Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Judging Judgment

On my lunchtime walk the other day, I was passed by a group of joggers. One of the men was wearing a bright orange tank top, a plaid kilt, and no shoes. My eyebrows went up behind my shades, and that judgmental little voice in my head snarked "hmmm. He must be a bit of an attention seeker, no?"

Then I told the little voice in my head to shut up, because it was no business of mine if some dude wants to go running in a kilt and no shoes, and anyway, I generally think men look good in kilts, so why would I go around judging men for wearing them? And hey, maybe running shorts bunch up annoyingly between his legs, too, and whereas my solution is to go for a different type of shorts, he chose to try a kilt. Or maybe he just likes kilts. Or maybe he lost a bet. Who knows?

My lunchtime walks are my time to let my mind wander, and this little internal exchange led me to think a bit more about judgment. I think the urge to judge is almost instinctual for us. I don't think I'll ever be able to silence that judgmental little voice in my head. But I have gotten much more thoughtful about what I do when it speaks up. I ask myself, what is the impact of this judgment, and why am I making it?

In the case of the kilted runner, the impact of judging- even if I'd yelled my snarky little thought out after him, or written an impassioned blog post about the correlation of kilt-wearing and attention seeking in non-Scottish men- would be pretty small. It is not like there are people out policing our sidewalks and impeding access to them for men in kilts. But in other cases, the impact of judging can be much larger. It can add to a culture that silences or marginalizes entire groups of people. It can contribute to unnecessary guilt people feel about just living their life in the way that makes them happiest. It can shame people into hiding, or even denying, their true selves.

And then there is the question of what I'm trying to accomplish by judging. Do I feel judged myself, and am therefore striking back, trying to establish that my way of life is a valid one? I've come to think that this is pointless, counterproductive even, particularly since many times when I take a step back and reread whatever it was that made me feel judged, there is an interpretation that is more generous. So these days, I consciously try to choose to take that interpretation. As I wrote in my declaration of neutrality in the Mommy Wars, that does not mean I have to be silent about my life and my opinions. But I try to write from the standpoint of "here's what my life is like, so if you hear people saying that living my way is impossible, or will inevitably make you miserable, let me be your counter-example" or "hey, here's what I think, what do you think?" (It is in the latter spirit that I'm writing this post, so if you read this and think I'm judging you for judging others, I am not. My opinion on this subject does not make me a better person than anyone else. It is just my opinion, and an argument for us to all think about the impact of judging other people as opposed to just disagreeing with their opinions.)

In general, if someone writes about their life from a standpoint of "this is possible, and here's how I do it" I am 100% behind that, for pretty much all legal things that someone might want to prove possible. In fact, if there is anyone reading out there who has configured his or her life completely differently from how I've configured mine, and wants a platform to share that, I'll enthusiastically provide that. Just email me and ask about doing a guest post.

If someone writes about their life from a standpoint of "I did this thing, and maybe you CAN do it, too- here's some ideas about how" I am also 100% behind that, but I start to get a little nervous, because it is easy to veer into the "...and you SHOULD do it, too" territory, which I don't much like. That is where judgment comes in, and we rarely know enough about other peoples' lives to really judge whether or not they SHOULD do something. And even if we do, they aren't our lives to live, so why are we judging? The interest area of mine where this most often comes up is healthy eating. I go searching for ideas about how to eat healthier despite the strong picky eating tendencies in my kids and myself, and it seems those ideas always come with a giant side serving of judgment. It drives me crazy. The people writing those posts and comments generally have no idea about the issues underlying true picky eating. Just give me the ideas and keep your judgment of people like me to yourself, please! The end result isn't that I am shamed into not being a picky eater- that isn't really possible. It is that I stop looking for ideas, and these people who feel so passionately about healthy eating have lost someone from their audience.
Of course, there are the cases where someone is writing with judgment, and doing so purposefully, because he or she really thinks that the judgment is deserved. The writer doesn't just disagree with someone else's opinion, they think that people who hold that opposing opinion are bad in some way. There are certainly cases where that is true, where the action being judged truly deserves condemnation and the person writing the judgment hopes his or her words will cause someone to change their behavior, or convince other people not to go that route. I, for instance, really do think that people who raise their kids to hate other people are doing something bad. There may be mitigating factors that explain why they are doing it, but I still judge the behavior.

