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Jane Hutcheon

broadcaster/journalist/author

13 Nov
2019

My Answer - What's It Like to Feel Belittled? Event Life deliberate life

Jane Hutcheon

Event Start: 3 weeks ago

Dear Debra,

Thank-you for responding to my question: what’s it like to feel belittled?

The idea for this question came from seeing your recent video work at The Big Anxiety Festival where you read out pages of tweets received by people with achondroplasia dwarfism, including you. The tweets were demeaning and clearly the desire was to belittle. I know from our One Plus One interview in 2017 that, sadly, you are subjected to name-calling and taunts and that you face this abuse randomly and routinely.

Most of us have been belittled at some stage of our lives. 

One of the readers of this series, Trish, noted that “some people say no-one can make you feel belittled or humiliated unless you let them.”  Here's another comment I've seen on the subject: “choosing to feel belittled is your choice…how you choose to internalise everything is up to you.”

But the tables are turned when a demeaning comment is directed with frequency at people who look different, as you do Debra.  You are the target of daily ‘micro-aggressions’, defined as subtle blows delivered incessantly.  I don’t think many of us experience that belittling on that scale.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you are often told that people find you ‘inspiring’ just for being you.  Some people can’t imagine what it's like to live with achondroplasia dwarfism.

Your letter says “I’ve shed countless tears in private and cried myself to sleep too many times.”  But you never allow yourself to cry in public because you are fiercely determined that your "personhood must always be what is carried through and communicated."

Debra, I promise not to call you inspiring, but I do admire how you educate and invite people to engage in difficult conversations about interacting with people who look different.

Some of us might think we have the gift of empathy, but perhaps that is just something we tell ourselves.  Do we want to experience how it feels to be Debra or just feel sympathy for you?  Perhaps this is a topic for another day.

In the meantime, what you do teach us is that we must endeavour to apply humanity equally and not selectively.

I have also decided to publish your letter in full, so that people can gain the full measure of you.

Thank-you so much for your response and for a lesson in compassionate assertiveness.

Love, 

Jane

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