Because we can still be honest WITHOUT saying, “Gosh woman what is wrong with you?”

Sharing an email. 

Because we can still be honest WITHOUT saying, “Gosh woman what is wrong with you?”

Dear IHM,

I read a couple of blogs on your site recently and found this case of the pregnant woman wanting her MIL to cook for her.

Although I agree with the advice given by almost all the people in the comments and I have myself commented in more or less the same vein, I find many of the comments highly disrespectful and hurtful towards the LW.

This happened even with one MIL who had posted her problem about her DIL wanting to separate finances. This happened in my case as well and also for many others who had posted their problems with you previously.

It is not the advice per se which is hurtful. It is the tone and attitude in which it is said. I am guilty of this myself in many cases (not from this blog).

I know I am myself going to attract a whole bunch of brickbats for saying this, but ‘tough love’ on the internet just needs to STOP. It does not help the asker. It does not help the reader. It does no one any good, except for letting the commenter vent out their own anger and frustration about the situation.

On the contrary, this behavior deters people from ever sharing their problems, and therefore, finding solutions to real time issues.

Feminism is a great philosophy. It is great to be empowered. But why are we looking down upon women who are not as liberated as we are?

I understand that we cannot take responsibility for how others feel. But what we can indeed do is try to speak and behave in such a way that is accepted in society as common courtesy – you’d not exactly SPEAK the same way to a stranger who shares her problem with you. Why do we let down common etiquette and courtesy online?

Is it because you are honest by being rudely candid? Because we can still be honest WITHOUT saying, “Gosh woman what is wrong with you, get a maid!” if we instead say, “Please get a maid.”

Not very different from MTV Roadies, sorry.

The very act of actually posting questions online shows that people are willing to accept opinion and change to some effect; they wouldn’t do it otherwise. This should be treated as an opportunity. By coating an otherwise good advice with a patronizing and hurtful attitude, we aren’t doing anyone a favor but ourselves. People say – “Oh we took the time to help find them solutions and now you complain that we aren’t sweet enough.” Sorry – this attitude does more harm than the good done by the advice.

Being nice, or even neutral, isn’t an add-on, it is a necessity.

Feminism is all about equality – even within women. No one gets to act superior and speak patronizingly just because their husband cooks for them, or they work in an office, or they don’t become ‘fussy’ during pregnancy or whatever. Let’s embrace this philosophy with grace instead of using it as an excuse to vent anger.

The world needs solutions, not counter-rants. Nobody has time for rants.

Vamp

Related Posts:

“Let me give you the reason I asked for advise here instead of talking with my family.”

Why do we never talk about sisterhood, about women defending one another and supporting each other?

Is this blog becoming an Agony Aunt Column?

“I think most problems in life are when we look for approval and validation outside of ourselves.”

If she doesn’t seem to see your logic, will you support her the way she can be supported?

 

46 thoughts on “Because we can still be honest WITHOUT saying, “Gosh woman what is wrong with you?”

    • You said what I wanted to say Rahini David. Yes, I approve too. What may seem to be trivial to one of us, may be a big problem in the mind of the person who presents her problem. Saying whatever we wish to say in a polite tone will help rather than create further distress.

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  1. Hmm.. fair enough and something to keep in mind.

    This line spoke to me – “It does no one any good, except for letting the commenter vent out their own anger and frustration about the situation.”
    True. Sometimes, the situation of the LW does make me angry and I am often caught between frustration and logically knowing that I cannot do anything unless the person wants to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes I understand that. I understoid that better when I put myself out there and felt how it was to be commented upon.
      There was a world of good, but I wasn’t able to see beyond the language. It just hurt me.
      Fortnately, I recover as well as I get hurt so I am quite objective about it now. Still when I see people writing- “Your husband is an asshole, get a divorce…” on any random post by a random person, I feel bad. Probably he indeed is one, but that is not what the LW is asking. Simply ” Consider separation/divorce.” would suffice. People don’t need our diktats on others’ and their real personalities, which we know little about. You can’t guess from one letter.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with this post. Why is it so difficult to be ‘nice’? All of us need to learn to speak/write in a way that you get your message across without being hurtful. In the whole attempt at being ‘truthful’ or ‘frank’ why do we leave courtesy & niceties behind?

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    • That way Quora takes everyone to task… both the commenters and the counter commentors, as well as LWs.

