The fight against rudeness is very serious. It is the fight for your well being and the well being of others. To be treated rudely is to be denigrated, and when done regularly it can destroy people.
Being constantly put down and mistreated can have tremendous psychological effects. This is only exacerbated by having everyone else around you reinforcing the idea that you deserve the mistreatment by letting it pass as acceptable behaviour.
When I first thought of doing a column on rudeness, my motivation was to approach the subject from the point of view of the modified individual confronted with rude actions and reactions on the part of the individual.
I am not going to use this as a forum to list or vent about the barrage of endlessly not so smart questions or unconscionable actions that society overlooks when they are perpetrated against someone with visible modifications. Rather, I want to discuss how and why the modified should respond with the goal of possibly enacting some positive changes.
First, it is important to accurately identify rude behaviour. Rudeness is a very subjective thing. Whether or not something is rude from the point of the individual doing it, is almost entirely dependent upon context and personal sensitivity. Sure, there are pretty clear cases – such as, perhaps the most egregious, unwanted physical contact: strangers grabbing or rubbing pregnant stomachs and the like without asking. Even though most cases might be pretty easily identified and accepted as rude, there are more subtle and perhaps even more dangerous forms. More dangerous because the less obvious it is, the more likely it will be overlooked and allowed to continue. I think that a good ‘rule of thumb’ is that if you feel mistreated, then you should take some action. If you think you might be too “thin-skinned” you might discuss it first with others, but you should not simply accept any mistreatment.
In identifying rudeness, especially in the case of modification, it is important to try and gauge the rude person’s motivations. Sudden exclamations may not be motivated by malice or prejudice, but rather by the shock and amazement of seeing something incredible and probably incredibly foreign to that person. They may very well actually be excited and find what they are seeing to be positive. When in doubt, you may wish to first discern the motivations behind the words or actions through observation or conversation to determine if it was a rudely motivated gesture or simply a misunderstanding before escalating
If you do feel someone has been rude to you, then respond. But gauge your response appropriately. If you are suddenly grabbed by someone, that is assault and reacting physically or involving the authorities is perfectly reasonable. However, if a 20-year-old man grabs you at a party and you punch him, the results will be far different than if an 80-year-old woman grabs you in line at the grocery store and you punch her. By the letter of the law, both cases should be treated the same, but that is not how society works.
Battling rudeness is, to my mind, a campaign for the hearts and minds (both of others and our own). I fully understand the feeling and motivation to make some person pay, but life is a lot like sports in that it’s often the second infraction that gets penalised. When you punch the jerk who grabs your arm, you will probably get nailed for aggravated assault – whereas if you point out the rude behaviour to the world, you can shame and make an example of them.
Shame is one of the best weapons we have against rudeness. People are social creatures and they tend to try really hard not to look bad in front of others. Pointing out rude behaviour, especially when it happens in a public place can be very effective. As important as it is to stand up for yourself, it is also important to keep yourself safe.
Rude people act rude because they think it is ok, or that they can get away with it. Every time you have the opportunity to confront rudeness, you have a chance to help reform that person’s behaviour. When you do not confront rudeness, not only do you forgo a chance at helping stop it – you actually encourage it.
Fighting against rudeness is fighting for survival. If you try and live and let live with someone who wants you gone, you will be crushed. If you bury your head in the sand, someone will come along very quickly to bury the rest of you.