Still, I think we should tread carefully here, because when we start judging groups of people, we run a high risk of inflicting a lot of collateral damage, as overlapping groups will feel the sting, too. And sometimes, when we learn more about the situation, we realize that our judgment wasn't warranted at all, and just caused unnecessary pain to the people on the receiving end- think, for instance, of the judgment that used to be heaped on the mothers of autistic kids, when the prevailing explanation for that condition was that the mother had not been sufficiently loving. So I try to save this judgment for cases where clear harm is being done to someone else.

Which brings me back to the Mommy Wars that have raged this summer. Perhaps some of the generals in these wars think that there are true grounds for judgment of those on the "other side, " but I think that most of the rest of us realize that is not true. We all roll our eyes at the wars and blame the media for perpetuating them, and that is fair... to a certain extent. Except we are the foot soldiers in these wars. We're buying the war bonds with our clicks and our outrage. 
The Mommy Wars will stop when we lay down our weapons and go home, and deprive the generals of our lives to use as cannon fodder. They will stop when we refuse to sit in judgment on other mothers. They will stop when we say to the people worrying about Marissa Mayer and her still unborn child that no, in fact, we shouldn't draw any conclusions about maternity leave in general from this case, which is really about how one specific family is choosing to handle the very unusual circumstance of having the woman receive an offer of a top leadership role when she was already pregnant. Do you want to discuss what maternity leave in the US should be? Great, let's do that! But leave Mayer out of it- she is irrelevant to the discussion. They will stop when we refuse to say that a mother who has decided to leave the workforce is somehow "wasting" her education. Aren't parents their kids' first teachers? Well, I'm all for teachers who have good educations. They will stop when we tell Ann Romney and her supporters that they will score no political points from their misinterpretations of Hilary Rosen's statements. Just about everyone recognizes that taking care of children is actual work- certainly those of us in the workforce do, since we pay someone else to do that work for some number of hours every day. If you find someone who doesn't recognize that fact, deal with that person rather than igniting unnecessary battles by willfully misinterpreting the comments of someone who clearly does. They will stop when we tell those well-meaning left-leaning commenters that while there are indeed profound problems with race and class in our society that impact access to childcare and with how we value the labor of childcare, it is hugely unfair to lay those problems at the feet of one mother- no matter how rich- or even a group of mothers, unless they happen to also be the President and the leaders of Congress. In short, the Mommy Wars will stop when we make them stop by rising about the instinct to judge even when judging seems to further our own beliefs and desires.

The Mommy Wars show the risks we run when we allow our judgment to run unchecked. We're so busy feeling outraged and secretly (or not so secretly) judging other mothers that we don't seem to have any energy left to try to actually solve some of the problems and improve the situation. We've created an environment where it is entirely reasonable to expect to be judged for even the most mundane parenting decision, and I suspect that is why we're so quick to take offense and why it is so hard to have the sort of open, honest discussions we'd need to engage in to find policies that would really work.

So I say, let the kilt-wearing runners be! Maybe we can't keep those snarky little voices in our heads from making judgments. But we can engage the rest of our brains to decide if that judgment deserves to take up anymore space. What purpose is it serving? Chances are, none. Who is it hurting? Quite possibly, no one more than ourselves.


  1. Here here! Not judging is something I've been working on, and actually finding WAY easier to do the older & more experienced I get (particularly when those experiences challenge the things I "knew" were "true"). Its definitely true that when I notice myself putting my judgy-pants on, its more about feeling defensive about my own choices than it is about what the other person is doing. Everyone's circumstances are so different, how can we possibly presume to know what is best for someone else?

    1. Ah, yes, the things I "knew" were true that have turned out to be false. There were a whole bunch of things I thought before I have kids that I sort of want to go back and slap myself for now.

    2. I guess as I go through life, a lot of the black & white is shading into gray. I've seen & heard too much to still think things are easy. Or maybe its just my aging eyes...

  2. Anonymous6:35 PM

    Part of my training is that people are rational actors optimizing their individual utility functions. And we all have different utility functions and that's ok.

    Not to say I don't really enjoy it when Jon Stewart points out the hypocrisy of the wealthy decrying government benefits to the poor when they're the recipients of all sorts of government-sponsored advantages we middle-class could never dream of. But as you say, that sort of judging may help further social change, decrease the deficit, and improve opportunities and fairness for all rather than just a select and already advantaged few.

    To quote the Wiccan saying, "An it hurts no one, do what you will."

    1. Definitely. The thing I've been working on lately is making sure I isolate the thing that's really making me judgy, if I am going to let a judgment take up space in my head. For instance, I am bothered by the tax-dodging, not the initial making of the money.

    2. Anonymous3:24 AM

      For me it isn't even the tax dodging. It's the perpetuation of systems that help the already advantaged while trying to get rid of systems that help provide opportunities for the worst off. And the rhetoric surrounding that that many of the disadvantaged (impoverished rural whites who watch way too much Fox News, for example) take up as their own because they think Mitt Romney is talking about inner city blacks (and the occasional relative misusing disability insurance) and not them.

  3. The milliner7:04 PM

    The words "you should" have always gotten my hackles up. Mostly because it is followed by a judgement type statement. So, definitely those words are my cue that judgement territory is being entered ( by someone else or by me)...a warning for mr to either think (more) before I speak or as a warning that someone else may be about to be judgemental, to which I will either point out another side of the issue, or take what the person is saying with a grain of salt.

    1. Anonymous7:10 PM

      Unless it is, "You should totally try this ice cream" Because you totally should. :) (I judge it to be awesome.)

    2. We have a similar thing in my line of work, with the word "just." As in "Can't you just put a button here that uploads my data for me?" Or "It is just a simple format change."

      I almost feel sorry for the unsuspecting user who says "just" to a room full of informatics people... We all roll our eyes.

    3. The milliner4:52 PM

      @n&m, agreed on the ice cream!

  4. Renee8:52 PM

    A well-written, thoughtful post, as most of yours are. It's hard to write in disagreement about a post that talks about getting out of the Mommy Wars and trying not to judge other people - that seems like such a good idea! And yet, yet...judging others is absolutely a normal part of who we are. When we make a decision in our lives, we are implictly judging other who make a different decision in similar circumstances. What I believe the true distinction is as follows - it's okay to judge and make your own decisions based on your judgements, but try to keep you mouth shut about it unless the other person is really doing something egregious. Also a good idea to keep in mind that very few situations are really totally similar to your own, which might help a bit of the judging in the first place, but I really do think a lot of the world's problems would be solved if we all just zipped our lips when that judgemental thought springs into our heads. So maybe you and I are getting to the same spot but just in a different way. I think it's okay to judge (and I'm not going to be able to stop it even if I try), but nobody says you have to share every thought you have.

    However, in some cases, it is not only okay but also imperative to have the courage of your convictions and be willing to make a public judgement on something you think is just wrong. Like, for example, taking your 6 year old child to see a midnight showing of a PG-13 movie. A lot of people have gotten flack for mentioning this after the Colorado massacre. Of course, it doesn't change the horror of the act at all and nobody deserves to die like that. But, really, after the initial horror of the news faded, I couldn't help thinking that little girl would be alive (and other children in the audience wouldn't be traumatized) if their parents had just accepted that they wouldn't be seeing Batman on opening night. Maybe you can't find or afford a babysitter. That is unfortunate, but really, just be an adult and accept it. Don't drag your kids to places where they shouldn't be. Rent in on Blu-Ray once it's out of the theatres! Such a HUGE pet peeve of mine when I see people doing that. There, I felt judgy and admitted it. Felt good to let it out...

