Annie at PhD in Parenting had a post last year that I really like entitled Don’t Judge Me. She talks about the phrases “don’t judge me” and “it is what it is” and to those I would like to respectively add the following phrases that make me batty:
“I’m entitled to my opinion”
“Let’s agree to disagree”
“To each their own”
Friend: I don’t think a woman should be president because they are too emotional
Me: Well, I think that is predicated on two fallacies. 1) that women are inherently more emotional than men and that 2) this emotional level is necessarily a hindrance and not a help.
Friend: Well, I’m entitled to my opinion.
I’ve also had this conversation with variations like “women are caddy/bitchy/volatile.” I have to admit that the phrase “I’m entitled to my opinion” did stop me in my tracks which is what I think it is meant to do. All three of these phrases imply that the discussion is over because it is just a simple matter of preference and therefore beyond reproach.
But is it really beyond reproach? When are we entitled to NOT respect someone’s opinion? When can we be expected NOT to agree to disagree? Annie mentions the difference between an opinion and a preference. If you like Summer best and I like Winter best that is a preference. We can agree to disagree and you are certainly entitled to your opinion (although if you live in Ohio and prefer Winter then you are just weird!). Your preference for Winter has no effect on my liberty to enjoy Summer.
If you promote a view that women are somehow inherently less able than men to lead your choice has an affect on me and millions of other women. I remember thinking later that night after the above conversation that “no, you are not entitled to an opinion that will limit my daughter’s access to opportunity.” I will not agree to disagree as if we were discussing favorite pizza toppings and I don’t stand by your right to have that opinion. You are entitled to use your preference in the voting booth by not to promulgate it in my presence.
If you think that breastfeeding in public without hiding the “shame” beneath a blanket is “disgusting” then that is your opinion. If you think that I should cover up because of your opinion then no – I don’t agree that you have a right to this opinion because, again, it affects me and millions of others. To each their own – if nursing in public makes you uncomfortable don’t do it but don’t expect me to either adhere to your opinion or to allow you to proselytize your prejudice around me.
If you believe that vaccinating your children is important then I completely stand by your right to have that choice. If, however, your opinion is that I should be forced to act on your preference and vaccinate my child then no way. Your “opinion” in this case deprives me of the right to informed consent and decision making for my own body and those of my children. I will agree with you to have your differing opinion on vaccination but not for you to impose such on others.
Like “don’t judge me,” “I’m entitled to my opinion” and “let’s agree to disagree” are really saying “don’t judge that your choice is better than my choice or try to convince me that my choice is wrong.” This is simply not an assurance I can give. If you tell a racist joke I do judge that your choice is wrong. If you make a misogynist statement I do judge that your choice is wrong. If you are spouting an opinion intended to limit my freedom of choice (in nursing in public, vaccination, etc.) then I will judge that your choice is wrong and that my choice is better.
I can assure you that I don’t extrapolate that a person with a bad view is a bad person. I know there are many reasons for the way people think not the least of which is societal pressure. Vaccination is the norm. Studies have shown that discrimination against women is so ingrained that even people who believe in equality still have underlying prejudice. Western industrialized society insists that breasts are primarily and inherently for sexual pleasure (despite the fact that studies show this to be the minority opinion in traditional societies) and that exposing them, even to nourish a child is obscene. If you espouse one of these views I will certainly not immediately conclude you are an evil, woman-hating, monster. I will assume you’ve based your opinions on the information available to you. I will try to provide you additional information because that is the only way to overcome these societal prejudices – one person at a time – one fact at a time.
I can also let it go. I certainly don’t want my friends to all by sycophants. I’m not going to cut off a person because I don’t agree with them on something. However, I won’t tolerate the prejudiced statements and I’ll probably try to sneak in a lecture from time to time (/wink).