Typically when I take to my blog it is either that I have not been here in a while and feel the need to update (re: guilt) or because something is bothering me and I need to get it out. So today, this is a bothering me post. And honestly I am not sure what bothers me the most. So I am just going to tell the story and see what happens.
On Aug 30, I came across a Facebook video by a Christian writer/comedienne named Whoa Susannah. I have seen her before – in fact I have posted videos of hers before. The last one I posted was about girls taking selfies in TJ Maxx like they were on a photo shoot. I thought it was hilarious – my niece is constantly taking duck faced selfies in mirrors and I could totally see her and a friend doing this very thing at the mall.
So when I saw she had a new video – pretty my by accident – I watched. But very quickly realized, this one was not as funny. At least not to me. So the story was that she had been on a plane, a man was putting his luggage above her head in the compartment and as she put it, he “belly slapped her”. She goes on to say how he didn’t apologize and when he went to sit behind her his belly pushed her seat forward jarringly. And then he proceeded to make out with his companion – both of them over 50 and that she was pretty sure that they were not a long time couple due to the amount of flirting that was happening.
Overall, the story was amusing. And the man was VERY rude. She had every reason to be upset that he didn’t even acknowledge his actions. What was not amusing to me was the description she used in trying to tell the audience about this man. She said he had a very big belly and that it was clear that he had “a couple of Coors lights in his life…a couple hundred thousand…” and that his belly looked like “beer, baked beans…I can see just see him eating potato salad…”
Now I am sure that to some of you this just seems funny. But to me it seemed a little mean-spirited. She can call him fat, obese, portly, big belly, whatever descriptive words are needed to get her point across, but it felt like she moved from description to making fun of how he looked. It was not about giving people a mental picture, but about making judgements based on his looks…and letting people laugh at him unknowingly.
Typically, my response is to just move on. But I felt she took it too far. And I was not alone. I left a comment that I didn’t feel like making fun of how someone looks is very Christian. Within 10 minutes, I had 17 comments – 10 of which were all from the same woman. She had gone on my FB page and tried to prove how I make fun of people on my page all of the time. She was unsuccessful in really proving her point – I may poke fun at actions, words, events, but I don’t typically make fun of how someone looks – it is too personal for me.
Apparently after that video aired, a bunch of people unliked her page. Me included.
But the whole thing kept nagging at me for days. I went back to her page and she had posted a second video telling people that those that were offended needed to learn how to take a joke. She was mad that people accused her of being unchristian and that God made her funny so she was going to be funny. And if you didn’t like it, don’t watch.
And I agree. Don’t watch. But the one thing that has been sticking with me is this – as the days have passed, I have reflected on this video more than once. I have watched it again several times – trying to see if I had overreacted. Trying to find the humor in it. Trying to see how this was not making fun of some unsuspecting man on a plane. The man was rude to her – but did it warrant her making comments that were insensitive at best?
I took a look at my own heart and tried to make sense of my reaction. Was I only offended because being fat is a sore spot for me? If she had made fun of his cross eyes, knock knees, large ears, etc – would I have been as offended? Was this about me or her?
Most the commenters on the video felt those that were offended were unable to take a joke due to an oversensitive reaction – one like we see a lot on social media. They called us crybabies. They told us to go elsewhere. They rolled their proverbial eyes at us and told Whoa Susannah how great and funny she was and how God was using her and her humor.
It took a couple of weeks but I finally realized what was bothering me – why I have been unable to let this go. Once I made the decision to unlike the page – that should have been it. That has been the end for me anytime I see something that I didn’t agree with. I don’t get into arguments online with people. I don’t feed the “trolls” as they are known.
But what was bothering me was this – Whoa Susannah wasn’t willing to take a moment to consider if she had gone too far. When you say something – especially publicly – there are always going to be people who disagree. And any one of her videos could have been taken badly by someone with some personal issue with the topic. But do public figures (and I use that term loosely here) have a responsibility to look back and take a second look to see if the offended were right?
In an age of digital media and social interaction that is at best non-personal, we tend to live in a bubble of our making. We like the things we like, we talk to and follow the people we want and we get a lot of positive feedback because we only allow ourselves the people and things that give us that. But when you decide to open yourself up as a public platform, things change. And what you say can’t be taken back as easily. You don’t have the chance to “make things right” once someone has decided you wrong/insensitive/unfunny/rude/etc.
And most importantly when you announce that you are a Christian who is speaking on these things publicly, you are setting an expectation. Christians are not perfect. We are prone to as many mistakes and missteps as anyone else. But what should make us different in this scenario, is a small dose of humility where you take just a moment to say – was I right or were they? A small prayer, a small voice in the back of our head, a gentle leading. It is idealistic for me to say this…and many of you will not agree with me. But I expected more of her because she posts and writes about her faith quite often. And while it may have been unrealistic to expect her to publicly question her choice of words, a small dose of humility would have gone a long way. Even just to say – “I didn’t find it offensive…apparently others did and that was not my intention.”