How Dare You?

I was (belatedly) catching up on replying to comments (I always read them right away but sometimes it takes me a while to reply) when I came across a comment by Alterations Needed who said “how dare any one of us think we know who is healthy or attractive.”  The comment reminded me of one of my favorite phrases.

I have a friend who is a financial planner.  He once told me about how, when he attends business networking events,  he will introduce himself to someone and say what he does and they will immediately cut him off and say “I already have a financial planner”.  So he started answering them by saying “How dare you assume that I would want you to be my client.”.  Harsh?  Maybe.  Effective.  Abso-freaking-lutely.

I love the phrase how dare you. It’s not good for all occasions, but I think that when people say something so heinous that it should be a crime, ‘how dare you’ comes into play.

True life example:

Random person:  “Well, obviously at your weight if you don’t have health problems, you will.”

Me:  “How dare you make assumptions about my health?”

Random person:  “Oh…I…well,I mean,  I just meant…I was out of line, I’m sorry.”

There are lots of good reasons to say it out loud:

  1. It keeps me in control.  I’ve found that if someone says something grossly inappropriate and I am caught off-guard, getting emotional (crying, screaming etc. )  just ends up making me look like the “overemotional fat girl” and that doesn’t get me any traction at all.
  2. I think that it has a connotation of “stop and think about what you just did”.  In my experience using “how dare you”, it will very often stop people in their tracks.  It can be a game-changer when used correctly with the right audience.
  3. It is not over-used, so people aren’t ready for it and, in my experience they are not likely to snap back with something. Even if they are going to continue with their line of conversation, they typically have to think about it.
  4. If I say “What you said is completely out of line” people often come back with an “It’s a free country”- esque response. While that’s true, my argument is not against free speech, but rather for treating people with respect  “How dare you” really says “What you said is completely out of line with what constitutes basic human respect”.

Even if I don’t say it out loud, just saying it in my head can really help.  It reminds me that, just like my last break-up,  it’s not me – it’s them.  I deserve to be treated with respect by everyone I meet in every situation.  So do you.  That doesn’t mean that everyone will always treat us as we deserve, and that’s not important since we can’t control other people’s behavior.  What is important to me is that I remember that if I’m not treated well, that’s someone else behaving badly – it’s not about my personal worth or self-esteem.

What about you – what phrases make you feel empowered?

17 thoughts on “How Dare You?

  1. Wicked. This is so going in my “fuck off (politely)” repetoire of phrases. Which means I’ll probably use it mostly on my mother, but who knows? Fatshamers of the midwest, beware!

  2. Brilliant! I really hope I have occasion to use this. Not that I am never treated shabbily–I think I just don’t notice very often. But I DO get to use my “appalled” face from time to time. I think it makes a nice go-along with “How dare you?” You’re too clever, R. Keep up the AMAZING work!

  3. I love this post. I hope I remember “How dare you?” the next time someone is a dicc to me.

  4. Fitting in somewhere between 4 and 5 is that it is a question asking them to reflect on their behaviour as well as rather emotionally charged. It is much more effective than any kind of defensive response (which would be tantamount to letting them ‘win’ or get away with that kind of inappropriate behaviour) and/or offensive response which I think depreciates the chance for any kind of sympathetic encounter. “How dare you [treat another human being like this]” demands the perpetrator consider the other’s feelings.

  5. Just came here from Jezebel – I love this post! I have always used a different phrase which seems to have an equally good effect: “Wow, that was really rude. You must be so embarrassed.”
    Person: “You know, you really should lose weight for the good of your health.”
    Me: “Wow, that was really rude. You must be so embarrassed.”
    Person: “Uh.. um… Yeah…” *changes subject*

    It has to be said in a sort of non-judgemental and sympathetic tone (as though the person has made a minor factual error) to work, but it does shut people up, and (I hope) makes them reflect on the fact that commenting on someone else’s body is actually really impolite! Of course, there’s always SOMEONE who will take it as a challenge and starting trying to explain that it isn’t rude, they are just CONCERNED for my healthy and so on. At that point I am now going to break out the “How dare you”!

