For the longest time, I’ve been meaning to write a blog or three about the fact that one size, more often than not, does not fit all. I don’t mean just clothes; the same applies to a whole bunch of things, from tools to chairs to conflict resolution styles to self-defence techniques.
I guess I’m lucky in having the opportunity to experience that issue in a variety of settings. The more different you are from the average intended user of a thing, the more obvious the misfits become; and I’m a small foreign neurodivergent somewhat disabled woman who’s always favoured traditionally male endeavours. I’m used to the fact that certain things that work for “everybody” don’t work for me, and I don’t generally see it as an issue. I’m not expecting the world to adjust itself to suit me, because then it’d probably mean that it wouldn’t suit the majority of people. I do, however, tend to expect people who don’t share my characteristics not to immediately jump to the conclusion that I must be completely full of shit when I try to explain my situation.
I don’t know why I expect that, because experience has proved otherwise. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have had to prove to someone that something didn’t and couldn’t fit me, because my word wasn’t good enough. The situations in which this occurred have ranged from the highly entertaining (no, Mr Airport Security Person Sir, I can’t level my retinas with your scanner and stay still because it’s pointing half a foot over my head) to the severely frustrating (no, I’m not ‘too chicken’ to ride this motorcycle; I just think it’s important that my feet can touch the ground, in case I ever want to stop riding it). I’ve had numerous arguments with people as to why I wouldn’t even try doing something, the “why” being stuff like “because I know that it wouldn’t work and I don’t want to break my back again just to prove my freakin’ point”. It gets tiresome.
Sometimes it’s amusing to watch people watch me trying do to stuff, and having to readjust their view of the world; it’s amusing to see them factor in something they’d never contemplated before. It feels good to think that maybe, in future interactions with other people who are non-standard-fit, they may be a bit more cautious, a bit more caring. Most of the times, though, this doesn’t seem to happen. What tends to happen instead is that people make an exception for me; “this fits everyone but Anna, because she’s a freak”. I become the exception that somehow proves the rule.
…or they decide that I’m just being difficult about the whole thing and making stuff up for my personal entertainment. That’s fun to deal with, not.
I’ve been meaning to blog about it for ages, because that attitude is fairly pervasive in self-defence and conflict management. I honestly don’t understand how that is even a thing: how is it hard to comprehend that I might need different solutions than, say, Kasey? He’s a foot taller than me, two foot wider, and male. He benchpresses three times my weight. I think there’s bear in his ancestry. Those differences have huge impacts on our lives; we face different problems with different resources. People respond to us differently. We can pull off different strategies. We’re just different. That’s how it is.
Yet so many, many times, people try to sell us the same products; the same solutions to the same problems. Too many times, for too many people, “bettering myself” translates into “being more like Kasey,” even though I can’t be him any more than he can be me. Too many times, if I can’t do what Kasey does the way Kasey does it, then I’m judged to be failing. (Too many times in general, what is sold as “empowerment” for women actually means “enmalement”, but that’s another story.) And if I fail at being Kasey-like, then it can’t be because I’m really not built for that. I must just try harder to ignore or shed my limitations, regardless of whether they’re rooted in reality or not. Regardless of whether that’s the best way for me to get the job done.
Nobody in their right mind would ask Kasey to wear my shoes; but I’m routinely asked to put his on and run in them; and when I trip up, it’s seen as the sign of a personal failing.