Thursday, January 10, 2013

"Just" culture

A few days ago, Grey and I were sitting at a Pho shop enjoying a casual lunch. WIth the spacing of the tables in this shops, it's hard not to overhear conversations. So when the two women next to us started complaining about society and asking in less-than huffed tones "what do people want?" it was hard not to listen.

Honestly, I can't remember all the details (because most of the conversation was complete gibberish), but what was clear is that both of them wanted a simple answer/solution to tell everyone they ever came into contact with so that they would be happy. And the entire time, they kept dropping one word.


Little did they realize (among other things), that this simple, four-letter word that can convey so much damage.

It's no secret that we live in a "Just" culture. Everyone is familiar with "Just do it" (side-note: very few are aware of how much Nike has profited from this slogan), but it's not difficult to find "just" attached before other phrases. "Just take the first step," "Just find a way," "Just quit," "Just believe."

As ALIers, we are all too aware of "just" phrases. "Just relax," we're told, with each failed cycle. "Just try X." And my all time personal favorite "just adopt."

These past two weeks, S.I.F. has written a series of elegant posts exploring adoption. I personally think she's done a wonderful job tackling very difficult topics and really encourage everyone to read these, regardless of how you view the process or your stance of each of the issues. But what I found most powerful was how she completely destroyed the idea of "just adopt." In her essays, she outlines quite clearly how each circumstance involves so many variables, making this process so much more complex than 95% of society realizes. That there truly is no "just" in this process.

Reflecting on this post made me realize how pervasive "just" has become in our society. Being as hurried and stressed as we all are, "just" has become a way of quickly dealing with emotions and complex issues. Too often, we try to simplify things so much so that we can hurry up and tackle the next issue. I'll admit, I am incredibly guilty of this mindset. In moments of frustration, I've barked at people to "just do X," so that I can focus my attention on more pressing or more pleasant things. Hence, "just" has become a convenient tool for silencing others at inconvenient moments.

There's another level too: "just" is typically used by those who were incredibly lucky and had things work out fairly easily. We all know these people, as they are quick to offer advice and will arduously defend their actions even when it becomes clear that they truly have no insight.

There's the problem though with both courses of action, though. Mainly that both outcomes are ones that simplify complex issues, while belittling others in the process. It's one of the important lessons I've learned over the past few years and has forced me to rethink not only how I think about my path to expanding my family, but also more about how I interact with people on a daily basis.

The reality is, we need to reanalyze how we use "just." "Just" can most certainly be used to motive, to encourage, to compel people to take action. There's a lot of positive that can come from "just." But when "just" is used to shut people down, feel superior or to simplify a situation that clearly requires thought, there's a problem. "Just" in these cases becomes a weapon, meant to silence and shame.

The question becomes, how do we change this? One thought is to become aware of "just" in our daily lives, taking a moment to really analyze what our intentions are with using it. Does a particular topic/individual frustrate us? Make us nervous? Are we steamrolling the conversation as someone else is talking about difficulties? What's the goal of using "just" in that moment.

Another thought is that it's time to start countering "just." Too often, why "just relax" or "just adopt" get thrown around is because the suggestive party doesn't know better. After all, with infertility and loss being so taboo, why would they change? But that ends when you speak up. When you say "actually, it's not always that easy." Or "are you sure that's the full story?"

Or, if they're really obnoxious, you can try my personal favorite: "Huh, I'm really glad that worked for you, but my doctor, you know the one that went to medical school followed by 4 years of residency and followed by 2 years of fellowship, seems to think more is going on. But I'm sure you're right, I'm just not trying hard enough . . . ."

What are your thoughts? How do we begin reversing "just" culture?


  1. I was recently thinking about this myself, after seeing a post about the phrase "Just have a home birth."

    Any time you put "just" in front of something, you completely disregard the complexity of the situation. Of course, not every situation in which we use the word is complex (eg "Just do the dishes!").

    As an open IFer, I take every opportunity I can to educate people about the physical, emotional, and financial difficulties. When I hear a "just" comment, I take a deep breath and say "I wish it were that easy, bu it's not. Here's why." I try not to use the phrase myself. If I genuinely want to know if someone has considered an option, I will ask "How do you feel about...?" I'm hoping that will catch on.

  2. Love the "if they're really obnoxious" paragraph! So funny.

    I couldn't agree more with all of this. Today someone at work made reference to themselves as "just" something or other and a coworker pointed out to never refer to herself as "just" anything. You are so right - it is a damaging word. You are so reflective.

