’s not biased, it’s accurate. More to come later.
While there are many things that I could say about my concern with the new Trump administration (especially regarding WOTUS), this is not intended to be a purely partisan post.
I want it to be an honest call to action for my readers to think about how they choose to use their influence.
I want it to be an honest call to action for people to be kind.
Hitting that publish button feels a lot like I’m walking into a fist fight with my hands tied behind my back, but I feel a social obligation to share my thoughts and concerns with you. I’m waiting for all the unkind things that will be said about me “whining” and that I’ve been “brainwashed” and all the rest of it. I know it’s coming. I’m trying to be prepared.
Please be kind to one another. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness.