Pity, compassion, and empathy

“I pity you”

Do you know anyone who likes to be pitied? I don’t. I can’t imagine being okay with having such a weak, snivelling kind of emotion directed at me. The phrase “I pity you” seems to come from one of two places- either a disbelief that anyone could go from a normal life to a state like yours, or else a profoundly patronising perspective on you. I pity you for having such a lack of nuance in the way you view the world. I pity you for never having made anything of your life. I pity you. I pity all of you unfortunates.


And yet, those of us who hang around in places like this are regularly faced with situations where they have it a hell of a lot better than people they’re speaking with. If we don’t pity people, then what do we do? Ignore the differences in our circumstances? Merrily continue on, privilege-blind, secure in the knowledge that everything is actually fine while advising less privileged folks to buck up, pull themselves up by their bootstraps and start taking advantage of all the opportunities out there, because they ain’t getting pity from us?

I hope it’s no surprise to you that that doesn’t work either. That’s the argument of the MRA who thinks that if women want to be equal, we’ve gotta accept being punched in the face like a man, while ignoring the fact that, y’know, most women don’t have the muscle mass of most men. And that we’re already getting punched in the face quite enough, thank you.

Let’s talk about why both of these things are, frankly, godawful ways to go about interacting with others, and look into some alternatives. I’ve previously written about my feelings on the kinds of conversations I’d like us to have here. This post adds to that. If we’re having conversations, not debates, then how do we interact with one another?

What’s the matter with pity?

Continued over at the Tea Cosy’s new home. See you there!

The Feministiest Feminist That Ever Feministed

From the comments on Julie Burchill, the brilliant Pennyposh (whose blog you should absolutely go read immediately) had this to say and it bears repeating. Over and over and over again:

The point is not to be the feministiest feminist that ever feministed. The point is compassion for our fellow human beings. It’s about the freedom to be, the freedom to express ourselves in whatever way we feel fits us best. It’s about freedom from prejudice and hatred and bile, freedom from arbitrary societal expectations. It’s about the basic human right to simply exist as you are. It is the right to simply be oneself, free from the hatred of others.

Any time you are not fighting for that right, you are not fighting for feminism.
If you fancy seeing more of that Penny has to say, she’s expanded on the topic today with Feminism is a Human Rights Movement. You could do a lot worse than having a click of it, I’d say. She’s only been blogging there a month or so but she has oodles of brilliant stuff up already.