13 Feelings about Gossip
“the truth is that any beautiful, resonant ideology can be used in violent, abusive ways.” — Kai Cheng Thom, 7 ways Social Justice Language can become Abusive in Intimate Relationships
content notes: discussing social dynamics, impacts of trauma and emotional abuse, community feelings, contains contradictions
- this last while, some folks in my online & offline communities have been sharing about loving gossip, valuing gossip, gossip as vital, and I have felt something, very deep, visceral, messy, without words, body ache.
- I’m afraid of gossip, or, at least, a certain kind of gossip. I get scared when people’s ability to tell their own stories, their own feelings, their own experiences is lost. I’m scared when I don’t know if you want me to know this story about you, especially if I don’t need to know it. I want the stories we tell to be located in our own positionality, own relationships, our own feelings, our own insights, our own stories. I’m scared when stories get big suddenly, get dislocated from ourselves, our relationships, and our feelings. I’m scared for the ways I might be hurting us, the ways I might be getting hurt.
- Why are we sharing? Why are we talking about this? sometimes I start to feel weird when i realize why we we are talking about something without someone’s consent — whether it’s about the sex someone is having, the life someone is leading, the way a person is. I feel shame. Are we judging or are we processing our own feelings? Do we know which? Do the folks we’re talking with know which is happening? Can we trust our own answers to these questions?
- There’s a thrill. gossip can be silly and joyous and connecting! Gossip can be this imperfect wonderful relationship building thing, like we are playing through sharing feelings and stories. it can feel so good and healing to talk about all the things we’re not supposed to talk about. that’s real. that’s a kind of magic. to get to understand how cool everyone is, how we are all woven together!
- When I was in an abusive relationship, putting people down, sharing salacious stories and angry feelings about people, mocking people, wondering and sharing why are they like that, was mandatory. Now, untangling when talking about others might be ok from when it might be dangerous is almost impossible. My body remembers how easy it was for someone to move from talking vindictively about anyone else to talking that way about me. It remembers how i spent so much time being made so small and fragile. Words are about power. Gossip is about power. I remember how anything can be used for violence. I want to know other folks feel that too.
- gossip can be a way to share knowledge, pool resources, foster resistance. gossip can be freeing when we learn others have been hurt like us, found strength like us. Gossip can let us hold our communal knowledge. At least, i know this to be intellectually true. it can give us context and hirstories too. i also wonder how gossip might be diffusing our ability to problem solve together / as a community, what comes after the story telling?
- gossip making me feel uncomfortable makes me feel shameful, about not liking some kinds of gossip or wanting space to figure out what we mean exactly by gossip in a given moment or conversation. it makes me feel too broken, too sensitive, not fun, not cool, boring. When I voice discomfort people sometimes react defensively. I get teased. i am reminded about how hard it is to have boundaries, if your boundaries are ‘too much’, are weird.
- Gossip has never kept me safe. Before the relationship violence, in high school and middle school, gossip was yet another way my friends and i were kept outside, reminded of our difference. as someone who grew up a Weird Girl, a teen having sex, a freak friends with other freaks, other people have been Talking About Me to hurt me, remind me of my place, bolster their own sense of self, control me, whatever, my whole life. and as much as i don’t want it to hurt or to feel like it doesn’t matter what people say, i mean, i was a kid, a preteen, a teenager, and a family ‘black sheep’, and it gets to you. it feels hard that this kind of gossiping, seems dismissed, forgotten, irrelevant.
- who belongs and who doesn’t. who gets to know things and who doesn’t. whose in and who isn’t.
- i like knowing things. Gossip appeals to the part of me that loves knowing everything that’s going on between everyone. sometimes that’s fun and fine, and it definitely informs my own needs and wants in community and in relationship. talking about how we are together, and how everyone is is one of my favorite things. I also want to understand that part of me — do I think if I know everything I will be safe and secure? why do I feel like I have the right to know everything? What are the various currents, feelings, needs, stories, selves at play for me?
- I wanna be intentional with how I share, how I talk, who I’m sharing with, where and how I take up space in different spaces. I want to be careful even when I’m giggling, even when I’m boasting about my own adventures. maybe I want to be too careful. i think it might be possible to be intentional with the kind of talk that’s knowledge sharing and the kind that’s fun storytelling. it might be possible to care about consent, and story telling, and relationality with the force of gossip. but still, my body feels scared of ever saying anything.
- i wanna talk with you about you, i wanna talk with you about me, i wanna talk about all that happens when we meet. what we do when we’re apart. how we feel about what’s going on around us, in our lives, communities, relationships, worlds. I want to hold all that we want to hold together, together.
- words have power, how we talk together has power, how we move together has power. i want to know you as more than gossip. i just want to know that we are doing our best, as often as we can, to hold one another’s truths, to hold each other and make this better world one breath at a time.
anyway i love you