      Everyone has to be nice and respectful no matter how strongly they feelabout it.

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  3. Love love love this post Vamp.

    I could never relate to pregnant women and their problems. I was 12 when my eldest sister becm pregnant. She was going through loadsa shit in her personal and professional life of which I was unaware. This on top of pregnancy hormones made her so bad-tempered and irascible. And mumm always took HER side. I hated her during that time. Hated the weird concoctions she used to eat, smells of medicines, both Ayurvedic & Allopathy, everyone tending to her smallest whim…

    Consumed with bitterness and jealousy I was. I have said so many hurtful things to her which she still cannot forget, even after 15 years. Wish I could take it back. But the moment I saw my nephew and held him, it all vanished. It was magical. Precious. He made our family family.

    Now I try not to comment/advise about things I cannot personally relate to. For instance, being unmarried I dont know anything about ‘dealing with in-laws’ thingy. So I dont comment. But I can relate to an individual chafing under overprotective parents. I can relate to people wanting to fight for their rights. I am disgusted with rape jokes and stupid kiss-patriarchy forwards. So I comment/advise my best. If I have ever hurt anyone by my words, please know that it was unintentional and I sincerely apologize.

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    • See I have stopped commenting on most of the marital problems recently as I feel as though, I have lost touch with marital life since I got separated and eventually divorced. I am not going through what the LW is going through, so if I don’t have anything positive to say, I rather not comment.

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  4. Totally agree with this. I have also noticed people being rude to the ones commenting too… Especially if the views of the commenter didn’t match theirs. Has happened to me, because of which I refrain from sharing my point of view at times fearing that I may get reprimanded (not necessarily on this blog).
    I agree that person is a crazy, male/female chauvinist or is someone who hasn’t experienced a lot in the world but I don’t think being rude would help in anyway. Personal attacks are unnecessary.

    Thanks Vamp for writing this!🙂

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  5. I couldn’t agree more with you, Vamp, though I’ll never understand why you have to call yourself that coz you’re clearly displaying a rather heroic stance!

    I try not to be mean to people in general, but I find it difficult to sugar coat, so sometimes I can come across as brusque. Therefore I read and reread anything I post online and edit out the personal remarks. There really is no need for name-calling now, is there?

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    • I understand. All of us get brusque at some point. When we really want the problem to go away but we are personally helpless about it, I mean for someone else’s problem, it is not unusual.

      I call myself Vamp satirically. Not really. Just a little humor at our media which portrays career women or women who don’t “obey” in-laws as vamps.

      Anonymity is because Ihave a reasonable online presence in my real avatar and this is the only way I can bare my personal experience without getting identified.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Vamp, nicely put.🙂 I am very happy to see this post.

    I had written about the nasty comments in the Pregnant woman-MIL post and wasn’t surprised to get quite a few thumbs down.😀

    I am glad that the level of viciousness we are witnessing here or on the Online platform in general is getting addressed in this post. People easily label others as -anti feminist, patriarchal, misogynist, chauvinist, opportunist, ungrateful, selfish, etc on the basis of just one line or rather the interpretation of that line. Also flaws in others- however big or small it is- shouldn’t irk strangers like me so much that I make personal judgements & comments. Why is it so difficult to speak respectfully? I am sure people won’t use such tone if the stranger was sitting opposite them asking for advice. I hope people watch their tone and stick to giving advice without getting nasty.

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    • This was something I was meaning to write but was very hesitant anticipating more bashing. Thanks for bringing this up dear Vamp. I am sure every letter writer till now on this forum will relate to this post of yours. Lets all make a conscious effort from now on to refrain from being callous, caustic or judgemental. I dont mean we should sugarcoat everything we have to say or indulge in false flatter. But even while calling spade a spade let our language be sensitive, neutral and objective. Victim blaming/shaming, attacking the LW’s kith and kin with viscious words etc, can be avoided.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I have noticed this trend on this site often and I think that is mostly because the people who comment on this blog are victims themselves one way or another. Many people end up here searching for answers for problems in their own life and stay on to be a part of future discussions. It seems to me that, over time, they understand what it means to be a feminist and this is a huge attitudinal transition. It takes tons of courage to let go of past prejudices, especially the ones held by oneself, about oneself. In doing so, there may come a stage where one may feel bad that they were not so enlightened earlier on in their lives (“Of course I should not have been stupid enough to allow my MIL to say those things to me! How idiotic of me.”). Then when others write in with their problems, it seems to me like the harshness of their comments is only a projection of their own self flagellation. It could be also those comment writers telling themselves how far they have come from the people they once were (i.e the letter writer) – in a way psychologically distancing themselves from the ‘other’ more ‘oppressed’ women out there. In a way, this post is a wake-up call for us to forgive ourselves first. It is only when we can accept our own stories that we can hear others’ stories in a non-judgmental, kind way.

