11 October 2010

No Judgment

Is it just me, or is “no judgment” kind of like the “no homo” of enlightened liberal feminists?  It’s what we say when we think someone is stupid for liking something, but don’t want to come across as a self-righteous prick because probably our own tastes are not above reproach. “She’s the kind of person who likes Twilight – I mean, no judgment, but it just shows you what I’m talking about.” In the same way that “no homo” comes after a statement that could be interpreted – either by a twelve-year-old or by everyone ever, with no in-between – of suggesting homosexuality, “no judgment” comes when we are feeling quite judge-y, but don't wish to be called on it.

Maybe it is just me, just my world – but I have heard myself say something like that dozens of times. (Dozens of times in the last month.)

And on another note, not unrelated -- there are dozens and dozens of my likes that I feel the need to apologize for or over-explain. Yeah, I ... sometimes read romance novels. In fact, I'd rather read a Jennifer Crusie than a Malcolm Gladwell. (By a long shot.) Every Friday morning, I go on Hulu and catch the latest episode of The Vampire Diaries. I'm totally jonesing to see Easy A. When I'm feeling tired and stressed, I reread the entire Tamora Pierce oeuvre, and when I'm doing dishes, I sing along to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

And none of that makes me stupid, any more than liking Shakespeare, and Racine, and Plato, and owning Citizen Kane, and browsing around Overthinkingit.com make me smart. 

That's what I'm really trying to get at here. We judge other people based on what they do and don't do, what they say and don't say, and what they like and don't like. None of those are invalid, and I am certainly not saying that we should stop judging others. (I don't think I'd be allowed to talk if I weren't allowed to be judgmental.) But I do think that the way we think that smart people only like smart things and dumb people only like dumb things does a disservice to pretty much everyone in the entire world, including us, the judges.

I once read a quotation that epitomized that idea: "Great minds discuss ideas; mediocre minds discuss events; shallow minds discuss people." I call bullshit. I never met a person in my life who didn't enjoy discussing all three. Especially if they got to be judgmental about it.

The other myth is that some things are just too dumb to have intelligent conversations about, and I call bullshit on that one too. Isn't that why uni is fun?  Didn't anyone else sit around discussing how James Bond uses humorous tropes first introduced by Aristophanes? (Actually, he probably ripped someone else off, if we're being honest.)

Then there's the feminist element in all this: I start feeling guilty if my likes are too girly. Girl stuff is dumb! It's just stupid and pink! Boy stuff all the way!  But if you like boy stuff too much (I should know, I grew up on Star Trek) that's not okay either. That means you're trying to trap some poor boy into being your boyfriend by being a tomboy. You couldn't actually like that stuff, because if you did, you'd be unfeminine. You just want the attention.

Now, I don't think those attitudes are really out in the open anymore, but I do see them swimming around below the surface, ready to eat teenagers in a vicious way. (Yeah, I'm not kidding.) I say screw that. (I know, I'm such a radical.)  

Can we talk about what we think about what we like? Why we like the things we do? What need we might have that those things meet? I know at least two smart, feminist women, who read the whole Twilight saga and enjoyed it, because something about the Bella/Edward/Jacob thing jived with the way they thought about love, or at least entertainment. They also do and think and say a million things to the effect that women are people and not clever monkeys.

My mom likes to say that you just like the things you like, and if you try to give reasons for liking them, someone somewhere will be able to come up with something that has all the same characteristics -- something that you should like -- but it doesn't speak to you in the same way, and you dismiss it out of hand. I definitely can't prove her wrong. But I still think discussing why we like something is a lot more legitimate than discussing what you like. People like a million things. Judge them when they say they like Bella because she has such a great backbone.

No comments:

Post a Comment