Opinion: In general, an opinion is a judgment, viewpoint, or statement about matters commonly considered to be subjective.
There was, as you are all undoubtedly aware and completely unsurprised about, another Twitter debate that involved/angered a large proportion of tweeps earlier this week.
And I watched and read every tweet with interest. Just as I did after the election.
But not just because of what the debate/argument was about, but more to see how it played out.
You see, I have been involved in many debates of the last few months, mostly during university sessions, and I have become fascinated by the way in which they work. People have always interested me and I always try and look behind the bravado and the words and to work out why they are saying or behaving in the manner with which they are.
Usually it’s about what has happened to them. Their past and all of the many varied experiences they have had which culminate in this thing we call an ‘opinion’.
And, more often than not, when people no longer have a valid argument or line with which they can follow, their response is ‘well it’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it.’
I think it’s that word that sits uncomfortably here. What makes someone ‘entitled’ to something? And does being entitled to an opinion qualify it and protect it from attack?
Opinions are constructed over time from influences both socially and culturally. For example, natural desires and behaviours corresponding to the female body are born from natural occurrences, whereas feminism stems from cultural constructiveness.
Everyone’s differing points of view are huge bubbling pots of individuality, into which ingredients have been slowly added and combined since each individual was born. In went what their parents thought. Followed by what they heard from their peers. Spoonfuls of ideas gathered from reading magazines, books, and newspapers. A large dollop of what they have watched on the television, or listened to the radio. Snippets soaked up from having travelled to different places peppered with the suffering of a range of illnesses and hardships.
And then…the wonder that is confirmation bias enables people to surround themselves with likeminded people who compound their beliefs. That flavour their opinion soup, so to speak. I mean, having experienced something that means you’re entitled to an opinion on it…right?
But then doesn’t everyone experience everything in a unique way? So won’t each person’s opinion be a different one?
I’m digressing somewhat. Which isn’t a surprise given that I am attempting to discuss something as diverse and complex as this.
Let’s take parenting a newborn as example. You’ll find that everyone has an opinion on that whether they’ve had a baby or not. And, oh, what a variety of opinions on how to handle a newborn there are, some of which are extreme polar opposites. They vary between genders, classes and generations. Instincts are those natural occurrences that feed desires and behaviours whether we are aware of them or not. And then there is the culturally constructed side of parenting. The attachment parents, the cry it outs, to name two. I’m intrigued as to what makes one mum differ so much from another and believe, sometimes vehemently so, that their opinion on how babies should be handled it without doubt the only valid one. It’s like the old nature verses nurture debate. Or…
Nature v Culture. Or…
Naturally occurring v produced. Or…
Natural instinct v human nurture. Or…
Emotion v reason.
I could go on.
The debate this week wasn’t one sided, it wasn’t even two sided, and was almost too complex for me to follow at times. But what I did follow was anger towards someone, who was technically expressing an opinion, a thought, voiced through many differing opinions. There didn’t seem to be any middle ground or initial questioning of the tweet that caused the outrage. There were sweeping statements and judgments and at times became painfully personal.
For me, what there wasn’t enough of was evidence. Some people believe that in order to have an opinion that you are ‘entitled’ to, you don’t only need to have experienced something, but studied it. Learnt the facts. Be able to back up your argument with truths and statistics from reputable sources.
One could argue that your own emotions are a reputable source and that you have an opinion because you wholeheartedly believe it.
Trouble is, those opinions are the easiest to attack and criticise. Not so much opinions, but beliefs maybe.
They are personal. They are individual. And they are real to the person who holds them.
In my opinion, we all need to be a bit more tolerant of those who do not share our views. Especially where those individuals in question are attempting to support and help others.
You are entitled to your own opinions, but what you are not entitled to do, is attack someone else because they don’t share the same ones.
Feminism: Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.
Right, I can’t help myself…I’m going to have to write this post about feminism and Blogfest yesterday. But I am not going to write about how outraged I was at the panel, because, well (shock horror) I wasn’t; and I’m not going to convey my belief in why I’m proud to be a mummy and a blogger because, well that’s obvious isn’t it? And I’m not going to write about what feminism means to me because quite frankly (shoot me if you like) at 36 I’ve not entirely worked that out yet. But what I do want to write about is the shocking impact that a few misunderstood and very poorly worded opinions had on the entire room, and on why people were so livid and tweeting, blogging, shouting about what happened. (Clever old Mumsnet eh?)
