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BeachI have a question for you.

Here is the preamble: people are, in general, awesome. Most people in the world are lovley, caring, giving humans. They want to share; they want to help. We’re conditioned to look for the bad bits, but if you switch that over to ‘look for the good bits’, your whole world can change. It sounds trite, I suppose. But I think it makes a difference. When you find yourself mentioning negatives, make a conscious effort to find positives. It changes entire conversations.

I should note that the preamble has very little to do with the actual question.

The question is this:

Do you think we must experience something before we are “able to” comment about it or form an opinion about it.

As an example, I often hear men say: “I will never be faced with the decision to abort a foetus, so I don’t feel like I get to have a say in the abortion debate.” (I think that’s Bee Ess, but it’s something I hear quite frequently.)

I sometimes hear people say things along the lines of “that doesn’t apply to me, therefore I can not (or do not) have an opinion about it.”

I’m not talking about abortion specifically. I’m asking if you think you must have first-hand, direct experience with something before you are “allowed” (for lack of a better term) to have an opinion about it?

cenobyte
cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.

10 Comments

    1. Ahhh. What’s the definition of “force”? F’rinstance, if my opinion is that abortion is unethical or morally wrong, is it okay if I tell my pro-choice friend that I believe abortion is unethical or morally wrong? Is it okay for me to tell my pregnant friend who is considering an abortion my opinion if she asks me?

  1. I have opinions on nearly everything. My opinions may not matter to OTHER people when it’s something I have no experience with though. How can a person help but form an opinion on anything? Someone who says they don’t have an opinion on something is most likely lying. That’s my opinion.

    1. Well, there are many things I don’t have an opinion on. Usually when I say that, what I mean is “I haven’t yet formed an opinion on this” for whatever reason – sometimes I don’t care enough about the question to form an opinion; sometimes I haven’t finished researching the question enough to form an *informed* opinion…but I’m not lying when I say it. I actually mean I haven’t an opinion.

      I’m still scratching my head over people who say they don’t feel they have the *right* to an opinion about something. Like, just because I haven’t any African heritage, I shouldn’t be able to speak out in relation to African-American/African-Black-Canadian issues.

  2. I think part of this relates to the misconception that is most frequently used by overly dramatic teenagers but who some adults cling to in some form of desperate individuality/self-flagellation: ‘No one knows what I’m going through! No one understands exactly what I feel!’

    That’s true, to an extent. Due to the unique collection of memories that each individual carries they will all have a different perspective and feel just a little bit different about something than everyone else.

    But out common ground is far greater. Our ability to empathize and to try to find understanding is also far more useful. We have people wandering around, held up by the idea that no one is ever like them, and this bleeds into the idea that somehow no one can truly understand them, and boom, we’re stuck in a recursive loop of alienation and disconnection.

    How does this relate to your question? Everyone has a right to an opinion on everything. I have a lot of opinions on abortion, on women’s rights, on politicians, etc. All opinions formed without me having direct knowledge of the situation. Because I try to find the common ground, the reference points of similarity which is why human beings are so great and awesome.

    Just as your preamble talked about the positive over the negative, maybe we need to discuss the common ground rather than the difference.

  3. I think, as others have said, you can have an opinion on whatever you like. Go hard.

    How seriously I take your opinion will depend on a variety of factors, including both your knowledge of the subject, and its impact on you. And a lot of the time, if you have little experience with the subject, you’ll also have little knowledge of it, and it may have little impact on you.

    Given the huge tendency of privileged groups to utterly ignore the experiences of the minorities (plenty of men out there willing to lecture women on what it’s like to be a women, or white people ready and waiting to explain race to people of color), showing a bit of caution with one’s opinion is certainly warranted, though it doesn’t need to extend to saying “I’m not allowed to have an opinion on this”.

    1. Sure. I don’t want a man telling me what it’s like to be a woman any more than I want a person of a different culture/ethnicity telling me what it’s like to be of mostly caucasian western/european ancestry. But that doesn’t mean those folks don’t get to have their opinions about any of it. I mean, we all have the right to think what we want to think, right? Whether or not we’re wrong or uninformed?

  4. My feeling is that when someone says they are “not allowed to comment” they are most likely saying that they feel like they don’t understand the issue well enough to offer a well supported opinon.

    One thing I’ve come to understand over the years is there is a great deal of wisdom in admitting what you don’t know.

    Therefore, it is my belief that recusing yourself from offering an opinion on a topic that you feel you have insufficient understanding of is a respectful and thoughtful position.

    1. Excellent point. That’s kind of what I was hoping would be the case; that when people say “I don’t have the right or ability to comment on this…” they mean they don’t have enough information to make an INFORMED opinion.

      I have NO PROBLEM with people saying “I have an opinion on this, and it comes from an uninformed place”. I have no problem with people saying “I cannot offer an opinion because I don’t feel I know enough about it…” It’s the idea that someone hasn’t the right to an opinion because they are not part of a group that the opinion may be about that doesn’t sit well with me.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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