Offensive Friends

I don’t consider myself a very sociable person, and this thought once again popped into my head last Saturday, as I was sitting on the pavement outside the train station with a few friends from class and hoping that the world would suddenly freeze and I could get up and go back home before I had to spend four more hours with them. Things eventually got better once we visited the comic shop and played a Japanese role-playing board game, but before then my friends had already said a great number of things that made me cringe.

I won’t get into everything they said or this would turn into a very long ranting post (ableist language, rape jokes, using the N word everywhere, insulting my lunch, etc.), so instead I just chose five things to talk about. I think I should tell you that all of these friends love manga and we went to the area in Barcelona which specializes in comics and Japan related merchandise, so be prepared for the amount of references to otaku lifestyle. Enjoy five of these stories!

1. Soon a drawing competition is coming up, and the winning picture will be the poster announcing an anime convention near Barcelona. Which means the picture will be printed many times, hung up around the streets and be in the background of every event related to the convention. They might even make clothing pins if it’s popular. Having this in mind, I wanted to draw something that would show awareness of some kind of minority or un-privileged group. Pear and I sat down on a bench and discussed what we’d be drawing, and when I said that I was thinking of having a main character with a disability, she said that it wasn’t very nice of me for drawing something like that because, if it won, kids would see it. She thought that having a disability was something that children shouldn’t see, that it would destroy their innocence. As I said the other day in a different post, there is nothing wrong with having a disability, and I don’t see why kids shouldn’t know that it’s ok and nothing to be ashamed of. There is nothing bad, mean or shameful in drawing somebody with a disability. There’s nothing to hide. Because of this I am definitely going to be drawing somebody with a disability for the poster.

2. At the comic shop they told me that the euro note I used to pay wasn’t real, and therefore they wouldn’t accept it. Don’t fear though, I had another one which I paid with. I put the fake one back into my pocket and intended to bring it home and show it to my mother (she loves looking at fake money ever since she came back from China). Later on I went with Pear to buy a drink in a small nearby dairy, and as we left the dairy with our drinks she told me off for not paying with the fake euro note. The dairy belonged to a Moroccan guy and therefore, according to Pear, “he probably had lots of fake money”. Apart from the amount of racism in this stereotype and in what Pear wanted to do, I would never use false money. I was devastated when I found out that my money wasn’t useful and that somebody had tricked me when giving it to me, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to do the same thing to somebody else. Also, if the police happened to find a Moroccan with fake money, they would probably make a big deal out of it, search his contacts, question him or something, but if I had a fake euro note, they would do nothing at all. White privilege. And I wouldn’t want to be the one who put him through all of that.

3. A friend of mine stole a 75 euro Link figurine from a shop. I was not there to stop him, by the way. When I was nine I used to go to what would be a Catalan version of the boy scouts or the patch girl scouts (with no distinctions between genders). One time we went out camping next to some gorges and there happened to be three boxes of costumes and old clothes for us to dress up in. I became very fond of a pair of pants that were there and wore them during the whole week we were out. The last day I secretly put them in my bag and took them home with me. If I had asked to keep the pants they would’ve probably said yes. But I didn’t ask for them. Nobody had ever cared about those pants and they wouldn’t even notice that they were missing. I hardly realised that I was doing anything bad, let alone that I was stealing something, but the point is that I did steal them. When I was thirteen I understood that what I had done was theft and from that point on every time I looked at those pants I was consumed by guilt. I still have them and still feel ashamed of what I did.

The difference between my friend and me was that I was nine and he’s twenty-two. I didn’t know I was doing something bad and he had planned to steal the figurine before he got to the shop. I felt guilty and he probably doesn’t. What I stole was free and useless and what he took was expensive and needed. He was caught and I wasn’t. I’m not trying to justify what I did; there is no way to justify it, but I don’t think it can be compared to what he did. I hope he feels sorry for what he did and never does anything like that again.

4. Pear thought it would be appropriate to say that she had never ever seen or met a good-looking boy who liked manga (what about me?), which means she was pretty much saying every boy in our drawing class and every male at the anime conventions we go to every year aren’t worthy of anyone’s aesthetic attraction. Which I think is slightly exaggerated, needless to say a bit rude. Throughout the day I could hear her counting the boys she remembered looked good.

5. “Emo’s aren’t cool and they all cut themselves” said Pear. First of all, the coolness factor usually has more to do with popularity and the type of hobbies one has, and less to do with their style. Though a dark attitude is usually considered cool, so that would invalidate the first half of the sentence. Second, an emo is somebody who is emotional (hence the word), usually on the depressed side of emotional, but the word also comes from a genre of music called emo –similar to screamo and heavy metal if I remember correctly- which many emos listen to. The way they dress is also important (type “emo boy” or “emo girl” on Google if you’re not familiar with their style). That is basically all the word emo claims, and it states nothing in relation to self harm. So no, not all emos cut themselves, and even if they did, it’s not something to look down upon or laugh at. Instead we should be helping them.

I found this statement offensive because I had an emo faze when I was more or less thirteen or fourteen. I would’ve actually been considered scene instead of emo, because even though I took example of the way of dressing, I didn’t listen to emo music or feel too emotional. But a couple of years after my scene/emo faze, I had the depressed feelings, contemplated suicide and felt like destroying the whole world. Nowadays I have a way of dressing which has many influences from that faze of my life, a slightly critical and negative view towards the world, and friends that helped me during the harder times. It was the emo community that helped me get over my depressed days, and not the supposedly happy and positive people. People who have/had bad experiences but still manage to help others, people who are unsatisfied with the world and who do things to change it, people who are strong enough to stick around even though they are miserable; that is someone I would consider to be coolest of them all.

I sometimes wonder whether I’m just too sensitive or if I’m doing right in getting angry about these things. Nobody else seemed to be bothered at all.

3 thoughts on “Offensive Friends

  1. I’ll be honest; going into this, I figured you would be talking about things your friends said that weren’t 100% open minded or entirely PC, but this… wow. I don’t think you’re overreacting at all. There’s a difference between being uneducated about a subject and being downright cruel or dismissive.

  2. You’re not being “too sensitive”. The racism is just wrong and needs to be called out. The ableism is less obviously cruel and just more VERY ignorant – it reminds me SO much of what Deaf actress Marlee Matlin said in this interview: -skip to 1:25 in that video if you don’t want to watch the whole interview, it’s about a minute and 20 seconds of interview that is very relevant to what Pear’s sentiment was and it’s just so wrong – the idea that certain PEOPLE are “inappropriate” for children to be “exposed” to. I mean wow. And not understanding the seriousness of self-harm, again… *sigh*. I think these are issues that people need to bring up when their friends say such inconsiderate things.

    • I do try to call out to people when I hear them say things like these, especially when it’s something so obvious. When this happens a few times in one day I feel like the police ruining the party though.
      Thanks for sharing the video, by the way. I did watch it all 🙂

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