When Do I Get to Speak?

I recently had a conversation with a guy about abortion. I was pointing out to him its not an issue of woman’s rights. He said I can’t really speak to the issue as I’m not a woman. I’ll give you a minute to digest that.

That’s right. A man told me I cannot speak to the issue of woman’s rights because I’m not a woman. Ignoring the obvious problem, I realized this is something I’ve faced on many occasions, just repackaged. It’s this idea that if I haven’t experienced something, I can’t understand it, or draw reasonable conclusions about it.

Does that strike anyone else as absurd?

When did this become a reasonable assertion? As though first hand experience is the only experience that counts. Wouldn’t it be equally fair to say that because I didn’t experience the issue first hand, I can view the issue more objectively since I’m not emotionally attached to it?

If these had been isolated cases, it wouldn’t bother me. But I see it EVERYWHERE. And I bet you do, too.

Newlyweds can’t talk about marriage, because really, what do they know? First time parents have a knowledge void the size of Maryland as far as parenting goes, so you’re free to ignore them.

Could it be that newlywed couple has gone through a year of intense premarital counseling? Might they have been mentored by couples who have been happily married 50+ years, and they’re able to draw on that experience?

Is it possible that first time mom has been volunteering and caring for babies for a decade? That she’s gained knowledge in places you haven’t? That maybe the reason you reject her thoughts on parenting is not because she’s unqualified, but because you feel threatened?

Experience is not a trump card. And honestly, you don’t want it to be. You may have some solid marriage advice. Should I discount it simply because you’ve been divorced? Because really, what could you know about creating a happily ever after, you’ve never had one. Or should I weigh your thoughts on their own merits? Isn’t it reasonable to think we can adequately know things by observing them, and save the experiencing for someone else?

So before you play the “Who are you to say?” card, ask yourself what degree of experience or expertise are you expecting? What will be adequate for you to take them seriously? And moreso, will you change your mind if someone more experienced than you comes along?

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