You probably heard about this last week: a Dani Mathers, a Playboy model, was at a public gym. She posted a public picture on Snapchat of a naked woman she did not know in the locker room, along with a picture of herself laughing. She captioned it, “If I can’t unsee this you can’t either.” This would have been reprehensible even if the lady had scales covering her body, but weirdly, the lady was just a regular-looking lady, so I don’t even know what Mathers was thinking.
Appropriately, Ms. Mathers was suspended from her job and banned from all L.A. Fitness gyms, who had this to say:
Her behavior is appalling and puts every member at risk of losing their privacy…Our written rules are very clear: Cellphone usage and photography are prohibited in the locker rooms. This is not only our rule, but common decency.
Ms. Mathers issued an apology. While she rightly acknowledged that “body shaming is wrong,” she also said, “this is not the type of person I am.”
It’s very possible that after much reflection, Ms. Mathers will wind up changing for the better as a result of this debacle. I hope so!
But to change, you have to realize that you are, in fact, the kind of person who says or does that crappy thing… because, after all, you did it. There may be a lot of nice things about you, but this stinky, sticky pond of god-knows-what is a part of your soulscape, too.
You have to first recognize that you are the jerk.
I’m sure that I haven’t always been honest with myself. I can remember one time when I was, though! In a Facebook group, I was piling on someone for an unpopular point of view. I felt like I was standing up for my principles!
And then, an hour later, I realized that actually, I had been a self-righteous jerk. I sent a direct message to the two people I had argued with, and I hope I made an acceptable apology. Acceptable or not, both of them forgave me, because they are wonderful, and one of them reads my blog sometimes and I hope to meet up with her someday (hi Michele!)
We’re all going to screw up. We have problems, bad days, and years of weird psychological baggage. When I mess up, I hope I can always recognize it.
Let me tell you my personal locker room story. I was getting dressed after working out at the gym, and a woman was complaining to her friend about her neighbor who was taking a long time to complete the job of adding a room to their house. I was smiling to myself, because when I was a kid, my parents took years to complete an addition, mainly because the labor was all done by my parents, my grandpa, and a few guys from church, and because my parents would run out of money and save up for the next part of the job.
So I figured the complaining lady was kind of a snob. But then she said to her friend in a lower tone, “Well, they’re black, and you know how they are…”
Now one thing about me is that if you say something bigoted in my vicinity, I will always, always speak up. I won’t always do a good job of it, and that won’t stop me.
Her friend left the locker room, I finished getting dressed, and then I told this woman in a clumsy way that I had overheard her conversation and it really upset me. She said, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” and I said, “Well I’m sorry you’re a racist!”, because that’s the way to change hearts and minds.
She and I we were in the locker room at the same time for weeks afterward. We didn’t speak. I would imagine ice forming on the lockers and benches between us. At the same time, I knew I could have appealed to her better nature instead of just being ragey.
One day she came up to me in the locker room and said, “I wanted to talk to you about what you said.” I immediately blurted out, “I could’ve handled that better—“ and she said, “No, let me get this out. You made me realize that I have a lot of work to do on myself, and I’m doing that.”
See that? She didn’t say, “That’s not who I am.” She basically said, That is exactly who I am, and it needs to change.
While I don’t think I would ever say something blatantly racist, or make fun of somebody’s body, I know I have my faults. I’m sure I’m so ignorant about some things that I don’t even know about my own ignorance. So I just hope I can always recognize when yes, in fact, I am the jerk.