It never ceases to amaze me how the act of expressing an opinion opens you up to the most outlandish assumptions about your personality.
Good girls, I know, don’t blog. Or at least, they don’t blog about anything substantial, and they definitely don’t do it using their real names.
Blogging about your personal life is okay, although then you’ll get derided for making your diary public. Posting photos of your friends, family, pets, and outfits, posting recipes and craft projects, posting favorite song lyrics–all of that is okay, if irrelevant.
But when you start blogging about Issues–those things you aren’t supposed to discuss at a dinner party or with your boss–that’s when things get dicey.
A few weeks ago I interviewed for a position on the executive board of the sexual health peer education group I’m involved with on campus. I’ve been involved with it since my freshman year, and now I was interviewing for a position that would put me in charge of, among other things, doing outreach to sororities on campus.
At the interview, they asked me about my blog. Specifically, they mentioned that I’ve expressed the fact that I dislike the Greek system, and wanted to know, wouldn’t that affect my ability to do this job?
Honestly, I was completely flummoxed by this question. Because I disagree with the Greek system, I’m incapable of interacting with sorority women? Because I disagree with the Greek system, I’m unwilling to present educational programs at sorority houses? Because I disagree with the Greek system, I don’t care about sexual assault in the Greek community and don’t want to start an initiative to help prevent it?
I must’ve produced an acceptable response because I got the position. But the experience made me realize how naive I’d been, in a way. I thought that people would take my writing for what it is–ideological positions for which I (usually) provide sound reasoning. I didn’t realize that they would take it and extrapolate from it beliefs and character traits that I do not have.
Disliking the Greek system doesn’t affect my ability to create an outreach program for sororities. It doesn’t affect my ability to empathize with individual women who happen to be sorority members. It doesn’t affect my ability to do anything. It’s just an opinion. Not a personal attack on anyone. An opinion.
The only thing it could possibly affect is other people’s opinions of me. Other people may read about my opinions and take them personally. They may assume that I don’t like them–personally. They may assume that I’m a callous person.
But these are their problems, not mine. If they’ve never learned not to make assumptions about others, I’m not taking responsibility for that. And I’m not going to stop writing, or “tone it down,” for the sake of someone else’s comfort.
I love writing, and I specifically love writing about Issues. It’s my way of leaving my mark on the world, and, hopefully, of leaving the world a better place than I found it.
Other people find other ways of doing this. They volunteer, play music, do scientific research, start businesses, make art, get into politics, whatever. I write.
My greatest fear right now–aside from perhaps that I won’t get into graduate school and will end up living in a cardboard box, or that I’ll never get married and will end up living in that cardboard box alone–is that I’ll have to stop writing when I start my Career.
Why would I have to stop writing?
Because of other people’s unfounded assumptions about what my writing says about my character.
Because in the culture we’ve created, you can get fired from your day job for what you write on your blog, using your internet connection, in your home, on your time.
Because good girls are sweet and sensitive, and never express opinions that might offend someone.
Because people haven’t learned that others’ opinions are not personal attacks on them.