In this culture of checking our privilege and affirmative action, I believe we’ve lost something along the way. Well-meaning critics are attacked and accused of all sorts of -isms, or even simple jealousy, because they dared to discuss – not even hold – a different point of view. Now, I’m not saying it isn’t right to call people out on -isms, or to cite others from keeping their jealousy in check, but what I would like to suggest is that calling out every single person that airs a different opinion is not only irritating, but damaging. The inability to discuss things which we find uncomfortable, or to challenge others’ views could lead to stagnation in societal laws and the division of people. Just because the dissenters shut up, doesn’t mean they’ve changed their minds. They’ve just been driven underground.
Varying points of view are important, regardless of if they’re politically correct or not. Asking questions is how we get to the best possible answers. “Scandals” such as Gamergate expose how very much hate is thrown towards people who dare to question the status quo. Someone dares to offer a negative review of a video game? Off with their head! An author recently encouraged her readers to stalk a reviewer that dared give her book one star. Is that really what we’ve come to?
As a writer, I love when people criticize me, because it means that I’m doing something well enough that other people are actually reading my stuff, and care about it enough to tell me what is good or bad about it. If it’s something that’s bad about it, awesome. I can use the criticism to better my work. You can’t please everyone all the time, and you shouldn’t try to, but in a good environment, everyone should have the ability to voice what they believe without fear of being harassed for it. Naturally, if people disagree, they have the right to argue, but since when is stalking someone a valid argument for “I didn’t like this book because reasons”?
A truly successful society allows freedom of speech, but always keeps in mind freedom of speech doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree. It’s ok to disagree, and it’s ok to argue. Disagreement breeds understanding under the right circumstance. Now, though, in an age where everyone takes everything personally, oftentimes discussions don’t happen like they should. They break down into heated bouts of threatening and name calling, which is utterly useless. If I came out and said I dislike the sailing aspect of the video game Assassin’s Creed, would it change my mind to tell me I’m a stupid bitch and should go back in the kitchen? No. Because that’s not a valid argument. What would be a valid argument is that the sailing aspect provides an alternate platform that can be avoided if you gain certain perks, and is no less irritating than having to ride horseback from one end of the map to the other. That still won’t make me like the sailing aspect, but perhaps I’ll be more sympathetic to the inclusion of it into any future games.
If I’m being offended, it’s because I care about something. If I care about something, I want to hear all sides of the argument before I truly make up my mind about it. Abortion, for example. I’m pro-choice, in case you were wondering, but I understand others’ views. I don’t agree, but as long as these views aren’t being pushed upon me, I don’t mind discussing the many shades of grey that make up any issue. The same goes for marriage equality, gender equality, and religious freedom. Different opinions are what make the world wonderful. I want to learn about all of them. If people are scared of offending others, that’s not going to happen.
I’ve had conversations with people where they’ve been shocked with my openness to different ideas. A young woman at a Christian summer camp I worked at was amazed that I wasn’t Christian, and that I wouldn’t judge her for her being Muslim. She hadn’t opened up to anyone else because she feared the judgement, and because I didn’t judge, I was lucky enough to make a new friend.
It’s important to have opinions, but don’t let all the opinions you have be solely your own. Let others influence you by teaching you about all the different angles from which the world can be seen. Go into the world with sensitivity towards others, knowing that discussion is just as important as care. Don’t hate others who have opinions different to yours, and don’t threaten them. Know that you’re different, and that’s ok. Life is too important to take everything seriously, so if someone says something you don’t agree with, don’t just write them off. Ask questions. It’s the only way you’ll ever get a good answer.