  6. I too just came here from the jezebel article about swimsuits (which was fantastic), and this is absolutely awesome. I love both “how dare you” and the commenter’s line above me re; rude/embarrassed. Great work, keep it up!

  7. I adore your blog! You are amazing. I admire the work you’re doing so very, very much.

    On to the topic at hand! I have found that “shame on you!” works really well. Especially in combination with a good “how dare you.” “Shame on you” reduces rude, ignorant folk to what they really are: blubbering three year olds in need of scolding.

    1. Hi Dae,

      Thanks! I love shame one you – it’s not one that I’ve used before but I’ll definitely be adding it to my arsenal 🙂

  8. Oh, man, yeah! “How dare you” is so effective. And it’s so empowering to say! I’ve never been brave enough to say it in a confrontation, but I certainly feel the cathartic effect when I’m ranting in the privacy of a safe conversation. Someday, I’ll say it to someone who’s made mean assumptions and it’ll be good.

  9. I just had someone I love tell their other friends that they would rather be dead than fat. I am fat and I was in tears over that remark. This made me feel better. Thank you.

  10. This used to be in my ex’s arsenal for arguments. He never used it against me but whenever he said “How dare they…” it always shocked me and made me sit up and take notice – I love how polite old phrases can still make noise, even today 😀

  11. I wish I had been ready with a “how dare you” some years back rather than passively accepting a comment. I didn’t, so instead I will share my scenario with you and feel cathartic.
    My husband plays in several professional and semi-professional orchestras. I went to one concert when we had been dating for maybe two or three years and was seated next to a nice couple, probably about my parents age. They shared that they were regulars to these performances, and I shared proudly that my then-boyfriend was the assistant concertmaster. I pointed him out in the violin section. The woman told me that I should make him lose weight.
    I forgot how she put it exactly, but basically I should use my influence to, I don’t know, put him on a strict diet and exercise regimen. At the time, I had barely gotten over a shameful fear that people seeing me with him would reflect badly on ME. As if I should be aiming for better just because I’m not in the same category of overweight as him. So, I kind of gave this “helpful” lady a vague “hmmm,” and actually INTERNALIZED the idea that maybe I have some responsibility to encourage and facilitate my man’s bodily transformation. For his health, of course. And for his own comfort, as he hated wearing the restrictive tux coat that would probably be less cumbersome if he were a different shape. I thought she was rather insensitive to make the comment, and worried she might be speaking the truth, but mostly I was unprepared for a stranger to say such a thing.
    If I could write my script for that conversation that day, I would say:
    “Wow. You’re awfully bold. You dare take me into your confidence with advice that implies *I* think this man is anything less than perfectly beautiful? What gives you the license to look across the large concert hall and decide someone obviously talented and confident in his abilities is in need of improvement? –and then speak the insult aloud to the person obviously in love with him? What makes you think that I even have control over someone else’s body? Do you think he has such low self esteem that he would BE with someone who endeavors to force him to change?”
    I would probably have elicited a weak apology, she didn’t mean to offend, and maybe a feeble excuse about worry about his health. To the health I could give another “how dare you” about the assumption that he’s irresponsible about his health. What would I say to just an apology, though? “Aww, it’s ok, you’re just a thoughtless nobody I’ll never see again!” Or, “Yeah you probably are sorry, that wasn’t a decent thing to say. I’m embarrassed for you.”
    I’d still have to sit next to these people for the rest of the concert, so I’m not sure I actually could say any of that out loud.

    Fast forward to today, looking over wedding pictures with my grandma who has advanced dementia. One picture of just my husband, looking all handsome and spiffy in his suit, she had likely forgotten who he was or even the fact that it was my wedding photos we were looking at. She said, “Oh, a fatso.” I laughed and said, “Hey, that’s my HUSBAND you’re talking about there!” Grandma: “Oooo, I take it back.”
    Uh huh. 🙂

  12. I love this.

    I remember something awful that happened to me several years ago. I was fat-hated by a guy about twice my size. He MOO-ed at me. A “how dare you”, a “shame on you”, or a “you must be so embarrassed” would have been great in that moment.

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