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Woke Men Only: Don’t waste emotional labour on clowns

08 Jun 2017

Woke Men 3 dropped and anxiety began to pool in my throat, inviting nausea. I stared blankly at my monitor and waited. I’d hidden him and all his friends from seeing the post my timeline. But he would see it eventually. Social media posts are the skywriting of the digital age – brash if momentary impact that’s hard to miss. He would find it eventually. And there would be a backlash.

His response came hard, fast and sooner than I imagined. Like sex without enough foreplay – painful but with some pleasure. Because it did salve my doubts; I’d done the right thing. And there had never been any space for learning.

Ex blessed me with two separate replies via email and comment (not passed moderation) and an email to the gal-dem editors demanding his rebuttal be given permission. For the sake of brevity, a synopsis:

“alright Kim..I thought about writing you a private message but I might as well just write it here…it will save you the hassle of writing ‘woke men 4.’

Sorry my message didn’t please you but it was the honest truth and I wrote it from my heart. There’s no point going and sharing your opinion with anyone who has access to the internet and not sharing it openly with me. Open up for once in your life! Just be honest. Give it a go. See where it leads.

This has f**k all to do with prejudice and everything to do with the fact that you’re just angry at me for personal reasons.

I know you’re angry at me but let’s be honest… This isn’t just about my ethics. You’ve got a lot of anger bottled up, and that’s OK…I understand. Obviously we won’t speak to each other ever again but please think about what you have done. You haven’t been true to yourself. I’m asking you now to give me as much shit as you want and then that’s it… It will feel good… Get it off your chest. But please no more blogs. They are hateful and of no use to anyone, especially you.”

The emotional labour I invested in my reply to his original message was intense. The rage the original message initially ignited erupted onto the word document I was using to sieve out obscenities, without making my response devoid of meaning. Left in the embers of fuckery was something carefully crafted. I was still trying to change his mind.

His lack of response drove me to publication. And then, following publication he criticised me for not displaying more anger. Did he even read the reply? And we all know if I had written a furious response sprinkled with f-bombs I would have been branded angry, unreasonable and emotional. I do not need to explain the tropes at play.

Denying that Woke Men 3 or my anger was about race but was instead driven by my feelings for him is so arrogant and basic it must have been written verbatim from the white male privilege handbook: “It’s not what I said that must be hurtful or offensive – it must be something else!”

Then he referred to my “blogs” as “no use to anyone”. Then I knew he was a lost cause. He couldn’t even conceive that this might be therapeutic for me or helpful for others who could see their stories in this one. And demanding a rebuttal in a space for marginalised voices says it all.

I am not wasting any more emotional labour on this clown. I’ll save my energy for my next likely disaster: coming to a screen near you – date tbc.

If I’ve learnt anything from this trash saga, it’s this: date someone who sees you exactly as you are. Someone who is willing to ask difficult questions and feel uncomfortable. Someone who can admit when they get it wrong. And never entertain someone who tells you how to describe your experience. Or tells you that it isn’t real. And only engage in emotional labour with those who earn your time. Or as a wise woman once said: they better be paying you.