Is it just me, or have instances of men running for public office saying outrageous things about women’s reproductive systems hit an all-time high?
It’s possible I just never noticed it before. In my mid-thirties, I’ve lived through a blessedly limited number of election cycles. My aversion to television and talk radio has kept my life quiet, so perhaps I just missed the stupid things people said BG (before Google).
But I don’t think so.
I need to say up front that this post is not about those men who Said Stupid Things. It’s not even about the fact that they apparently Belive Stupid Things. That doesn’t surprise me. Because people are Taught Stupid Things.
Heck, I remember being told, in my early teens, that I shouldn’t play on my friend’s pogo stick, because the bouncing could hurt my uterus and make me unable to have children. I remember almost believing it–believing it enough to give up the pogo stick.
So this post is not about the folly of Believing Stupid Things. We all Believe Stupid Things, sometimes.
No, it’s about the folly of Saying Stupid Things when you really don’t know what you are talking about. About speaking out of turn and attempting to colonize other people’s experiences with your personal opinions.
I’ve done this before. Attempted to engage people, to converse on issues of importance, by BS-ing through “facts” I learned on the internet, by speaking earnestly and convincingly about things completely outside my realm of experience.
It’s a function of insecurity and immaturity, that need to have an opinion on everything. And to insist that opinion is right, because the internet/Fox news commentator/book-by-favorite-author said so.
No, the problem is not that more people are Believing Stupid Things. The problem is that public discourse has devolved to the point where they feel entitled to Say Stupid Things. Where they’re encouraged to Say Stupid Things.
We have a whole industry built around People Who Say Stupid Things, a whole economy surrounding them. We have a stable of verbal gladiators who are rewarded handsomely for their efforts. Oh, they may be eviscerated by their rivals on an almost-daily basis, but what’s a little blood when there’s money, glory, and power to be gained?
Of course, I don’t think most of the men who have Said Stupid Things about rape and reproduction this election season fall into that category. But do you know what I think? I think their heroes do. Even, and perhaps especially, their spiritual heroes.
Modesty has gone out of vogue, and too many big name pastors and theologians butter their bread by saying truly outrageous things in a needlessly combative tone.
Maybe they believe those outrageous things, maybe they don’t. Maybe they’d say they’re engaging in hyperbole, that they’re being relevant to a culture that has gone off the rails.
But even if they believe those outrageous things, there seems to be little attempt to temper their statements with pastoral sensitivity and plain old human decency.
Seriously? I felt bad for the would-be politician who said pregnancies resulting from rape were “the will of God.” He was so clearly regurgitating the untempered words of a religious leader who Says Stupid Things, who has little concern for tact. I understood what the guy meant (even if I think his theology is wonky). I think most reasonable people of faith do. But he said it in such an incredibly insensitive way. There is no need for such polarizing, patronizing rhetoric, and no excuse for it, either.
Politics is politics, and it will always be messy and adversarial. But I have a serious bone to pick with our religious leaders for failing to lead the way in loving, thoughtful, respectful discourse. I have a serious bone to pick with them for failing to humble themselves, for refusing to seek out and value the voice of the “other,” for attempting to overwrite human experience, especially the female experience, with their personal opinions and academic biases.
Next time you’re tempted to Say Something Stupid, to pontificate on something you have no personal experience with, try saying nothing instead. Try listening. Try saying, “I don’t know. That’s totally outside my realm of experience. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that matter.”
Not having an opinion, or failing to state a flimsy opinion, wouldn’t make you sound weak, indecisive or stupid. Quite to the contrary, it would be a sign of great wisdom.
And goodness knows, we need less Stupid and more Wise.