Stephen Fry, 58, actor, writer, personality, president of the mental health charity ‘Mind’…hater of child abuse victims? That’s the image the media have been producing of him over the last couple of days, however the statement he has released says otherwise.
Stephen Fry is a British gem. You never hear anyone saying “who’s that?” when his face is on the TV screen. He’s a lover of expressing his opinion and fighting for those who need support – the LGBT community and sufferers of mental health in particular. As explained in the statement made by Mind “As President of Mind, Stephen Fry has done a huge amount to raise awareness and understanding about bipolar disorder and other mental health problems.”
However Stephen Fry is now unfortunately also famous for the controversial statements he made during an American TV interview on “The Rubin Report”. It was a discussion about freedom of speech in which Fry got onto the topic of “triggers” and “trigger words”. For those who don’t know, triggers are something in the form of images or words that can trigger upset for someone if they have experienced something to do with the image or word. In this case, Fry goes on to explain that children are now not allowed to read “Macbeth” in schools due to the killing of children in the script. He then leads on to explain how many great plays have scenes of rape in them, but that doesn’t mean that people should not watch them…here comes the controversial comment…
“it might trigger something when you were young that upset you once, because uncle touched you in a nasty place, well I’m sorry. It’s a great shame and we’re all very sorry that your uncle touched you in that nasty place – you get some of my sympathy – but your self pity gets none of my sympathy…”
His blasé attitude towards a topic so sensitive created huge backlash among the public online. Many may interpret Fry as having no sympathy for victims of child sex abuse, or having no understanding of victims of child sex abuse. Mind spoke out about the subject too, explaining that they can understand why some people may be upset about Fry’s comments, and acknowledges the mental health problems that can come from being sexually abused as a child.
However, when watching the interview and not just reading the excerpts the newspapers have posted all over the internet, the tables turn slightly. Fry isn’t claiming he has no sympathy for those victims, he is explaining that self-pity gains no sympathy. He goes on to explain that ‘self-pity is the ugliest human emotion’. Not much better really is it? I mean, I wouldn’t say any victims of abuse have ‘self-pity’ but more likely either struggle in silence, or struggle to get the help and support they deserve. I also believe they are, after everything they have gone through, entitled to feel sorry for themselves and no one should tell them otherwise. no victim of any abuse should be told how to feel about what has happened to them. I believe that Fry’s comments on ‘self-pity’ have the ability to make this struggle worse for future victims.
Thankfully today, Fry released his own statement via Mind’s website:
“It distresses me greatly to think that I have upset anyone in the course of the TV interview I had with David Rubin the other week. I of course apologise unreservedly for hurting feelings the way I did . That was never my purpose. There are few experiences more terrible, traumatic and horrifying than rape and abuse and if I gave the impression that I belittled those crimes and the effects they have on their victims then I am so so sorry. It seems I must have utterly failed to get across what I was actually trying to say and instead offended and upset people who didn’t deserve to be offended or upset.”
So, he didn’t admit what he said was wrong, but he has admitted that how it was interpreted was wrong and how he failed to get across what he had intended to.
I’m a huge Stephen Fry fan, and a huge supporter of everything he does for mental health, so I’m torn on this topic and rather upset about his comments. Perhaps next time, he should keep his opinions on how victims of abuse should feel (because essentially, thats what he did, accidentally or not) out of debates abut freedom of speech?
Ironically, he’s tried to explain that people nowadays are too sensitive about trigger words and topics that may cause upset, and but doing so has created a backlash so huge that it proves that freedom of speech is limited in this world. However, that’s not necessarily a negative thing; maybe being a kind, sympathetic and thoughtful human being is more important than always feeling the need to express your opinion just because you believe you have the right to.