In the past couple of days there has been a social media uproar over Stephen Fry’s comments on American television surrounding abuse and rape victims and their “self pity”.
In the interview where he stated:
“There are many great plays which contain rapes, and the word rape now is even considered a rape.”
“It’s a great shame and we’re all very sorry that your uncle touched you in that nasty place – you get some of my sympathy – but your self-pity gets none of my sympathy because self-pity is the ugliest emotion in humanity.”
“Get rid of it because no one’s going to like you if you feel sorry for yourself. The irony is we’ll feel sorry for you if you stop feeling sorry for yourself. Grow up.”
You can view the full interview here:
People are outraged that the president of mental health charity Mind has shown such a lack of empathy for people who have been through such an ordeal and there have been public cries for him to be removed from his position in Mind.
Earlier today Mind released a statement where they have said that Stephen Fry’s comments were made from a “personal context” and that they would be speaking to him about supporters concerns.
Having watched the full interview, most of it makes absolute sense, and I am inclined to agree with a lot of it in terms of political correctness and free speech. People should be able to say whatever they think and be free from chastising…but this should be to a point.
I always think that with free speech comes responsibility, to be respectful of others, to be considerate of others feelings and to understand that what you say can be hurtful. I was brought up to treat others the way you would like to be treated. I don’t call people names, unless of course they are good friends and it is in jest and they know me well enough to know that and get the joke! IF, I upset someone with what I say, I am not too proud to apologise, I am happy to admit we have differing views but I don’t believe there is a need for hateful speech.
And so we get to the point that has caused the upset here, when he was referring to abuse it was in reference to literature and plays being removed from places like schools and universities because of references to abuse, rape, violence, and murder causing offence, or having triggers for people who have been through these things.
Now, from my personal experience there was a novel we studied at school which was very triggering for me for a variety of reasons relating to my own younger years. My English teacher was fantastic however, taking the time to speak to me about what was worrying me, how I was responding to the literature, and he set me a piece of creative homework based on my feelings relating to the novel and it ended up being the best piece of coursework I produced for my GCSE’s without a shadow of a doubt. That novel is now one of my favourite novels because it helped me overcome a number of very uncomfortable feelings towards my mental health and past.
It is possible with the right help to work through these things. Of course sometimes someone is so distressed that letting them leave the room and offering them mental health support is absolutely the right thing to do.
I also agree with Stephen Fry that self-pity isn’t a good thing to dwell in, but linking self-pity with things like abuse and rape. To make self-pity seem the only possible outcome of a trigger seems wrong. I get what he was TRYING to say based on the context of the discussion, but it’s not what he ACTUALLY said. And that, dear readers, has created a shit-storm! Someone in his position needs to be so damn careful with his words!
I am a rape survivor with bipolar disorder and there are things in the world that trigger those feelings of fear in me. I don’t live with self-pity at having been raped, I’m actually pretty well adjusted these days. But occasionally, I have to leave a situation because a smell will trigger a memory, or a film I’m watching will cut too close to the bone, sometimes I have to stop reading a book because it will have a rape scene in that’s too graphic. But I control those situations for myself. I don’t ask others not to enjoy those places, films, or books, but for me there are things that will always trigger memories that I don’t want to have.
Mind’s statement said that Stephen Fry was speaking from a “Personal Context” is something I’m afraid I don’t agree with. I didn’t feel it was so much a personal context as he talked out of context. He didn’t really explain himself very well and in doing so sounded hateful and cruel and not the way someone who is the representative of people with mental illness (many of whom will have been abused and or raped) should be speaking.
If he defends his stance he should be removed from his position with Mind because this is not a position someone with these views someone should hold. Freedom of speech is one thing, referring to people suffering with the likes of PTSD because of abuse and rape as having self-pity is wholly unacceptable.
We all need to be careful with our words! Words hurt, words damage! There isn’t enough room in this world for hate, we need to find more room for love, compassion and support.