to engage, or not to engage, that is the question

A friend and professional colleague (someone who works in the same field, and with whom I have performed in the past) recently posted a query on facebook, seeking advice to give a student who was considering getting a nose piercing. Specifically, the student wanted to know if it might adversely affect his/her audition outcomes, apparently by causing those judging the audition to prejudicially form an opinion of their merit or respectability.

A long series of comments ensued, including this, from me: “I’m 48 (omg!) and have a nose piercing, and it has had, as far as I can tell, no negative impact whatsoever. I think it makes some of my younger students think I’m possibly still at least a little bit cool, but that might just be in my imagination.”

Some more comments follow, of the “sure why not” or “if they’re going to teach parents might find it threatening” (really?) persuasion, and then this: “Well refined and well educated and well mannered people don’t do all the body piercing. To me, it’s a psychological thing to draw attention to oneself, for reasons I don’t understand.”

Wow. Judgement, dismissal, and insult, all in one sentence. Seems, if she doesn’t understand, she should refrain from commenting. . .

But now for my question: would you engage this person (I don’t know her from, as my former father-in-law used to say, $6 a week), telling her that she is being judgmental and dismissive and insulting, or does one just let her continue on down her path of willful negativity and ignorance?

12 Responses to “to engage, or not to engage, that is the question”

  1. March 15, 2013 at 11:37 am

    I would probably press this person for their insanely snotty attitude on the matter but thats just me. I am surrounded by people who have the same attitude as this person and it drives me crazy so a lot of times I press them just to push their buttons and make them see how pointless their attitude is.

  2. March 15, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Not to state the obvious or anything but… aren’t you (and the previous commenter) being a little judgmental? 🙂
    You don’t need to agree with the poster’s perspective to respect that it’s their perspective.
    If the original poster only sought comments in the one direction, there wouldn’t really have been much point seeking them, would there? 😉

    Doug Christie died recently in Victoria, BC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doug_Christie_(lawyer)). He was a lawyer and defended Nazis and other extremists. He maintained it was not because he agreed with them, but rather that he defended their right to hold views that were counter to “the social norm”. Free speech is for everyone – not just those that hold your own view.

    Unless they’re wrong… 😉

    • March 15, 2013 at 3:41 pm

      There were many who thought that it would be inappropriate, and voiced their concerns in an appropriate way. I had no problem with any of them. To me, to say: “Well refined and well educated and well mannered people don’t do all the body piercing. To me, it’s a psychological thing to draw attention to oneself, for reasons I don’t understand.” is judgmental, dismissive, and insulting. But maybe it’s just me.

      • March 15, 2013 at 4:38 pm

        Oh, I understand your position (and tend to agree). I’m just pointing out that we’re all inherently judgmental. We just have a large vocabulary to help us pretend we’re not, by using fine splits in semantics to help us feel better.
        I select one apple over another – because I’m judging it to be better in some arbitrary way. Or a life partner for that matter. We use “judgmental” in a negative way, but it’s part of who we are.
        Fundamentally we’re all victims of “the snap decision” based on available information which rarely shows us the whole picture. I, for one, had jumped to assumptions regarding the spread of opinion in the comments. Your update gives a more full picture and adds context.
        I reckon the better we are at understanding our own limitations, the better we are at at least tolerating those of others we may meet on this spinning rock.
        How’s the new blog going, BTW?

        • March 15, 2013 at 4:52 pm

          Yeah, I am using the term “judgmental” in a particular way — referring to the act of jumping to a judgment or conclusion, subject to a very narrow view, and/or without all of the information. All I can imagine is that this woman doesn’t actually know anyone who is respectable, well educated, and well mannered and who also happens to have a nose piercing. I find it hard to believe, but there it is. Despite this, I do think it’s always better to try to keep one’s mind open, and perhaps to refrain from lumping a lot of people one doesn’t know into the negative category.

          I also think that the more people we know, and the better we try to understand them, the better we are at “tolerating those others who we meet on this spinning rock.” Yet another recommendation for travel, and reading, and listening.

          The new blog is going pretty well, I think, although I find it hard sometimes (i.e., yesterday) to just post a post (ha) on that one, especially since this one has quite a few more followers at this point. I am finding it helps remind me to think every day about what it is I’m looking for — seems that looking for it actually makes it feel more likely that I’ll find it, if that makes any sense at all.

  3. March 15, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    To answer your question, I don’t think she is being “judgemental” (or dismissive or insulting).” She is giving her answer to a question and explaining her answer. If the question were “Is is OK to use the F bomb when teaching?” and someone said that it reflects lack of sensitivity and possibly lack of class would that be “judgemental?”

    • March 15, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      No, because that someone would be right. 🙂

        • March 15, 2013 at 10:46 pm

          Sorry — I was thinking I was continuing the conversation earlier in the comments with Quieter Elephant.

          Yes, I do think it’s different. Someone dropping an F bomb while teaching children is behaving inappropriately while in a position of mentoring and modeling socially appropriate behavior. Wearing a nose ring in no way indicates a lack of education, respectability, or good manners. So yes, it’s different.

      • March 15, 2013 at 11:29 pm

        Ah, I thought you were replying to me and conceding that when we agree with someone we don’t find them judgemental.

        To your example, the age of the students was not indicated, but you could make a case that even if they were infants, proscribing the use of the f-bomb would still be judgemental–because you have established yourself as the arbiter of “socially appropriate behavior” and implied a linkage between the use of the f-bomb and “education, respectability and good manners.”

        (of course you are right and I agree with you, but I’m trying to make the point that we can disagree with someone’s opinion by expressing a counter argument rather than attacking their opinion as “judgemental.”)

        • March 16, 2013 at 10:25 am

          I was agreeing with Quieter Elephant, who had basically said the same thing, but was thinking it had been you and hadn’t scrolled up far enough to check (call me lazy, just don’t call me late for dinner). And because he had written it with a “wink” I was replying in kind.

          We certainly can disagree with someone’s opinion, and express a counterargument, without being “judgmental.” But when our response lumps everyone who might think in the same way into broad, undesirable categories it crosses over from being a difference of opinion to being, well, judgmental. And I guess maybe I need to come up with a different word, because I realize that we are often “judging” something’s merits (homemade mozzarella vs. string cheese; a nice Barolo over Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill), but this isn’t what I mean by judgmental. To me, judgmental means to be critical, disapproving, disparaging.

          • March 16, 2013 at 5:18 pm

            This is very interesting because I think the issue is our different use of the word “judgmental.” Based on those definitions I would agree that the woman was being judgmental. I had understood “judgmental” to be an antonym for “uncritical” by which I mean accepting without testing or challenging. I need to get an updated dictionary because mine doesn’t bring in the idea of negativity into the definition.

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