Criticism

12/07/2012 § Leave a comment

Warning: Possibly too confused to make sense, brought on by reading this lovely piece by Jill over at Feministe.

Top Secret Info: I was once a SuperGawthTeen.

When I was a SuperGawthTeen (with real non-conforming action and life-hating grip), I hated the idea of someone judging me. One of my dear friends (who was also a GawthTeen but who is generally better at nuanced, critical thought than I am) finally got fed up with all my ranting and reminded me that judging is a human faculty. She said that she isn’t afraid of being judged because judging is something that humans do, and she does it, and I do it, so what is there to be afraid of? Honestly, at that particular time in my life, I was engaging in some pretty self-destructive behavior, and I probably needed someone to kick me in the teeth and tell me to stop being such an idiot.

In any event, this conversation (and subsequent dwellings-on-it) has shaped my interactions with other people in myriad ways. I judge people, but then I instantly feel terrible about it. I try to avoid criticizing people as much as possible, since I am not experiencing their life as they are, but I still hate some of the things that they do. When sufficiently angered, I will actually take a stance on something (usually this ends up being feminism), but I am patient like a rock in a river and it takes me a long, long time to reach the point where I will stop saying “That’s your prerogative.” What I really need to do is start saying, in as nice a way as possible, “Sure, you’re entitled to your shitty opinion, here’s mine.” On a different level, I sometimes need people to kick me in the ass, and likewise, my friends might need me to do the same. It is an act of love.

What’s strange about my inability to do this is that, in the classroom, it makes me really angry, especially when discussion turns into my worst Cultural Relativism Nightmare, when avenues of inquiry are shielded from critical thought, and I am a callous bastard for daring to suggest that I might find something revolting, or harmful, or awkward (although I am allowed, apparently, to think that everything ever is a brilliant idea). As a professor of mine suggests, we lose the ability to find something interesting in radical alterity when we do this. Further, I find that it is decidedly not interesting to simply “report” and say “Such and such thing is different. The End.”

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