    (And sorry for the rambling comment...)

    1. Rambling comments are no problem. Most of my posts ramble. You're too kind when you say they are well-written!

      The thing with the little girl at the movies is... in the normal course of events (i.e., no one shows up and starts shooting), who would have been harmed by that action? At most, the kid and her parents. Maybe the little girl would have nightmares, maybe not. My kid certainly won't be seeing Batman, but then, she can't even handle Finding Nemo yet. She is easily scared by movies. (As am I. So Batman's not high on my list, either.)

      The little girl died because someone shot her. Not because she was at the movie.

      To me the distinction between choosing something different for yourself or even disagreeing with someone else's opinion on something and judging that person is the implication that making a different choice or having a different opinion represents a moral failing. To me, taking a kid to a midnight movie- even one with adult themes the kid is probably not going to really understand and might even scare the kid- is something I wouldn't choose to do, but I don't see it as a moral failing. Whereas teaching your kid to hate- well, that I see as a moral failing. So in the first case, I just wouldn't make the same choice. In the second case, I am judging.

    2. Anonymous2:54 AM

      My least favorite CNN headline this week was one asking if an infant is too young for a midnight showing (I did not click on the article). As if those parents aren't feeling horrible enough.

      Talk about blaming the victim.

    3. Renee7:58 AM

      I guess to clarify my point about little kids and the movies - I'm not saying she died b/c she was at the movies. So, let's put that horrific incident aside. I judge WHENEVER I see little kids at late night movies that are inappropriate. And I do think it is a moral failing - certainly not on the same scale as teaching your kids to hate others or beating your kids - but a moral failing nonetheless. I don't say anything to those parents (see my comment about about keeping my mouth shut and also, some of them look like they could beat me up), but I think I am right to judge. And if a close friend or family member did that, I would say something. The kids in movies is just one example - there are lots of things that others do that isn't on par with hate, rape, murder, etc. that I believe are worthy of judgement. I actually feel it can be a failing of our society at times that we seek to have moral equivalency about everybody's way of life.

      As for blaming the victim, nicoleandmaggie, I guess maybe we disagree on who the victim is here - I think it was the little girl, and I'm not blaming her.

    4. Anonymous8:07 AM

      Given that infants are generally up at midnight anyway, or they're going to sleep through the movie, and any movie is going to be over their heads, I have a really hard time making any negative moral judgment there, unless the parents let their kid scream through the movie, bothering other patrons. One of the commonly recommended things for new moms to do on mommy boards is to go to the movies because usually the baby sleeps through the showing.

      And that CNN headline was just in bad taste under the circumstances. Taking an infant to a midnight showing does not usually and should not ever result in some sort of divine punishment.

      Parents who have lost children are also victims. We are all victims when we lose someone that we love to random acts of violence.

    5. What precautions should we all take to prevent getting shot during a family night out at the movies? Insisting we take moral responsibility isn’t the magic answer to violence in our society. How is that not obvious? I'm all for clinging to the false hope that bodily harm will never happen to me and mine if we "behave correctly." But I'm also clear that's one hell of a false hope.

      Unless a movie is rated NC-17, a minor may attend in the company of an adult. There's nothing per se "inappropriate" about it. I've noticed that middle class white Americans really don't like it, not one little bit, when members of other economic classes and races attend films with their children in direct accordance with the MPAA rules. It's almost as though their complaints are coded language for conveying certain stereotypes like "I think all members of group X are unfit parents." Yuck.

