March 8, 2013

On not being taken seriously.

Filed under: Ann the Columnist:Essays — Ann @ 5:40 pm

Of course, I'm really talking about respect.

“In terms of sheer psychological damage, I think that one of the worst experiences a human being can suffer is not being taken seriously.” – Me, 3/3/13

I wrote and posted that on Facebook the other day because I see evidence of it far too often. I think of women not being taken seriously in business (and science); I’ve talked to therapists in training who are not taken seriously because of their youth; I just read an article by a woman who is frustrated for not not being taken seriously as a farmer; sometimes youngest children in the family are not taken seriously because they’re “the baby”. Or, in some families, all of the children have a hard time being taken seriously by their parents, or it takes a very long time for that to happen.

Gay and lesbian couples not being able to marry is a perfect example of not being taken seriously — “You don’t need to get married, you can just have a commitment ceremony.” Younger classmates in my MA program have been encouraged by professors to pursue a Ph.D. and because that’s not happened to me (although I’m one of the top achievers, academically speaking) I wonder whether my age is a factor in not being taken seriously as a student. Minorities are often not taken seriously in many arenas (jobs, housing). Overweight people, and especially overweight women, have a very hard time being taken seriously — as women, purchasers of stylish clothing, potential mates and even as employees. We often don’t take elderly couples seriously in their relationships, calling their deep love, devotion and sexual attraction “cute” and “adorable” (or, much more damaging, “disgusting”). And only the typically disempowered are called “feisty” when they assert, or attempt to assert, their power.

Also: I know of people who set out to launch careers in the arts who were told they should only minor in the subjects of their passion because they could never get a job doing something as frivolous as art or writing. (What writer does not want to be taken seriously as a writer?) And I’m guessing that serious tattoo artists struggle to get respect for their talents. Women who choose to stay home with their children are not taken seriously as laborers. In our culture, many times people in chronic pain are not taken seriously and are dismissed as “drug addicts.” Those suffering from depression are often told by well-meaning friends and family to just “get over it.”

Anyone who has ever done anything unusual, against the mainstream, “off-time,” or cutting edge has had to struggle with being taken seriously. And some of those people, when expressing how very much they want and need to be taken seriously, are warned not to take themselves too seriously. What is more serious than your essential self, your you-ness, your experience?

If you’ve ever experienced not being taken seriously — as a student, in your profession, as to your dream, as to your sexual orientation, religion, ambitions, as an employee or as a human being, as a patient, client…then you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, consider yourself fortunate.

What I’m really talking about here, of course, are respect and empowerment. Being treated as though everything you are and everything you determine to be are vitally important. I take you seriously, I take your relationship seriously, I take your career seriously, I take your dreams seriously – I TAKE YOUR EXPERIENCE OF YOURSELF AND YOUR WORLD SERIOUSLY: all other ways of saying, I respect you.

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