For those of you who don’t know what on earth I’m talking about, yesterday I was at a blogging conference; a blogging conference run by Mumsnet, who are not unknown for debate and controversy. (and penis beakers) The very title of the session ‘Can you be a mummy blogger and a feminist?’ was designed to provoke, and, rather dangerously, made several hundred women p***ed off before the session had even begun. Now, I don’t know what you’re like when you’re angry, but when I’m p***ed off I can be a bit irrational, misinterpret things, take them very personally and often not hear them how they were intended to be heard, just ask my husband! My judgement can undoubtedly be clouded when I’m angry and I often decided that I’m not going to like what I’m about to hear. And yes…here is where I have to mention jam and heels…the question was asked as to whether a feminist can make jam…and was answered with (what I took to be) a very tongue in cheek ‘no!’ I thought they were being sarcastic at this point and taking the mickey out of themselves, and yes I agree, it was a bit silly that this was even mentioned, like I said…designed to provoke, buts it’s brave to think that a group of feminists on stage aren’t going to challenge their stereotypes. However, the audience, already seething and ready for a heated debate, took this ‘joke’ VERY literally…and tensions rose once more, before it was deemed that feminists could also not wear high heels. Um, am I missing the point here, but can’t feminists/bloggers/women do whatever the hell they like! Now, I don’t wear heels because I broke my ankle in them at a wedding dancing with a nine year old boy, true story, but if I want to wear them…I bloody well will!
We all have baggage, we all feel guilty and have our own personal battles, and everyone has achievements they are fiercely proud of. What we all need to remember is that alongside these things we all have experiences that have shaped our opinions and beliefs…and unless we know another person 100% or walk in their shoes we will never fully understand the events and reasons behind these opinions. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if it’s different to yours and instead of condemning and verbally attacking someone whose opinion differs from our own, maybe we should listen and try and understand what brought them there, who knows we might just learn something.
Yes we need to be careful about how we voice these opinions, and I agree that yesterday some were very poorly worded and could and did easily offend. I speak in reference to the reference that ‘women without degrees cannot be good mums.’ Yet this technically isn’t what was said, it was the panellist’s own opinion about herself and her own parenting. She said that she thought that about herself and not all mums, yet frayed tempers and personal situations made this another verbal battle. Do we know why she has his opinion of herself and why her inner voice was telling her that she’d have failed as a mother if she didn’t return and complete her degree? Was it drummed into her by the media, by her mother, her child’s father? Dig a little deeper and maybe we’d find a mum not unlike ourselves who struggles with the guilt of working, not working and a whole host of other things. But yesterday no-one wanted to dig and no-one wanted to see…they were too consumed by perceived rage that she was somehow attacking them. Personal issues were brought to the forefront of everyone’s conscious and fuelled the debate. Private and personal battles were rearing their heads and argued ferociously in public.
As mums we’ve all felt shit about ourselves or our choices, I know I have; from media reports, medical research, and through the many perceived rights and wrongs of parenting. Instead of battling against one another because of all of those things we should be supporting each other, learning from each other, supporting each other, listening to each other, empathising
with each other. Standing together as equals…isn’t that feminism personified?!
There is always a reason for people’s opinions and why they fight passionately for what they believe in. We do not know their history or what they have been through to get to where they are. But there’s always a reason and maybe we need to look behind poorly chosen words and be more understanding and supportive.
Being a mum makes me happy, being a blogger makes me happy, but watching and listening to mummies and bloggers disagree so fervently without the knowledge and understanding behind the words makes me sad. Yes some phrases were poorly worded, yes some things could have been taken personally, but it didn’t need to descend into such mayhem. It was not a healthy debate. It was uncomfortable and raw. But then again…isn’t attack the best for of defence?!
Judgement: Judgement (or judgment) is the evaluation of evidence to make a decision.
I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for a couple of weeks now, but it hasn’t been proving easy. I mean, how do you write about people judging other people whilst taking a good long hard look at yourself and realising that maybe you do it too. I umm-ed and ahh-ed about publishing this post for fear of people judging me for judging, actively, all the time and then I decided to do it anyway. Honest as always and besides, it provokes a good healthy discussion!
Those of you that follow me on twitter would recently have seen my outrage at a young teen girl loudly judging my twelve year old daughter in public. For those of you that don’t follow me, I shall recap. We were off to the theatre for a girly night out with my best friend and my daughter’s Godmother (you’ve heard me mention ‘Cynthia’ before right?!) We’d been shopping during the day and hadn’t left long enough to get ready and have dinner so after we’d dressed up for the theatre we dropped into a local supermarket to pick up some sandwiches. (we’d had a big lunch) (see how I felt the need to tell you that for fear of you judging me for not feeding my daughter properly!) Now, my daughter is 12 years old and is, quite rightly in my opinion, starting to take a pride in her appearance. Not in a pressured by her peers or people she sees kind of way, just in a ‘I’m going somewhere nice so I should make and effort and look nice’ kind of way. And this I encourage. So yes on that night out I let her wear her wedge heeled shoes, and yes I let her wear her leather jacket, and yes I let her wear make-up…well I say make up, it was actually just mascara if I’m honest. She looked beautiful.