    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    7. @Renee. There is a difference between having an opinion (thinking a choice is incorrect) and judging (thinking someone who made that incorrect choice is a worse person, or in the conversations at hand, a "bad mother"). Like Hush said above "I think all members of group X are unfit parents"=judging. I think group Y is a better choice than group X=opinion. Now all of us DO judge, but my goal is to realize it, and try to reign it in, as it polarizes and divides us, serving as a barrier to understanding & compassion.

      Also, the issue of blaming/shaming parents who lost their children in a movie theater strikes me as poor taste. I vote for showing some compassion for the victims (which, yes, includes the parents who lost their entire world and will likely be blaming themselves for the rest of their lives anyways). Maybe the conversation about group X vs Y is a valid one, but it does NOT need to be had in conjunction to this tragedy.

    8. Geesh - who was talking about groups? I wasn't making any racial, economic or other comments!

      @Hush, I didn't realize we had met before - do you know if I am any of white, middle class or American? (I'll give you a hint - I'm only one of the 3!)

      Sounds like some of you who are really against judgement are fairly judgemental of my comments! A wee bit hypocritical, no?

      And, as I clarified, the kids in movies issue has really nothing to do with the Colorado shootings. It's just that when I heard about those stories, after the initial shock, I remembered how much I hate when people do that. That's not to say those families deserved it - of course they didn't.

    9. The group you're judging is "people who take young children to PG-13 movies."

      As I mention in the post and have mentioned in other places in these comments, there are some things that I do judge. People who take young children to PG-13 movies isn't one of them, because I don't see anyone being harmed by that, and I think I mostly allow judgments space in my head when I think someone is being harmed.

      The tricky thing, of course, is that people can and do disagree about what things might harm someone, so there are always going to be cases like this where something thinks a behavior deserves judgment, and others don't.

      That's fine, too- but if you're willing to judge some group of people, you take the risk that someone will argue against it and maybe even judge you back. That's sort of what I was getting at with the idea of only judging when I'm willing to take the consequences. The things I'm willing to express judgment about tend to be things I feel strongly enough about to be unconcerned if someone judges me for my opinion.

    10. Here's an exemplar of the aforementioned phenomena, for which there are often racial and class overtones:

      When one makes statements like "some of them look like they could beat me up" alongside judgments about groups one assumes the risk that people might draw the wrong conclusions.

    11. This is off-topic, but since this is a long thread about kids at midnight movies, this is my opinion from the perspective of an adult woman with no kids of her own:

      In my ideal world parents would not take their kids out in public after 9pm. I feel like I have to grin and bear other people's kids everywhere I go: grocery stores, museums, restaurants, movies, etc. I would just like a reprieve between the hours of 9pm and 5am. I get that mothers of babies think their kids will sleep through the movie, but I have been in a movie where a baby has woken up screaming, and even though the mother kindly exited with screaming baby very quickly, it still pulled me out of the spell of the movie. Humans are unpredictable and kids even more so.

      Anyway, I am not a mother, and all mothers smugly respond to any of my complaints about parents and kids with, "You don't know how it is because you're not a mother." I've come to accept this, and so now I only go to my local theater that is 18 and over. I pay an arm and a leg for the guarantee that kids will not be present, but to me it is worth it to be able to watch a movie in peace.

    12. @Autumn, you know I was about to say I'd give you 9 p.m. - 5 a.m. if you could guarantee me the other hours without snarky comments and passive aggressive sighs... but I don't think either of us could keep our end of the bargain, not even for ourselves, let alone for all the other people! For instance, my kids are usually in bed by 9, but sometimes we let them stay up late for special things- most recently to go down to the bay and watch the Sea World fireworks one Friday night. Those fireworks start at 9:50. We thought it was an OK thing to do, but maybe someone else there didn't. Who knows?

      I think most parents do think about where it is appropriate to have their kids, but I also think that this is an area where reasonable people can disagree wildly, and that there is a large cultural influence. A lot of the Hispanic families in our area, for instance, keep their kids out much later than we do. Neither of us is right or wrong, we've just got different norms.

