I am moving to Australia and that’s mostly awesome. Except that I have arachnophobia, and good old Oz is famously home to loads of big and bitey spiders. So, I joined a couple of spider ID groups on Facebook to try and cure my fears – a British one and an Australian one, and the difference between the two groups is fascinating.
Group one – Australia: “Look at this beauty” whilst letting a fuck-off huge huntsman run over their hands.
Group two – Britain: “Fuck ahhhhhhhhhhhh! Look at this massive scary prick I had to squash… it was after me, I swear!” whilst a 2cm house spider lies smooshed under a slipper.
Let me be clear, Britain does NOT have big or particularly scary spiders, but you’d never have guessed that from the language used. The little spoods were described as if they were the most hellish thing on earth, and people were terrified. Whereas the Aussies, even those who were scared, spoke about the spiders with complete respect.
Plenty of arachnophobes in the Australian group wrote posts about how the group was helping to cure their spider fears, whilst I had to leave the British one because the language and intent behind their posts were making my fear worse.
When we speak of things as if they’re horrible and scary and gross, they tend to stay like that, and their monstrouness grows. Our bias gets confirmed by our words. But when you change your language and speak with respect, you grow to actually have respect for real. Remember that next time you talk about your body. You like what I did there!