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  8. Well said. I’ve also often been uncomfortable about the tone of comments on this blog. We need to remember that the people who write in asking for help are in great difficulty and need compassion and gentle counsel. Advice given in this tone and spirit are healing and much more powerful.

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  9. I agree with your post and thanks for writing it. Not sure why rudeness has become so acceptable and even fashionable, but I personally feel it’s because it is easier and takes less work to be rude than to be poised and gracious.
    Best line: “Being nice, or even neutral, isn’t an add-on, it is a necessity.”
    Ha, ha. That made me laugh coz you cracked the whip on the whip crackers with that line🙂

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  10. Absolutely! I admit I would have done that many times and thankfully lately I have been becoming more aware of it. Thanks Vamp for bringing it up to keep ourselves on check. Loved your post.

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  11. Hmmm…I’d definitely agree that no one should get abusive, regardless of whether they’re on the internet or not. But quite honestly, this seems like waay too much policing to me.
    Firstly, this started as a blog, not an advice column. So by default, people are going to opt for a more casual, almost observational style of responses.
    Long story short- Life suck,I miserable, I wanted to kill self.
    I ended up posting my problems on internet because there was simply no one I could talk to.
    Within minutes I was overwhelmed by a flood of comments , ranging from amazing responses from trained psychiatrists to the more coarse “you whiny b****,you need to get a life!!”
    There was sympathy, there was understanding, there was contempt , there was bewilderment, there was sarcasm.
    Of course all the kind comments which told me to take it easy on myself and move on were largely instrumental in me finding my answers.
    But all the sarcasm HELPED too.
    Somewhere in that deluge of comments, I found myself laughing again, and taking a lighter view of my problems. Yes, I was being melodramatic. Yes, I did sort of think of myself as a fairytale princess. And yes, I did need to work on my self esteem. And I was expecting people to behave in a certain way.Somehow I had managed to get a huge variety of perspectives on my problem within 3 hours. Yes, some comments were harsh. But they helped me see the bigger picture.

    That’s the beauty of the internet isn’t it?

    When you go to your friends with a problem, do you always want them to sugar coat it? Would you get upset if they told you the truth minus frills?
    What makes this blog awesome is the variety of perspectives and variety of ways of EXPRESSING those perspectives. I like reading Fem’s incisive,bang on target comments, GV’s diplomatic views, Kay’s amazingly well thought out replies, Carvaka’s
    brilliant analyses….Im missing out a lot of people here,but you get the point.

    If you force everyone to respond in the same placid manner, you’re sort of killing the spirit of this blog,

    I think a simple set of rules should do:
    1. Absolutely NO abusive language directed at the poster
    2. Avoid using the poster as some sort of scape goat to make some broad commentary on societal norms.
    Eg: “Patriarchy continues to flourish because of women like you who blindly agree to arranged marriages and complain later”
    A better way to phrase it could be:
    “Do evaluate every choice you make to ensure that you do not give up your independence”

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    • Anita, you articulated the other side of this argument very well. Yes diversity is helpful. I agree with you that it all boils to drawing the line. The line, however, can get blurry sometimes. I think sometimes the commenters feel frustrated that the solution is so obvious and staring the LW in her face but she’s not doing what she’s supposed to be doing and making herself miserable. It’s only human to get involved emotionally when we try to help someone.

      On the other hand, things are not as obvious to the LW as they seem to the people giving advice because of her particular situation. After somehow mustering the courage to ask a question and bare your problems and weaknesses, the LW may regret confiding and simply retreat back into her shell (overwhelmed by the strong responses).

