You Are Not Entitled To Your Opinion; I Do Not Agree To Disagree; And Sometimes Judgement is Good

Annie at PhD in Parenting had a post last year that I really like entitled Don’t Judge Me.  She talks about the phrases “don’t judge me” and “it is what it is” and to those I would like to respectively add the following phrases that make me batty:

“I’m entitled to my opinion”
“Let’s agree to disagree”
“To each their own”

I have more than one acquaintance with which I have had the following conversation:
Friend:  I don’t think a woman should be president because they are too emotional
Me: Well, I think that is predicated on two fallacies.  1) that women are inherently more emotional than men and that 2) this emotional level is necessarily a hindrance and not a help.
Friend: Well, I’m entitled to my opinion.

I’ve also had this conversation with variations like “women are caddy/bitchy/volatile.”  I have to admit that the phrase “I’m entitled to my opinion” did stop me in my tracks which is what I think it is meant to do.  All three of these phrases imply that the discussion is over because it is just a simple matter of preference and therefore beyond reproach.

But is it really beyond reproach?  When are we entitled to NOT respect someone’s opinion?  When can we be expected NOT to agree to disagree?  Annie mentions the difference between an opinion and a preference.  If you like Summer best and I like Winter best that is a preference.  We can agree to disagree and you are certainly entitled to your opinion (although if you live in Ohio and prefer Winter then you are just weird!).  Your preference for Winter has no effect on my liberty to enjoy Summer.

If you promote a view that women are somehow inherently less able than men to lead your choice has an affect on me and millions of other women.  I remember thinking later that night after the above conversation that “no, you are not entitled to an opinion that will limit my daughter’s access to opportunity.”  I will not agree to disagree as if we were discussing favorite pizza toppings and I don’t stand by your right to have that opinion.  You are entitled to use your preference in the voting booth by not to promulgate it in my presence.

If you think that breastfeeding in public without hiding the “shame” beneath a blanket is “disgusting” then that is your opinion.  If you think that I should cover up because of your opinion then no – I don’t agree that you have a right to this opinion because, again, it affects me and millions of others.  To each their own – if nursing in public makes you uncomfortable don’t do it but don’t expect me to either adhere to your opinion or to allow you to proselytize your prejudice around me.

If you believe that vaccinating your children is important then I completely stand by your right to have that choice.  If, however, your opinion is that I should be forced to act on your preference and vaccinate my child then no way.  Your “opinion” in this case deprives me of the right to informed consent and decision making for my own body and those of my children.  I will agree with you to have your differing opinion on vaccination but not for you to impose such on others.

Like “don’t judge me,”  “I’m entitled to my opinion” and “let’s agree to disagree” are really saying “don’t judge that your choice is better than my choice or try to convince me that my choice is wrong.”  This is simply not an assurance I can give.  If you tell a racist joke I do judge that your choice is wrong.  If you make a misogynist statement I do judge that your choice is wrong.  If you are spouting an opinion intended to limit my freedom of choice (in nursing in public, vaccination, etc.) then I will judge that your choice is wrong and that my choice is better.

I can assure you that I don’t extrapolate that a person with a bad view is a bad person.  I know there are many reasons for the way people think not the least of which is societal pressure.  Vaccination is the norm. Studies have shown that discrimination against women is so ingrained that even people who believe in equality still have underlying prejudice.  Western industrialized society insists that breasts are primarily and inherently for sexual pleasure (despite the fact that studies show this to be the minority opinion in traditional societies) and that exposing them, even to nourish a child is obscene.  If you espouse one of these views I will certainly not immediately conclude you are an evil, woman-hating, monster.  I will assume you’ve based your opinions on the information available to you.  I will try to provide you additional information because that is the only way to overcome these societal prejudices – one person at a time – one fact at a time.

I can also let it go.  I certainly don’t want my friends to all by sycophants.  I’m not going to cut off a person because I don’t agree with them on something.  However, I won’t tolerate the prejudiced statements and I’ll probably try to sneak in a lecture from time to time (/wink).

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Author: Paige

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  1. The whole "I'm entitled to my opinion" as a discussion closer to me comes across as "I'm insecure and don't have the arguments to properly back up my assertion and I would rather be ignorant than be wrong". Someone who is confident about their facts and their arguments doesn't need a shut-down phrase.

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  2. Wow. You are speaking black and white, right and wrong! This is anathema in this culture of no absolutes & opinions are what counts & no one opinion is better than another. No moral absolutes. Brave girl!The story is rather long, but i was reading about a popular women's evangelist & Bible study leader who is part of a very conservative church. She was being criticized because she "teaches to men." Her reply? That her ministry is to women, but if a man wanders in & listens to his teaching, is she suppose to stop the class & order him out? The response to that? "Women are NOT suppose to teach men."I don't consider myself much of feminist (i know you posted on this recently & i agreed, but i still don't consider myself firmly "feminist"), but after reading the above conflict, my thoughts were, "If i were placed in such a position, stuck in such teaching, i would become a strong feminist."

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  3. Everyone is entitled to their opinion–but they are not entitled to their own facts. And all opinions are NOT created equal.I'm not that fond of the "agree to disagree" phrase, either, but I tolerate it if I have had a real discussion, supported by evidence, with someone. And we realize that we are just coming at a topic from two completely different perspectives and assumptions, both of which are based on deeply held principles that cannot really be proven or disproved.For example, I think Annie is smart and wonderful and I agree with 90% of what she says. When it comes to regulation, though, I am more of a libertarian. That's probably not going to change. And so while we can have good debates on a number of topics, and she may occasionally convince me regulation is necessary or I may occasionally convince her it is unnecessary or harmful, we're going to draw the line in different places on some topics and no amount of available facts will change that.

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  4. I hear what you are saying Candace. I think that sounds like a different situation. The situation I was describing is where someone uses the agree to disagree as an excuse NOT to discuss their view. An implied "beyond reproach." I agree that debates have to have an end point and eventually people agree to disagree on the finer points of the argument. I was focusing primarily on topics of a larger scale.

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  5. Thanks for putting this so clearly. I also like Candace's "Everyone is entitled to their opinion–but they are not entitled to their own facts."In the conservative Christian environment I come from and am kind of in now, the shut-down phrase is often "God told me to." !! How can you argue with that one?

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  1. Sunday Surf » The Road Less Traveled To Parenthood » Baby Dust Diaries - [...] you have to judge other parents @ Viva la Feminista – I’ve said this before (only less [...]

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