The Monthly Hollumn


By Holly Parkin

We all know that agreeing with your family on every issue is a rare occurrence. The teenage years are the time when most of our opinions about politics, social issues, or really any other topic start to fully develop, and, just as they have been there to see us through every other stage of our lives, our families (particularly parents) can usually be relied upon to faithfully disagree with you at every turn. Normally, it’s about Kanye West and whether “young people music” is ruining society, or why it’s not socially acceptable for your parents to comment on your Facebook profile picture. But, as I’m sure many of you know, especially those who take an interest in occasionally discussing social justice issues (you know, the “-isms”), clichéd family banter can very quickly devolve into full-scale war.
I’ll give you an example: About a month ago, my brother made a comment about how turquoise is a “girly” color and therefore completely inappropriate for boys. Confused by his immediate dismissal and hoping to avoid a confrontation, I calmly asked him why turquoise ought to be classified as “girly.” I was hoping for a logical response, or perhaps, if I was lucky, a realization and acceptance that a color is just a color and people can wear whatever they want without fear of stepping outside gender norms. Instead, he yelled that I was “too sensitive” accompanied by an angry dismissal and vigorous agreement from my other family members. A year ago, I would have lashed back at them out of frustration. Nowadays, I’m used to it, so I bite my tongue and pray that ignorance is not genetic.
It has come to my attention that a lot of students are facing this kind of issue. Most of us are unlucky enough to have parents who are quick to shoot down our passionate opinions about social issues.
Why is it that parents do this? Oftentimes, it’s simply a generational difference. Kids nowadays are growing up with a newfound awareness of social justice issues and trends. Perhaps a lot of parents just can’t help but push back. Other times, it could just be natural parent-child dynamics.
My problem with my family constantly shooting down my opinion in favor of their uninformed or occasionally bigoted opinions is not because I don’t like being challenged. In fact, I enjoy debating and discussing social issues with people, as long as both parties are willing to listen. Some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had are ones where I didn’t necessarily agree with the other person, but gained insight and even a new perspective by listening.
This is not what I get when I bicker with my family. I cannot stress this enough: there is a huge difference between disagreeing with someone’s opinion and disrespecting someone’s opinion. There is truly nothing more demeaning or downright insulting than to have your family mock you for what you are passionate about. If I have to hear my family tell me one more time that I should “wait until I get to the real world” when I bring up topics such as sexism, I swear I’m going to throw a collector’s edition hardbound copy of “The Vagina Monologues” at their heads
Of course I love my family. In fact, on a big picture scale, I’m quite fortunate, as I’m sure there are far too many out there with much more harrowing situations. My advice to those in my situation would simply be: pick your battles, and pick them wisely. When I sense an argument rising with a parent, I simply try to take the high road and keep my cool, always explaining that my silence is not (as my mother frequently suggests) because I have nothing valuable to challenge her opinion with, but because I would rather not turn a family outing into a screaming match akin to “The Real Housewives.” But you know, like, the social justice version.
At other times, when you feel that something must be said, continue to keep your cool. Shouting and getting flustered will get you absolutely nowhere, and I speak from experience. Ultimately, the fault in this situation lies with the family members, and I don’t just refer to my own. When you shoot down your child’s opinion and dismiss them as liberal hippie trash, you are teaching them not to share their thoughts, or that they are a nuisance when they decide to give a damn about social issues in the world. So make up your minds, parents. If you want us to make the world a better place, you’re going to have to give us a chance.