Lately, I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Did you see? Isn’t that so unbelievable?” These words have usually been uttered in reference to media coverage of authority figures acting in sexist, bigoted, racist, or otherwise intolerant or amoral ways. Basically, when members of the establishment fuck up, people want to label it as unbelievable.
But, unfortunately, these things are really the norm.
The last time someone said this to me (in reference to the horrible Dear Alice column discussed here), it was a senior white male I like and respect and learn from and trust, and I finally said what I’ve been thinking every time I hear those words. I said, “No, actually, it’s not unbelievable. It’s kind of normal. I’ve seen this kind of behavior my whole life.”
This is a problematic exchange on both sides. When someone says, “That’s unbelievable,” what I hear is “This thing must either not actually be true or it is so rare that it’s statistically improbable.” This has a silencing effect. If examples of authority figures acting poorly is unbelievable, how can people without power step forward when they are harmed and how can they call out the abuse they deal with? ...