In the shop she nipped in front of me to get a thank you card for the boy’s pre-school staff, and as she disappeared around the corner I heard someone very loudly tut before saying ‘that girl is wearing far too much make up and is far too fashionable for someone her age.’ I turned around quickly and saw a teenage girl who couldn’t been no more than fourteen (yes, I judged her age) with her father. (yes I judged that too, could’ve been her Uncle, or brother I guess) I don’t know whether it was the way in which she said it, the look on her face when she said it or the fact that she was commenting on my daughter’s appearance and judging her that made me snap, but I walked up, looked her in the eye and said ‘please keep your opinions to yourself in future…alright’ in rather an unpleasant tone. My daughter had heard the exchange and instantly became paranoid that she was wearing the wrong thing. Her body language changed and the previous confident walk became a hunched shuffle. And it made me upset. It was another moment in her life when she had to become a little less naive and a little more street wise and know a bit more about how us humans work. How we (rightly or wrongly) judge others, sometimes because it makes us feel better about ourselves and sometimes just because (more on this in a bit). And this conversation with my daughter got me thinking…is it right to think things about other people as long as they don’t hear you? Is the quote ‘What other people think of you is none of your business.’ actually true? We all try not too, but is it fair to say we all judge people all of the time…sometimes without even realising that that is precisely what we are doing? And that we just don’t say anything because we’re too polite? How many times have you wondered if someone is fat or pregnant? If the woman he’s with is his daughter or lover? Or thought ‘oh that haircut is not good’ ?? (be honest!) But is even thinking these things ok? And do we ever have enough evidence to make informed judgements?
As humans I think we are programmed to analyse situations and people. Many, many years ago our ancestors had to judge everything. Whether noises were a sign of impending danger or harmless; a polar bear coming to attack our family or just the wind. Whether the caveman next door was a good neighbour or one who would steal your gathered food when your back was turned. Now of course we don’t face any of these dangers, but we still have our primitive brains in our heads. The brain that only functions through fear, anger and depression and to where we all retreat occasionally. (well I know I do) The brain that controls the fight or flight response, making us analyse every situation and trust our instincts. Sadly as we’ve evolved maybe our primitive judgemental brains have had to channel their focus elsewhere, as for the most part the dangers that were ever present then are not now.
Now I’m not saying judging someone for the way they are bringing up their children is ever right or a natural chemical reaction in the brain. And I’m not saying that a lack of empathy and understanding as to why a person is dressed, behaving or living in a way they are is a good thing either. There are many reasons why a mum might be shouting and losing her temper, or why someone is behaving in an arrogant or shy manner or a child is appearing to have a tantrum. And I’m not saying all judgements are negative ones…some may be very flattering indeed, like when you spot a lovely skirt someone has on or notice a good looking man walking past you. But what I am saying is that we all do it. We all size up situations, people, places and sometimes make snap judgements based on what we encounter. I’m currently sat on my own writing this blog post in a coffee shop and people are probably looking at me thinking I’m a billy no mates. And does it bother me? Before all of the above happened or when I was in my twenties then yes, it probably would have. I for one am generally very sensitive as to how people perceive me and can at times be super paranoid about what people think about me. But I’m learning to care a little less and have more faith in myself and those around me (not literally around me now, I mean around me in everyday life!) who I know think I’m actually alright. I’m learning not to get wound up about people’s judgements of me and take it personally because it sure as heck isn’t winding the person up who’s doing the judging. If someone is misreading me or a situation I’m in then maybe that is more a reflection on them and what is happening their life than it is mine. I think I need to learn to accept that it happens, that people judge me, and be safe in the knowledge that only those close to me know the truth about me and my life and that’s all that matters.
And then of course there is my impressionable daughter. Well…she decided to focus on the words ‘too fashionable’ from the judgemental teen’s outburst, and has taken it as a compliment that she was very well dressed. Clever girl 😉
Opinions: In general, an opinion is a belief about matters commonly considered to be subjective, i.e. it is based on that which is less than absolutely certain, and is the result of emotion or interpretation of facts. An opinion may be supported by an argument, although people may draw opposing opinions from the same set of facts. Opinions rarely change without new arguments being presented. In casual use, the term opinion may be the result of a person’s perspective, understanding, particular feelings, beliefs, and desires.
We are allowed to have different opinions,
It really is ok.
You can do things the way you like,
And I’ll do things my way.
It doesn’t matter that we’re different,
That we don’t do things the same.
Just please don’t judge and please don’t preach,
There’s no one here to blame.
Everyone is equal,
and individual too.
I can be me and happily so,
And you can be confident in you.
Don’t challenge my opinions,
Don’t mock what I do best,
Don’t belittle my beliefs, my ideals,
It makes me like you less.
I know my children inside out,
As I’m sure that you know yours,
But please don’t guess what goes on here,
Behind my home’s closed doors.
I’ll leave you to do what you believe,
And please say you will too.
We’ll never be friends if we don’t respect,
Each others feelings too.
Everybody is different,
What’s best for them, their children,
And how to nurture them as they grow.
So let this be the end,
No more judging and unkind speech.
It is forgotten, I’ve let it go,
There’s nothing the other can teach.
I wish you luck in all you do,
I wish you love and joy.
Now let us each move on,
And do the things we both enjoy.