Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On Condescension and Mama Bears

via USA Today***

The National Geographic article has re-appeared. Evidently, there were technical difficulties, but they seem to be resolved. No sooner had it gone back up than the conflict arose, again, and, again, I am drawn into it like the proverbial fly to shit. Excuse my French. Someone posted a link to the article and provoked a stream of comments on her Facebook page, many grateful for the perspective and nuance of the article and my experience, but many filled with the sort of condescension and patronisation that is particularly irksome. Here's one comment:

I hear you, I am just stating that if the anti-vaxxer were placing my children at risk, I would be angry and unkind and would not care. However, if I were discussing vaccination with an anti-vaxxer in a venue that was not placing my children at risk, I would be civil--and would hope others would be as well. 
The woman who posted it called herself a mama bear because that's how much she cares for her children (as opposed to someone like myself who couldn't give a shit). The parenthetical phrase is mine, by the way.

Let's get something straight. I am the first person in the universe to claim that one of my many faults is a tendency toward  -- or let's face it -- outright condescension, and while it's often an unconscious tendency, when I'm called on it, I'll agree and apologize. I am always trying to do better. I need to do better. Given that it's a fault of mine, I also wonder if I'm particularly sensitive to it when it's directed at me -- particularly when it comes to this vaccination issue. I've had a lot of well-meaning people post the link to the National Geographic article with the following attachment:

I'm completely pro-vaccination, but...

or

I've vaccinated all of my children and believe everyone should vaccinate their children, but...

or

You're exactly the reason why everyone should be vaccinated, so we can protect your kids!**

and

I'm vaccinating my children so that you don't have to vaccinate yours. (One woman who repeatedly commented on the National Geographic site, insisted that I thank her for providing my children with protection, i.e. the arguable herd immunity theory).

The buts are sometimes caveats that well-meaning people include so that we understand that though they're being "open-minded" and appreciate my story and perspective, they also want others to know that it's implicitly wrong. Sometimes, the but is used as a protective device because they don't want the usual vitriol heaped upon them. I get that. I've used it myself.

Here's the thing. I'm a mama bear, too. I'm sick to death of patronisation and condescension. I'll be damned if I'll let a scientist, a doctor, a mother, or a government entity patronize or condescend to me. This sinking feeling, the jittery, nervous thing I've got going whenever I even visit this issue which is a lot, lately? It's the feeling of being unheard, of being truly unheard in the face of money and business and the unknowable. It's the feeling of being powerless and ineffective.  It's a mama bear falling out of a tree.













*I've used the image before, and the short piece that it inspired was published online. You can read and listen to it here.

** Read this article by a woman who contacted me today. Read her credentials and look at her research.. Don't Vaccinate to Protect My Cancer Kid

9 comments:

  1. Oh, dear. Maybe the disappearance of the article was the Universe's way of giving you a break for a bit. I am sorry that there are so many people who feel the need to judge and condescend and I hope that you know there are a lot of other folks who trust you to do the right thing for your kids and don't think you ought to do anything different than what you're doing. Someday I'll tell you about the hour-long talk I had with my local legislator who was a co-sponsor of the Washington state bill to do away with all but medical exemptions. He went away with reams of paperwork that I doubt he'll ever read, but it was a pretty empowering and somewhat satisfying meeting.

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    1. I'm hoping that when I go to my Hedgebrook thing in June, I can have a blogger get-together in Seattle. You can tell me then.

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  2. People who think they have all the answers will one day fall--either on their faces, or out of a tree, or just plain out, or from grace, or apart....
    xo

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  3. I still love that photo.

    Well, at least the article reappeared! That's something, right? I think this issue raises emotions and frustrations on all sides to such a level that it's hard to have a conversation. And I seriously, seriously hope I don't sound condescending when I say that, because I don't mean to. It's just that you have so much invested, as do others (or they believe they do, anyway).

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    1. Steve, I don't think you have an ounce of condescension in your body. I appreciate your tolerance and open-minded, gentle spirit always.

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  4. What gets my dander up is the fact that anyone things you are an "anti-vaxxer"! Do those people even read the article.

    "You're a better man than I am Gunga Din." Because I would be screaming at the tops of my lungs and pulling my hair out. Well, I do that anyway because I am perimenopausal but I am just sayin'.

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    1. The word "anti-vaxxer" is a derogatory term concocted by the media and drummed into the lexicon. It's bullshit.

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  5. Anti-vaxxer...???!!! You gotta be kidding me. That would be no different than saying that those commenting in this manner are rabid-vaxxer's.... I would ask the question, why do people go there, but sadly I already know the answer.

    I think every comment should have been - "Thank you, Elizabeth for stating your experience in such an unbiased and eloquent manner. I shall strive to state mine in the same unbiased and eloquent manner as well."

    But then, I've been accused of being a dreamer on more than one occasion.....condescendingly.

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    Replies
    1. liv -- Thanks, as always, for your support.

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