      Weighing the benefits of diversity of opinions on the one hand and risking losing the LW the LW as she retreats back into her difficult situation feeling helpless and overwhelmed, what would one choose? I would go beyond not just being not abusive. I would choose to be more empathetic so that even if she does one small thing to help herself, that’s a start. I see that as a win.

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  12. I agree wholeheartedly with you. We truly need to support one another.
    However, I also feel tough love isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are people who do stuff that could land them in serious trouble, yet don’t realize the intensity of what they’ve done. I totally feel tough love is appropriate in such times.

    I suggested a girlfriend of mine to casually date, so she can figure out what kind of a guy she likes. She ended up doing stupid things like dating 4 guys at the same time, and not being honest to the guys about it. That sort of stuff can seriously hurt you when you actually realize what you’re doing. I decided to give her tough love to wake herself up before she got ditched by all 4 guys.

    We should also be fair to men, IMHO. Men are creatures too.

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  13. @VAMP

    Well-said. I posted comments twice on that pregnent lady’s blog , that people need not to be harsh with her ! You simply took words out from my mouth in this blog !

    Pregnent women go through crazy hormones. not every pregnancy should be compared!

    Thanks for this post VAMP🙂

    Btw you are not a Vamp😉

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  14. Amen. I have been guilty of this in the past myself. It is hard to be objective about something you are passionate about; so much easier to be angry or frustrated . If I find it hard to be objective and cool-headed while writing the comment, I came back to it later when the emotions have subsided, or I don’t comment at all.

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  15. I think you have raised an issue that needs to be discussed. I agree with some of the things you have said. Branching off into irrelevant abuses is not productive in any manner. I have often found that some people cannot talk or get into a debate without getting personal or passive aggressive. That is most definitely not acceptable.

    But I don’t think what you are suggesting is productive either. Toning down people’s comments and tone policing is not the answer. For example, when I post, I try not to be rude but at the same time, I also try to disassociate myself from the person’s situation and analyse the problem logically. Others bring in sympathy, information, anecdotes about personal experience and practical advice. It is only a mixture of all these things that would enable the LW to get a bigger picture and she has the choice to take the advice or leave it.

    You gave the example of a pregnant woman wanting her MIL to cook for her. I read a whole bunch of great suggestions PLUS the fact that they pointed out that she was in all probability taking her MIL for granted. It NEEDED to be said. It is not tough love, but honest discussion and advice. If someone’s husband is an asshole, it needs to be said. Just saying ‘Please consider a divorce.’ simply does not cut it because the LW is usually so conditioned to see her husband as someone ‘nice’ just because he does not beat her that putting the fact that he is NOT nice into words is very helpful. It is not abuse or nastiness or frustration. It is fact. Also, most people will speak from their own experiences, as we are not trained therapists here.

    But yes, snark and sarcasm needs to go as it takes attention away from the problem at hand. Anyway, a good post for us to discuss these things.

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    • Fem, after reading your and Anita’s comments, I now see the other side of this argument. I also agree that your comments have always been logical and straightforward, never snide or sarcastic. Yes, I agree, it’s a good discussion, thank you Vamp for starting it. The beauty of disagreement is that we end up with a better product that may incorporate features from opposing camps🙂

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    • I like Fem’s detailed response here. Sometimes nice, polite and non-offensive sugar coated words just doesn’t do it (example – “asshole husband” that Fem mentions). I have said harsh and offensive words here which some might find shocking coming from an Indian girl. But they are never directly pointed at the LW herself, it usually refers to others in her life (e.g husband, il-law, parents) whom she is conditioned to look up with unquestioned respect, deference and devotion due to her Indian upbringing. There is nothing wrong in calling the husband asshole or the in-laws abusive idiots who can go to hell if that is how I feel they are behaving. LW might not see it that way because of how she was raised, often times she needs to change her attitude or outlook to realize how much damage such people are causing in her life. We are adults here, not some delicate Victorian ladies who will run off clutching their pearls if they are within earshot of a few f-words. Internet strangers are not the ones causing real problem in LW’s life, it’s supposedly loving family members who are the real issue. Tough words are often needed to highlight pathetic situations which is all hushed away as normal “chalta hai” in real life Indian society. Such blogs are one place where we can express opinions freely and I don’t want to censor all my thoughts for extreme politeness and niceties as if I was sitting at a neighborhood auntyji’s house.

