A couple of days ago I received an e-mail from one of my good friends; a colleague from my Writer’s Club. He is a very honest person and never hesitates to call me on my bullshit, which is why I value his opinion very much and when he gives me a positive feedback on something, it feels like Christmas came early this year :) He complimented me on my latest blog post about Unitarian Universalism and said that he appreciated how my opinion, while strong and passionate, never came across as preaching. “Almost everything I read nowadays,” he wrote sadly, “sounds like the author thinks of himself as appointed judge of human virtue.”
Yes, sir, and this is precisely why I have been at odds with so many people recently – way too many, I feel! Some of them are my friends, some are acquaintances, and some I have never met, just came across their stuff on-line or at school, but they all have one thing in common: They seem convinced that they know better than everyone else how to live.
Personally, I’m starting to believe that the world would be much more pleasant place if people were using the singular tense more. But no, these days almost everyone is an expert on what WE should do.
Admittedly, there are some causes when I will gladly join the forces in order to convince the public that WE all should or shouldn’t; like for example WE should recycle, but should not shoot each other with guns. If there is considerable evidence that doing or not doing something has a potential harmful effect on us as a society, I certainly don’t mid folks taking a stance. But what troubles me is when people are becoming judgmental and unable to cope with the fact that when it comes to private lives, some of us might make different choices.
I already described vividly on this very blog how much crap I have been taking from people on both continents for not wanting to have children. You would think from the way some people react that it somewhat affects them personally – which it doesn’t. As a result, I’m getting an allergic reaction every time when I hear in the media “ALL women,” followed by some revelation about what ALL women want, need, think, etc. because interestingly enough, neither of these people, who act like they know me better than I know myself, ever asked MY opinion.
And you know what? I’m actually not picking on the conservative religious right for once.
Yes, even those individuals who are fighting for a good cause can ruin it when they start believing that they have somehow discovered a universal guide to life for every single human being. Do you remember when I got upset in one of my previous columns with some of my counseling colleagues for participating in slut-shaming on Facebook? It wasn’t because I couldn’t stand that they had a different opinion. What bothered me was that they presented it as “US women should do this and that” and you know what? I’m a woman and I don’t like others telling me what to do, especially when it comes to my sexuality, which is what the post was about. I’m fully capable of making my own choices, thank you very much, and yes, they will inevitably be different than those of most of my friends, because my attitudes and beliefs toward human sexuality tend to be more liberal than the American mainstream. But that’s what democracy is about, right?
On a larger scale, it is also one of the reasons why I stopped identifying myself as a feminist – because I got tired of fellow feminists trying to tell me how to dress, how to behave, and, in some cases, how to fuck. Although I still recognize the important role of feminism in our history and am grateful to early feminists for their accomplishments that now make my life easier, I have felt too many times that liberating women from the oppression of the patriarchal society doesn’t make any sense if you start bossing them around yourself.
But let’s not get all tangled up in sexuality and gender issues, I have more columns coming on these topics later! The annoying know-it-all syndrome can affect any area of life. Consider the difference between these statements:
Statement A: “I have never felt so good since I decided to go vegan! Most of my health problems disappeared, I feel optimistic and full of energy, and I believe it’s the right path for me.”
Statement B: “WE all should go vegan! It’s the healthiest way to live, it’s good for the environment, it cures diseases – and people who refuse to change their diets are a bunch of ignoramuses and if they get sick and tired, it’s totally their fault.”
Or another example, my favorite, which is becoming a big trend these days in the multiculturally sensitive counseling world:
Statement A: “Personally, I would like to meet a man who will appreciate me mainly for the kind of a person I’m inside.”
Statement B: “Ladies, WE all have to realize that men just has to appreciate us for who WE are inside and if a guy compliments you on your physical appearance and you let him, you are disrespecting yourself and he is a chauvinistic pig who needs to be executed as soon as possible!!!”
And one more for a good measure:
Statement A: “I’m a big girl and I’m proud of it. I love my body just the way it is and you know what? I refuse to bow to the societal pressure about how as a woman I should look like.”
Statement B: “WE all should be proud of who we are and to love our bodies! How dare you to share with your friends that you started to go to the Weight Watchers!?”
Do you see the fundamental difference? The woman defending her right to love her body like it is needs to consider that well, other women just want to be slimmer - may it be for aesthetic or health reasons. It does not necessarily mean that they are brainwashed by the society to become anorexic. Similarly, vegan diet can work wonders for many people but as almost every traditional medicine teaches us, different people respond differently to different foods. My ex-boyfriend developed serious health problems after he became vegan, even though he followed all the guidelines about balanced diet. And if I am the kind of a woman who doesn’t feel that a compliment from a guy on her appearance makes her automatically an “object,” well, it’s really not anybody else’s business but mine, is it!?
Personally, I think that WE all should spend a couple of minutes in the front of a mirror every morning and repeat to ourselves “live and let live” as a mantra. WE would become so much more pleasant if we did! Well, most of us anyway…