      And then there are the exceptions- I almost stopped for lunch with my overtired toddler on Thursday, because I'd had to skip lunch to take her to the doctor for an appointment we made at the last minute because she was screaming in pain and we suspected an ear infection, and the cleaner was going to be at my house when I got home, so I'd need to take her out for a walk for nap, and I was starving. In the end, I didn't stop, because I decided that I'd rather be hungry than deal with the likely meltdown, but... if I had stopped, I no doubt would have disrupted some other people's lunches. I almost never do that, but that almost is important there. Sometime, I might, just like sometime I might need to take my kids with me to the store late at night, or do any number of other things that annoy other people.

      So I guess this is just an area where we all have to try to deal with suboptimal things. I can appreciate why people without kids want to enjoy a movie with no kids present. I suspect you can appreciate why I would like to be able to eat lunch, even if I have a tired toddler with me. But each of those desires imposes on other people.

      None of which is to say that I don't understand your position. I actually thought very similarly before I had kids. This probably contributed to my fear of taking Pumpkin out and about in her early months. She had a tendency to meltdown, and I did want to be "that mother." That was probably pretty harmful for me, and I would do it differently if I had it to do over again.

      So I guess I'd just say- keep seeking out those adult-only spaces, if that's what you need. I don't blame you at all, and I'm glad they are available. But if you'll take some advice, my advice would be to be willing to change your perspective if you ever have kids, because doing so may be what you need to not just keep sane in those early months, but actually enjoy them.

    13. Yeah, I can definitely understand parents reaching a point where they stop caring what other people think. Lord knows there have been points where I've been frazzled enough to be ready to give an enthusiastic F-you if someone so much as looked at me wrong, so I think I can see your POV. And if you changed your mind after kids, I'm sure I will, too.

    14. Or you might get lucky and get a less intense baby, and wonder what I'm talking about! (Actually, I hope you do... I'm all for laid back babies for my friends!)

      I think it is probably most accurate to say that my point of view evolved after kids. I still really understand the desire for kid-free spaces, but now I also really understand the forces that make parents bring kids places... Now, if I could just get myself to an equally understanding place about dogs off leash, I'd be great!

    15. Renee9:23 AM

      Well, I've been off blogs for a few days - busy with life - but wanted to make one final comment if that's okay...

      @Cloud, regarding your response a few days ago (at 4:51 pm) - I am absolutely fine with people judging and disagreeing with me about this issue. In fact, it was an interesting social experiment to see really how quickly we all can judge somebody else, particularly in the "anonimity" of the internet. I still think it's very bad parenting to take your children to a super late night show (think 9/10 pm and later), but as you've said in another comment, there could be extenuating circumstances. Say, for example, somebody from the west coast is visiting the east coast for a few days and their kids are still on pacific time. So a 9 pm movie might only feel like 6 pm to them. I would have no idea of knowing that, which is why I wouldn't say anything to those parents (plus, it's none of my business really). I'm allowed to judge, but I guess this is where I would distinguish between the truly egregious (like hitting your kids) and just run of the mill poor parenting. At the end of the day, I have a limited amount of emotional energy, so how much can I really care about the late-night movies?

      As for the whole racial tinge to that, I honestly didn't realize it was associated with certain races. I guess where I live, people of all races are equal-opportunity offenders! If I think about it a bit more, it does seem to be somewhat "class" based, if I can use that word, as people in higher income classes don't seem to do it as much, based on my anecdotal evidence...But just b/c, say, lower income people do this particular behaviour more, doesn't mean that I have to stop judging them. That just seems like political correctness run amok. If I were judging all lower income people as bad parents who take their kids to late-night movies, that would be totally wrong. But that's not what I'm doing...

      Anyway, I think (hope?) we've all had our say on this one. I just wanted to clarify where I was coming from...Have a great day!

