Ableism & Coercion

Here’s a rant on some bullshit I experienced the weekend before finals.

In my cooperative house, we switch rooms every school term, so as to switch things up and keep things heterogenous and whatnot. We have a new term coming up, so we discussed room assignments at our last house meeting. I wanted this particular room that is a single occupant room and I know I feel comfortable in. It’s a downstairs bedroom, decently quiet, and generally cooler due to its location in the northeast corner of the house and its lack of air circulation (the room can also get really hot if the heater is turned on). Having a cooler room is preferable in the upcoming hotter months, and I go to a university that is in a hot area during the summer. We experience a dry heat that is usually in the high 90s to 100s during the late spring and summer. I was in a hot upstairs bedroom last school year during spring quarter, and ended up being quite uncomfortable and sleeping on the couch. It’s my last term in college, and I want a break from practicing “flexibility,” to try and maintain my mental health, some consistency in my life, and to prevent myself from sleeping on the living room couch. Living in a co-op, it can be a tense thing to take up common room space, which I have done when I am uncomfortable in a bedroom. Luckily, during our house meeting, I was given the room. That seemed like a load off my back, that I wouldn’t have to try and fight for it.

Then a housemate, who I will call A, came to me asking if I’d be willing to switch to this other upstairs single so another housemate could take my room. That other housemate, who we will call B, has been having mental health struggles throughout the year, and recently this school term, and a single would be useful to process what she’s going through, and she can’t take the upstairs single for particular reasons. I said I would think about it, as I have my own needs to consider. I kind of knew then that I didn’t want to give up the room, but I needed to think about my needs and if I felt capable of taking the upstairs single. I want to be supportive of B and her needs, but I also need to look out for myself, especially in my last quarter. I mentioned to A that I needed to think of my comfort and needs, and mentioned the heat aspect of living in an upstairs room and that I have concerns over my comfort with that. I have other reasons too, but that was just something I mentioned in passing. My housemate said that my needs are important too, and was fine with me taking time to think about it.

Several days later, A messaged me and was pushing me to make a decision, which in the end was something she felt I didn’t get to actually decide on but should just do. I kept telling her that I still needed time to think about it, and I didn’t have to disclose what I was going through that makes that single important for me. But she kept pushing. She at one point said, “I am calling you in on being selfish.” This statement alone is hilariously disgusting. She is a prime example of white people in our co-op community who prefer “call ins” over “call outs” because white people hate conflict and aggression. She was trying to call me out, and unjustifiably so. She even threatened to take the situation to the conflict resolution committee. At this point, she has crossed boundaries with me, continued to be intrusive, tried to coerce me into a decision, and gauged my needs against B’s. Also, mind you, if I did take that upstairs single, I would then be in a room next door to A. I can’t be okay with that, now.

I eventually confronted B about the rooming situation, cutting out the middle man. We talked, and it turned out that she didn’t care that much about having the room. It would be nice, but she was compassionate about my needs and wasn’t interested in taking the room if I didn’t want to hand it over. Our housemate A overstepped boundaries for both of us, as she was being intrusive, disclosed personal information about B to me, compared my needs to B’s needs, tried to be B’s advocate without her consent or input, and made a judgment call that was never hers to make. It’s never appropriate for someone to gauge someone’s needs, let alone compare the needs of two people. I am extremely angry with A, and I am disgusted and uncomfortable with her.

B confronted A about the situation, and B said that A seemed to be receptive and understand. B also told A to apologize to me. The next morning, I received this message: “B made me aware that her need was not as strong as she had presented it to me originally. I apologize for my brashness and severity. To me, it seemed like it was a serious need that we have always accommodated, which is why I was upset that you seemed to be avoiding that.” What a bullshit “apology”! She obviously doesn’t get it.

My response:

“Even if it was [that severe], your behavior was inappropriate. You overstepped a boundary with both B and me. It is never your place to to gauge a person’s needs, compare two people’s needs, and make such a judgment call. Telling me I was being selfish was insensitive and completely lacking in compassion. You were being coercive and ableist. You have a tendency to be insensitive unless you know all the details, but it is never required for you to be given full or partial disclosure on a situation, and it’s especially not required to practice compassion. You justify your inappropriate behavior in the name of accountability, but you need to be accountable for your actions. I am angry and disgusted and uncomfortable with you now, and I expect you to provide me space for the rest of the school year. It’s especially disturbing that you expected me to move into a room next door to you after what you said and did to me. Your apology lacks sincerity, as to be expected because you’re not sorry. Notice that you are not apologizing for verbally attacking me. I’m glad I went directly to B to confirm just how ridiculous you were being.”

A just likes to keep going! A replied with, “At this point, I’ve apologized for what I felt I did wrong, and any further explanation is probably going to exasperate your anger. This is obviously going nowhere. I will gladly give you all the space you need, within reason.”

I told her she did not apologize for what she actually did wrong. The space will be gladly taken, though, and I look forward to no longer having to deal with you, A! A’s refusal to understand what she did wrong is beyond actions now, and is on her for being arrogant, and I can’t help her become a better and more understanding person. Her behavior was problematic, she lost my respect, and I don’t have to practice compassion towards my coercive attacker. Calling A out on her bullshit was not enough, and it’s unfortunate that I still have to live with her.

To be fair, I probably went too far at certain moments, but only later in the conversation, after she refused to be accountable and recognize how her apology was insincere and for the wrong thing. At this point, I’m pissed, and want to see her dragged. I’ve known her for nearly two years, so I have a feel for her personality traits, and I knew I didn’t like her that much early on, but this finalizes my intuition.

The point of this post was to rant and vent, but also to show how it’s ableist to judge someone’s needs and compare two people’s needs, and how complicated “compassion” is.

UPDATE: My housemate A said she would continue thinking about my words and get back to me later. Let’s hope she understands later.


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