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You Say Tom-a-to, I Say To-ma-to (let’s call the whole thing off)

September 3, 2014

I love a bit of controversy in the morning! (I find it’s served best with a bucket of popcorn). And this morning, I found more than just a little on everyone’s favorite place to rant: Facebook. 

Now, before I go any further, let me say this: this is not a post about abortion. This is not a post in which I talk about why we need abortion and why we need women’s rights. This is a post about something much greater that I feel, regardless of opinion on controversial topics, we all can agree on. 

That being said, I present to you all the post that I read this morning (now would be a good time to grab that popcorn)…

I blacked out this young woman's name and photo out of respect. Click the image to enlarge.

I blacked out this young woman’s name and photo out of respect. Click the image to enlarge.

Oh yes. Just a tad controversial. Normally, anti-choice posts wouldn’t bother me too much. I see them all over facebook and consider them to be harmless. This, however, is far from harmless. This is not a conversation about abortion, this is a conversation about tolerance. I think that in this fight to be right we as humans often forget about our humanity. We forget that when we are calling someone a “bimbo” for expressing an opinion, we are calling a large group of people idiots. I’m all for heated, fact-based debates, but I have no respect for someone who is all about bashing someone else’s opinion while offering no justification of their own besides “I’m right, you’re wrong.

What makes this worse, in my opinion, is that this young woman states that this was what she said to someone while giving feedback on their class assigned paper. The person who wrote the post is a college freshmen and was peer-editing someone’s work. Personally, I don’t believe in peer-editing at all since it is never taught well and proves (in my experience) to be unhelpful and annoying. This post further proves my point. The assignment was to write an opinion paper on whatever topic you would like. When this student wrote about being pro-choice, however, they were attacked and the quote “It is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool rather than open it and remove all doubt.” -Mark Twain, was thrown in their face. Now, I’m not one to point fingers, but I think the young woman who posted that status needs to marinate over that quote too. 

Of course, because I’m Willa, I had to respond, so here’s what I said…

Again, I blacked out her name.

Again, I blacked out her name. Click to enlarge.

But now I’d like to know what you all think. We all know about freedom of speech, the ability to post basically whatever we want online, and the lack of respect on facebook in general, but I want to know what others think about tolerance regarding opposing opinions. It’s pretty clear that I think opinions (and people) should be respected during debate and that other people should not be posting offending statements such as this online. However, that’s only my opinion. 

With that, I will leave you with this: does bashing someone else’s ideals and calling them an idiot make your ideas and arguments any more valid? Is there a line that was crossed (either by me or this young woman)? And does peer-editing actually help with anything? Shoot me an email or leave me a comment letting me know what you think.

  • Reply
    elizabetcetera
    September 3, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    After reading the word “bimbo” I pretty much knew anything that was said after that wasn’t going to be a fair critique in any sense. There was no helpful criticism given — it was implied that unless she had the “right” opinion that everyone can agree upon it’s best to simply STFU — that’s what I got from the Mark Twain quote. I wonder how the “bimbo” felt after reading those useless remarks? I’d hate to be in that class and even more so I’d hate to have some peer carelessly penning comments after what I wrote that may have been difficult for me to voice in the first place … this wouldn’t be very conducive to learning IMO … unless the objective is learn how abrasive and judgmental your classmates can be.

    Your reply was tactful to the intolerant bimbo hater … I’m not sure I could have responded so calmly. This is one of the reasons I’m not on FB — I can get a bit too heated in the moment when responding to posting on the wall and can get defensive easily at times.

  • Reply
    Nicole Dunlap
    September 3, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Feedback and criticism that is not constructive (even that is mean or ill-guided) can still be useful. I hope the young women writing the pro-choice paper can take what shred of advice can be gleaned from that “feedback” and hunt down some research to back up her paper. A pure opinion is not a solid foundation for an academic paper–I hope this awful response motivates her to find the facts she needs to write an excellent paper.

    But you raise an interesting point of tolerance. A concept I’ve struggled with in the past is that, by definition, those of us who identify as open-minded can’t very well look at a close-minded individual and judge them for their narrowness. Your response was well-put in suggesting instead of attacking someone (an immature approach that accomplishes nothing but hurting someone), she should write her own paper about the benefits of being anti-choice (nice twist on words there, Willa 🙂 ). But tolerance can be a slippery slope; I think it’s important to differentiate between what we believe is okay to tolerate (i.e., other opinions, viewpoints, experiences), and what we should not tolerate (i.e., when to take action against opinions we don’t support being forced into law). Do you think that’s where the difference between tolerance and respect comes in? I can respect an anti-choice opinion, but I will not tolerate it if it starts impeding on me and my life.

    I used to pride myself on my tolerance, but its been fading over the years. Respect is a must–being bigger than attacking someone, being smarter than belittling someone, being aware enough to understand people’s experiences shape their opinions and we are clueless to those experiences. I believe you can respect someone, their words, opinions, everything they have to offer, but there’s a line where tolerance isn’t always the right route either.

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