  5. I have been thinking about this issue recently, too. By "judging" do we mean judging choices and behaviors or the whole person? I mean, there are other people's choices that I think are foolish or boring or whatever, I would not make them myself, but I don't think that there is something wrong with the person; I just don't like their choice. For instance, I don't like pecans and cannot stand anything containing pecans; I think chocolate is the most superior dessert substance known to mankind and anyone choosing pecan pie when they could have chocolate cake is sorely mistaken. I kid of course, but you get my point -- there are plenty of choices where I judge the choice to be inferior to what I would make, but that doesn't translate into judgement of a person. So I can have pecan-loving friends.

    But then there are issues where people's choices do intimately connect to who they are, or how they affect other people, and it's very hard to pull off sincerely judging the choice without seeming like you are in fact judging the person as a whole. One example is religion -- most people feel very strongly one way or another, for me it appears impossible to have a friendship with a person who is devoutly religious. Also, I strongly and unapologetically judge some people's choice to circumcise their boys; while I don't think that makes parents bad people at all, there is nothing that would make me stomach their choice or keep mum about it, so it's not making me any friends.

    People are judgmental creatures. I have been working on curbing my judgmental nature, with mixed success. But I admit there are a few topics on which I judge harshly and don't feel bad about it, not even a little bit.

    1. I am think of judgment as something that implies a different choice is morally wrong. So your dessert example is not judging (unless you think pecan pie lovers are bad people!) it is just disagreeing about something.

      And as I allude to in the post, there are some issues that I do judge people on. For me, it is important that I be willing to accept the consequences of stating that judgment- i.e., losing a friend, angering a group of people, etc. There is a strong correlation between things I feel strongly enough about to take the consequences of voicing my judgment and things that I think are morally wrong. But neither of those things are particularly large groups.

      There is a relatively large set of things that I'll speak up about where I disagree with people- people who say working mothers are all stressed out and unhappy, for instance. But when I speak up, I'm not judging mothers who choose not to work. I'm just saying "hey, that isn't my experience."

    2. Renee8:02 AM

      I totally agree with your general point (see my comments above). The ironic thing is that I actually judge people who judge other about circumcision! But you are totally welcome to judge me about circumcizing my sons if you feel it's a moral failing. We'll never be friends, but that's totally okay with both of us...

    3. Renee, I agree with you in principle. (Let's not discuss circumcision, as that topic has the potential to derail the thread.) There are several aspects that I feel strongly about and have no qualms about judging people who have a different viewpoint. Also, there are several aspects of my life on which I often receive passionate judgment from others (e.g. I eat meat, I am not religious, I am an ambitious working mother), but I totally don't give a damn. To many of them I am resilient because of my upbringing (outside of the US), where the cultural norms were different in some aspects.

      I think there are some important beliefs and choices that your friends simply have to share with you; if they don't, the friendship really does not stand a chance. Of course, that doesn't mean that you can't work with people who differ from you in these aspects or have a polite internet exchange with them! :)

  6. uh oh my post today begins with the imperative :) My background of course inclines me to look at the larger systemic issues from a gendered perspective. I think the judging and the massive media fueled judge-a-thon reflect anxieties (not necessarily new ones, just voiced differently) about gendered roles in the family and society. The mommy wars represent absolutely nothing new (except that they spread farther, quicker now).

    1. Anonymous3:27 AM

      It's crazy how much of what is going on with limiting women's reproductive rights could be taken directly from the 19th century discussion, word for word.

    2. @feMOMhist - "I think the judging and the massive media fueled judge-a-thon reflect anxieties (not necessarily new ones, just voiced differently) about gendered roles in the family and society." Hell yeah, that's totally spot-on.

      Whenever I come across a Mommy-Wars-tastic judgment - particularly from someone who seems well educated and/or is thoughtful enough to probably know better - I tend to wonder what is the unexamined anxiety/misplaced anger that the targets of the judgment are triggering for this judge? How can folks so often fail to see the obvious fallacious reasoning, and outright sexism at play?