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    • Only, Fem, we should all remember that a letter is a letter, expressing a certain point of view at a certain moment. So you can’t know for sure who is an asshole. You may miss important information, or the letter may be written in a moment of anger…

      And I’ll share an anecdote, once I was dating an asshole and I told something to a friend, and she reacted telling me “get out of the relationship” etc… As a result I stopped talking to my friend and stayed in that relationship for many months. People stay in stinking relationships for very complex reasons, and if you really want to help them, gentleness and neutrality are – usually – more useful than abrasiveness.

      Also on internet, I have noticed often the first person to react to a post/article will determine other people’s reactions. We should be careful that honnest advice doesn’t become internet mobbing.

      Be happy🙂

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  16. Agree with Anita.
    Only abuse and bitter sarcasm, ridiculing the Letter writer should be avoided.
    Forthrightness or frankness should be welcomed.
    I won’t object to a comment that is “judgemental”.
    Criticism, where it is justified should not be disallowed.
    Praise too should freely flow when warranted.
    But, in the end, let also say something that can help the letter writer.
    A suggestion/tip/lead/information/precedent/advice, whatever it is, must be included along with criticism if any.

    Let there be a balance of all types of comments.

    I am happy Anita calls me “diplomatic”! Thank you Anita!
    Regards
    GV

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  17. This is a great discussion. I wanted to add something about language, tone and interpretation.
    Language: Comments here are in English, with rare exceptions. For some English is a language they are comfortable expressing themselves, and for some it might be a second language, where nuances may be lost. So, it’s not fair to interpret a comment entirely on our understanding of the words together. The commentator might have meant something softer or harsher, if you had a conversation with them instead of a letter.
    Tone: When I read a comment, within a couple of sentences I assign a tone to it. It could be the way the sentences were split, the punctuation, the vocabulary. Take Vamps’ letter for instance. My first reaction while reading it was that she was shouting. No where in her email does she use caps key or such language, but that’s what was my first emotion. I went back and now re-read the email and kept the tone soft, neutral. What a difference. Suddenly, I felt that she wasn’t shouting, but she was upset about an issue and was putting her solution forward. Now, honestly, I don’t do that for each comment. Perhaps, a letter, but it takes training to realize that the voice in your head reciting the comment might be of a tone different from what the author intended. This is just the pitfall of writing as opposed to talking to someone. You lose out on eye contact, body language and all the other subtle clues that you get while listening to someone. So, you make up your own, and sometimes you misjudge.
    Interpretation: What is rude to me, may not be for you, and that’s just the way people are; diverse in their emotions and reactions. Yes, a majority might feel that it is rude, but that leaves a tiny portion who don’t think so. But that’s IHM’s responsibility as moderator. It’s her blog and I think her choice to decide if a comment is too rude or vulgar to be posted. And most times, comments we find rude are things that we don’t agree with.🙂 In the bigger interest of the letter writer, shouldn’t they get a feeling for the entire range of emotions, rather than a toned down, safe suggestion?

    Lastly, this is just a personal observation, the “consider” vs “do” type of language is quite western. My boss in the US would say, “If I were you I would do…” took me a while to figure out that it was a strong encouragement to do something, while my boss in India would say “Try this…”. But hey, that’s communication. Different strokes for different folks!

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    • Hahaha that is so true, I got so upset when my Indian SIL told me “get up, sit down, eat, clean baby” etc.. I ended up being snappy and retorting “thank you but I know what to do” and then felt very bad because she looked sad…

      And I agree with what you say about the tone too.

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  18. You have a point about being polite and not insulting the LW as we are not in their situation. But what I like about IHM’s blog is people get frank and open responses from all. It helps you look at the problem from different perspectives.

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  19. Have you thought that maybe such people give the person a new perspective on the situation? That maybe tough love is just snapping a person out of self-pity and reminding her about her inner strength and the practical side in her that can deal with her problems?

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  20. Pingback: ‘She believes that her husband has got into job troubles since marrying her (he tells her this) and that she has been unlucky for their entire family.’ | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  21. Pingback: An email: ‘My subconscious mind keeps reminding me of the initial nastiness, and fears that he is capable of that kind of behaviour.’ | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  22. Pingback: An email: ‘My subconscious mind keeps reminding me of the initial nastiness, and fears that he is capable of that kind of behaviour.’ | HOMEBLOG.IN

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