    Just adopt hey? I haven't heard that one in awhile but ya, it's clearly not a well thought out statement. Just fill out 100 pages of paperwork. Just pay a minimum of $10,000. Just have a social worker come and observe/interrogate you. Then, above all else, just patent a child who will grow up with genetic ties to another family, potential abandonment/identity issues, a string of stories that differ from their peers... Ya, just adopting is easy right?

    Thanks for the adoption post links! Will definitely check them out!

  3. *parent not patent a child, haha

  4. You gave me a lot to think about here. I use "just" all the time. And it is a silencer. It is shaming. Thank you for making that so clear. I am adjusting my own use of this word immediately.

  5. I love this post, every single word. I know you and I have talked before about the "just" culture and how damaging it can be... I really don't think it comes from a bad place most of the time, but still, that doesn't make it any less hurtful. There is no "just" about any of this. Treatments are expensive and there are no guarantees. Adoption comes with plenty of its own pitfalls and expenses. And "just" giving up... well, that is a damn hard pill to swallow as well. There is no "just" in IF. There is simply fighting tooth and nail every single step of the way hoping only to get what comes so easily to everyone else.

  6. Thanks for writing this post, I really enjoyed it. I've been working on being aware if the word "just" in my vocabulary because it is overused and rarely grammatically necessary, but I had not even considered some of the things you mentioned in this post. Now I'm going to try to be even more aware of it.
    Also, thanks for the adoption links. Hubby and I are seriously considering this option, and I am trying to consume as many good resources as I can right now.

  7. Great post! I agree, I think the use of "just" reflects a lot about the person saying it... usually it conveys frustration and annoyance on their part, signalling that they're sick and tired of whatever you've been talking about and want to move on to something else. I'm definitely going to start trying to be a little more self-aware about my own use of it...

  8. Great post ! I confess I'm not part of the infertility community. I have been drawn into following your blogs...your stories are so compelling and so many of you are excellent writers. You've opened my eyes ! Here's my two cents worth. Most people do not know how to respond to people who are going through difficulties. "I'm sorry to hear that" would be so much better than rattling off some thoughtless suggestion. Secondly, we live in an society that expects instant answers to everything. Hense the tendency to offer a quick and easy solution to any of life's problems. That's not how it works, if only it were.

  9. You have articulated so many of my own thoughts about "just." And as you say, it is always said by those who have not had difficulty. It's a bit like the rich and successful who say "you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it."

    I particularly like your take on the way "just" can be used to criticise and shame.

    I love this post!

  10. OMG, I had the bones of this post in my head to write, the 'just . . .' thing, down to the Nike comparison!!

    One of the 'just' annoyances I have heard (not in relation to myself!) is also "just one child?" Yes, after navigating through IVF/infertility/recurrent miscarriage, that phrase, I'm told, is 'just' as jarring

  11. I hate the Just culture. I get told a lot 'But she was JUST a baby' or 'She was JUST a preemie' in reference to my daughter's death. I'm also told 'It's JUST infertility after having children' in reference to me having two older children before my loss and no longer having the ability to have children now.

  12. Hey! On another note - THANK YOU for putting my post forward on the round up last week! Super honoured!!!!

  13. SIF's adoption posts have been amazing. We are a "just" culture: it's all about minimizing discomfort and unpleasant topics. Great call.

    Blah. Just is "just" another four letter word.

  14. Wonderful post and something I think a lot of us have thought about as we have been told to 'just' do something. As always you give me something to ponder. Really the only way to conquer 'just' is to educate.

  15. Utterly gobsmacked. "Just" truly IS a four-letter word. I have been thinking about "just" and "at least" a LOT lately, and you have captured this with such startling clarity. Both can be so silencing, so shaming, so dismissive. More often than not because the other party simply doesn't realize what they are saying, and therein lies the issue. How do we shift away from this? When given the opportunity to use your excellent "Actually, it isn't that simple" counter approach I certainly try. But I hope that it motivates an awareness in me to stop, take the time (usually minutes!) to listen a little more deeply, with a little more care. I can only control my behaviour and hopefully it rubs off. Excellent food for thought Cristy. Like, whoa.

  16. OMG...I just checked your timeline because i thought your beta was today...but apparently it was yesterday and all is good....Congrats. I know (as a fert patient myself) that you are probably super cautious...but6 are PREGNANT.....Yay.....Hope to see a great doubling tomorrow.

  17. I'm so glad you addressed "just." And what you say here really resonates:

    There's a lot of positive that can come from "just." But when "just" is used to shut people down, feel superior."

    I agree that a tool can become a weapon all too easily. I am sometimes guilty of "justing" when I see people making things more difficult than they need to be (truth be told, when I see people remind me of myself doing that). Not IF, specifically, but life. General, hand-wringing life.

    You have made me more aware of my own justing.


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