      Then I turn around and judge the person making the comment for not having their shit figured out. Now I'm part of the problem just like @nicoleandmaggie's awesome "when will it end" post linked to above, which I love. Rinse and repeat. ;)

    3. Anonymous7:03 AM

      And then the question is, what can you do?

      Back when I had more free time and was on mommy boards, I was much more gentle with my speech and used gentle questioning of beliefs etc, and the end result was almost always the collective group coming down strongly on individual choice and individual differences being allowed.

      These days, I'm more of a "knock it off and leave me alone, you're being harmful." Which isn't as effective (studies show that gentle questioning of beliefs is more likely to change people's set Fox News opinions than silly things like facts or logical arguments, which cause people to double down on their beliefs), but takes less time and effort and one hopes allows people who are likely to be influenced by what they read to have a second opinion to draw from. Apparently I'm not activist enough to make a real difference, but I'm annoyed enough to say something. Who knows if it helps or hurts. Probably a bit of both.

    4. me, I just wonder why said well educated person didn't take more historical studies :) If history shows us anything it is that 1. human relationships as we know them now are relatively recent configuration and 2. people have been freaking out whatever configuration said human relationships took.

    5. @ Hush "Mommy-Wars-tastic judgment". Perfect. Will borrow and use.

    6. I really need to get around to starting my series of posts about Mother Nature. That had some good examples of the different configurations that human relationships can take (apparently without screwing up the kids).

      The thing that drives me nuts about the mommy wars going on now is how we're allowing things that shouldn't matter much to divide us, and distract us from solving real problems. For instance- breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding- I don't really care what any individual woman chooses to do. I care that women have authentic access to the choices they want to make. And they don't really right now, but we aren't really talking about how to fix that.

  7. I find this really funny (in the coincidental sense) because not even 15 minutes ago, while I was going about my morning routine, I, too, was thinking about judgment. What led me to my ruminations, however, was that I saw 2 different Facebook posts about the ChickFilA furor, one attacking and one defending.

    I do think judgment can be a good thing. I feel like there's a reason that it's human nature to judge others. Collective judgment helps us establish our cultural mores and social norms. I'm glad that there was a huge hubbub about the Penn State scandal. I think it's not ok to try to sweep someone's illegal activity under a rug and pretend something didn't happen, and I hope all the judgment led the Penn State administrators to feel some shame for their behavior. I'm also happy that there was an uproar about the kids who verbally attacked their bus monitor. They, too, should be ashamed of that behavior, and it's the nation's judgment that hopefully made it clear to them and everyone else that there's a line you shouldn't cross.

    I do, though, agree that we humans take the judgment thing a bit too far, and it's nice to hear that you take a step back and analyze when your judgmental voice starts squawking. I try to do the same. There are a lot of paths of right. Just because someone doesn't walk the same path as I do doesn't make them better or worse than me. It's important to keep that in mind.

    1. Totally agree!

    2. I think you're right about the useful role of judgment. I certainly don't argue that we should NEVER judge- just that we should be more selective about when we do it. I totally judge pedophiles. And the people who protect them. It is another case where there may be mitigating explanations but where I still judge and have no qualms about doing so.

      So in short, I think we agree on this.

    3. Yes, we are in agreement that we should be more selective about when we judge, but I think there's another side to that: since it is human nature to judge, I also strive to be more forgiving towards those who do judge in inappropriate areas. For example, I feel like my husband and his mom are both super judgmental about people who do things differently than they would, and I am still learning to not be offended by some of the comments they make. Bless my MIL, I can tell she tries to hold back. My husband OTOH is completely unapologetic about his opinions. I do my best to play devil's advocate and not get riled up by his blanket criticisms. Some people are less wont to see things from another's perspective or to consider mitigating circumstances.

  8. I was going to write a post about judgement though with a different take, so I may still do it. I do think that it is very human to judge others and there is reason for it because as Autumn noted, it is a way to establish cultural norms. I think a little judgement is normal, but we should not let it get out of hand.


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