A year and a half ago, I held a book in my hands trying to decide whether to put it on display on my book shelf with my favourites and classics, or under my bed with the rest of my collection. On one hand, it was a classic that I was proud to have read, but on the other hand, I didn’t like the values it portrayed. It ended up under my bed. It didn’t deserve to be on display because of it’s views on life.
Now, a year and a half later, I wonder if I made the right choice.
It may sound like a triviality and not of any importance whether or not a book should be displayed, but it’s not really about the book or what it stood for; it’s about why I didn’t want it on display in the first place.
Listen, not to agree, but to understand
So why was that? Because it offended me. I chose to deal with my offence by avoiding the source and thereby actually not dealing with it at all. I thought that if I didn’t agree with what the book said, then it didn’t add value to my life.
My flaw was that in stead of trying to understand the views, I tried to prove them wrong and that’s how I ended up offended in stead of enriched.
Are we creating a culture of offence?
I recently read an article about Generation Snowflake making the case, that young women are too fragile and easily offended. Claire Fox, head of a think tank called Institute of Ideas had experienced the inability in young women at the British universities to cope with offence. She had been shocked when she stated that “rape wasn’t necessarily the worst thing a woman could experience” to which the female audience broke into tears and gasps of “You can’t say that.”
I agree, it’s an offensive statement, but the reaction was surprising both to her when she experienced it, and to me when I read about it.
Why didn’t they fight back with valid arguments and start a debate, or ask inquisitive questions learning what might have made her say that?
In stead, they chose offence, tying them to the chair of their current state of knowledge and insight. This could have been a massive learning experience, but they let offence limit them. I am not saying that they should end up agreeing with Fox, or Fox with them, but they should at least be able to handle the challenge of being exposed to different thinking and let it nuance their views.
Let’s stop hating on social media
A while back, my facebook feed and the news media were filled with articles about the negative effect of social media on young women. The theory was, that girls who spend time on social media end up depressed and unhappy with their lives because they compare themselves to the polished lives portrayed on those platforms. Never showing the boring days, or the fights with the boyfriend, social media creates an unreachable standard for what life should look like to be happy.
At first I bought into that idea, but then I realised that maybe the same thing is happening here as with the offensive statements. I started reflecting on my own use of social media.
A collection of good memories
I’m definitely guilty of only showing the good moments on my instagram account. But that’s not with the intention of creating a fake illusion of my life but rather to preserve those memories – big or small – so that I can always scroll back and be reminded of them – I don’t need assistance remembering the bad ones.
I have definitely been inclined to comparing myself to others’ instagram feeds evaluating my own life with their photos as my measuring scale. But at the same time I have also found myself being inspired, motivated, lifted up, or maybe just aesthetically pleased from looking at the photos of the people I follow.
Whenever I’ve found myself comparing myself to others on social media platforms it has been because I didn’t process what I saw. I didn’t use my head, but rather indulged in my feelings, or maybe even offence from their supposedly perfect lives.
The easy solution would be to demonise social media for promoting perfection, and therefore shield our young women from it. But would that be the right thing to do?
What are we cultivating?
What if we in stead of being afraid of what offends us, were curious to seek understanding and let it challenge us?
What if, in stead of wrapping our young women in cotton so that they never get bruised, we teach them how to deal with controversies.
What if we raised powerful women who could be critical and who didn’t get offended when they were exposed to someting different from themselves? Women who could see polished lives on instagram and not compare themselves because they know what kind of platform instagram is – and most important of all who they are themselves? Women who display the book they disagree with on the book shelf in stead of hiding it under the bed.