The Monthly Hollumn


By Holly Parkin

Opinions. Are the the avenue to a constructive, enlightening discussion or the worst thing to ever happen to mankind? In regards to the former, opinions are one of the many wonderful things that make us unique like the special snowflakes we all are, they can lead to great ideas, and so on and so forth. On the flip side, opinions—specifically differing opinions—are a minefield for conflict, arguments, and frustration. What makes it worse is that there is no way to ever prove or disprove an opinion; no opinion can ever be “right,” save for a few issues of basic human morality (it’s pretty safe to say that it is indeed “wrong” to murder someone). That’s why it’s called an opinion and not a fact, as we all learned in the first grade.

Differing opinions are not always a bad thing. There is a very simple rule that we should all follow when it comes to sharing opinions: it’s okay to have an opinion and express it, as long as you’re not a jerk about it. Ideally I would fill an entire paragraph just with that one sentence repeated over, but I think you get the point. One would think this motto is simple enough,.Unfortunately, it’s a rule that people seem to forget all the time, which often leads to a lot of unnecessary yelling and hurt feelings.

In our last issue, features editor Tandis Shoushtary wrote and illustrated an article discussing the nature of sexism and whether it is possible to be sexist towards men. We all thought, initially, that the article was harmless — just one person expressing their point of view in the aptly named opinion/editorial section of the magazine (see this month’s editorial for further elaboration). However, within days of the March issue being released, everybody put their foot on the crazy pedal and there was no stopping the insane storm of varied responses to the article. The fact that people had different views when it came to the article’s subject was not a problem — it’s expected that when a controversial article is published, it’s bound to face some opposition. All of us who write for The Tam News know this, and have grown to expect it. The issue that I found with the response to the article was the immature, disrespectful, and even disturbing hostility of people’s responses.

And so another incident is added to the ongoing list of people ignoring the “express your opinion but don’t be a jerk” rule. Being a jerk in this kind of scenario includes, but is not limited to, directly insulting the person voicing their opinion, being hypocritical in the presentation of dissenting opinions, refusing to have an articulate discussion or even consider an opposing point of view, and most disturbingly, physically assaulting someone because their opinion is different from yours. You are allowed to disagree with things and express those disagreements in a calm, rational way. You are also “allowed” to do all of the things I just mentioned – that doesn’t mean that you should. Freedom of speech, a phrase I have heard being tossed around quite a lot recently, may give you the right to voice your point of view however you want, but it doesn’t mean that you are anything less of an entitled and stubborn jerk when you do.

I’m not perfect. I am a very opinionated person, and something I’ve always found difficult is separating my point of view on people’s opinions from the people themselves. I’ve found it hard to look at people the same way after finding out about their political or social views, even if they are very nice people. This is a personal flaw that I accept and continue to work on. Something that I believe I have been improving on, and something I would encourage others to also do, is calmly expressing my opinion – not with shouting or fights on social media, but with amicable discussion.

As I mentioned in my article last month, I have learned becoming aggressive gets you absolutely nowhere when trying to change someone’s mind. This should be pretty obvious, but I think it’s the obvious things that often slip our minds the most when it comes to expressing our opinions and disagreeing with one another. As a student community, it’s our responsibility to treat this debacle over Tandis’ story as a learning experience, not one of contention, and move on. People should not be afraid to express their opinions or disagree with others, but that ideal will only ever succeed if everyone can learn to just be a little bit nicer and thoughtful when it comes to sharing ideas.