Mean people who aren’t mean all the time

Mean people aren’t necessarily mean all the time. Mean people aren’t necessarily mean to everyone.

I think most people who are mean are nice to at least some people at least some of the time. It can be hard to understand that they’re mean to other people in ways that matter if you don’t see it.

One example of this is that many men who are awful to women treat other men well. Some men don’t know this. They often assume that a man who treats them and their male friend group well is basically well-intentioned — and may have a lot of trouble understanding why their female friends think he’s dangerously creepy.

That happens in a lot of contexts. Some of which have to do with socially marginalized groups like gender or race or trans status or disability or religion or any number of other things. Some of them aren’t like that.

Sometimes it’s about in groups and outgroups in ways that aren’t otherwise connected to privilege.

For instance:

  • Jesse is mean, but not mean to everyone.
  • Jesse is nice to people who they like
  • Mostly, Jesse likes people who admire them and don’t contradict them about anything important
  • Jesse is mean to people outside their circle
  • People who are in Jesse’s circle and really admire Jesse might have trouble believing that they’re ever mean to anyone else
  • On the logic that “Jesse has never said anything like that to me; I can’t believe Jesse would say that”. Or something else like that.

It’s not unreasonable to base some of your opinions on what’s probably going on in a conflict on your personal experiences with someone. To an extent, it’s *necessary* to do it that way, because you can’t find out what’s going on by disregarding what you know. But it’s also important to remember that the way someone treats you might not be representative.

For instance:

  • If you’ve never contradicted someone, you might not know how they handle being contradicted
  • If someone’s never been mad at you or someone you respect, you might not know much about how they treat people when they are angry
  • Everyone gets into conflicts.
  • Everyone gets contradicted.
  • Everyone is wrong sometimes.
  • Nobody handles this perfectly. Some people handle this more-or-less reasonably; some people handle it horribly.
  • If you haven’t seen what someone does in those situations, it’s hard to know whether their reactions are reasonable

Short version: It’s easy to misunderstand conflicts by assuming that people who have always been nice to you are always reasonable with everyone. It’s important to consider what you know about someone *and* to consider the possibility that your experiences with someone may not be representative.

Trauma doesn’t make you any less of a person

Some people are really creepy about survivors. (Or people who they perceive as survivors, often inaccurately.)

They treat trauma like permission. Like it gives them the right to boundless authority over you.

They see you as broken, and they think that means they’re entitled to fix you.

They act like you don’t know yourself, can’t know yourself, and shouldn’t think for yourself.

(And they may repeatedly trigger you on purpose in an effort to make you feel disoriented enough to believe them.)

They think that every opinion they have about you is the insight that will heal you. They think that you are somehow obligated to accept uncritically any purported wisdom they decide to bestow upon you.

They think that their love can heal you. They act like their desire to heal you with love means you’re somehow obligated to gratefully accept whatever expression of love they want to bestow upon you.

They act like their perspective should replace yours. They act like their desire to help you somehow obligates you to agree with everything they think.

They act like you’ll be better if you let them take over emotionally. Like you somehow can’t be trusted with feelings. Like you shouldn’t have feeling of your own anymore. Like you should have theirs instead.

People shouldn’t do this to you. It’s wrong, it’s creepy, and you don’t have to cooperate with it.

You are a person. You are allowed to have your own feelings. You are allowed to think for yourself.

You are allowed to decide who, if anyone, you want to be emotionally intimate with. You are allowed to decide whose advice you want. You are allowed to say no. You are allowed to disagree with people, even if they mean well and want to help. You are allowed to make choices about what help, if any, you want to accept, and who, if anyone, you want to accept it from.

You are you. You are allowed to be you. And nothing that happened to you gives others the right to try to turn you into someone else.