Yes, I am Judging You, and I Judge You Favorably

by - Monday, January 11, 2016

When I was home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I was shocked by how many people responded to the blog and the Christmas lists I had written with the help of amazing friends and family. Lots of the response was positive, letting me know about an Etsy purchase or that they were using recycled paper towels (YES!! Why do non-recycled paper towels even exist?). On the other hand, I noticed some people were dismissive, incredulous, or even defensive about the recent posts on the blog. Honestly, at first I was pretty surprised; what could be offensive about a bunch of shopping lists? I had people give me or The Bub gifts that were made in China, commenting and taking jabs as if to egg me on to get upset and justify their expectations (I don’t rile that easily, btw).  I had more than one person say they “didn’t have time” to worry about this kind of thing, which was especially discouraging, since I am basically trying to do the work for you so it isn’t a huge time-commitment! Just click the links!

Anyway, I have had some time to reflect on these reactions, and it seems to me that they were reading a judgmental subtext into what I was writing. That what they hear over and over again is that in my eyes, they are bad.

If I am pumped about recycled paper, I must think you are horrible if you don’t use it or wouldn’t use it.

I mean this lovingly. The subtext you are reading is not there. I don’t imagine anyone would actually follow all of the advice I give on this blog. I know I sure don’t.

When I walk into your house, I don’t wince at your stuff. I honestly don’t notice.

If you buy me something made in China, I may still love it.

If you still shop at Walmart, I still like you just fine.

Because all of these behaviors are the norm, and I participate in some of them, I really don’t think anything of it. I am PUMPED when someone tells me they made a change. I swear, this was the best Christmas of my life, because I was elated about gifts I had nothing to do with- a Lodge skillet! Reusable Made in the USA Gingerbread houses! Gift cards for activities and not stuff!If you want to make my day, send me a picture or a text about purchases like these, and I will glow about it all day. 

Seeing people break out of the “what’s easiest? What’s cheapest?” box is incredibly cool and I am excited about it, but even if that isn’t you, or it hasn’t been you yet, it doesn’t change my opinion of you.

This kind of assumed personal antagonism kind of reminds me of language surrounding feminists. If you are a feminist, you must hate men. This is crazy! I am generally a big fan of men (especially ones who are also feminists)! Having a problem with systematic patriarchy, from which men also suffer, points to issues with cultural systems and assumptions, not with any one person. I don’t look down on people who exist heteronormatively, I think we mostly look that way from the outside, but I am always excited to know people who courageously break out of norms and fight for what they believe in. If that isn’t your kind of awesome, I guarantee there are other things about you that I find awesome.

In the same way, I am not nearly as critical of individuals as I am of companies (and the individuals that run them) that use unethical labor, wreck the Earth, or ship their product all over creation to use fossil fuels and cheap labor. Disgusting. I also hate that stores sell this to us like it is the only option, that “everything is made in China” or that you can’t do everything right, so why try at all?

This “you can’t do it all, so why try” attitude is my least favorite thing in life. Global news makes me feel this way at least once a day- if you add up all the awful, it really seems insurmountable, but I try to fight that instinct to give up. It’s encouraging intentional ignorance- “You know you can do better, but it’s ridiculously hard, so just keep doing what you are doing” It creates an us versus them that makes people feel threatened when you suggest they make small changes.

I blame sports. Specifically, I blame sports for you not liking my blog. Makes perfect sense, right?

 I have noticed a real team mentality, where everyone has to be all or nothing on the same wavelength. Even things that shouldn’t be a debate seem to be a competition, and too often (for my taste anyway), it has to be black and white, winner and loser, no room for ties. We tend to turn on people who we don’t believe to be 100% on our side; as an uber-liberal, I felt pretty annoyed with other liberals after the Pope’s visit. He did so many great things while in the United States, but because he may have met with one person, he was horrible. Really? Really?

The point of my sports-bashing is that I don’t expect anyone to be 100% on my side here. We can be on the same team without being 100% on the same page.  You do what you think is right based on your priorities. My Uncle David is not a huge fan of the climate change rhetorics or the EPA, but he and I both love Made in America. It is fine with me if he only finds a cool idea or two on here he agrees with, and I still think he is wonderful. The larger point of this is that we all have the agency in our life and our decisions to make positive changes in the world, so where we can, we should. Take one piece of advice or one link to one cool product, and I will be elated. And if I love you as an individual, that’s still true no matter what you buy! 

 If I have one point on here, it's that every purchase IS a choice, so even if you are just going with the Made in China, plastic-wrapped flow, that is your choice. Our decisions always have positive and negative effects in our own lives and beyond ourselves. Beyond that, I trust you to make the choices that are best for you. 

We can all accomplish and learn a lot more if we can separate interpersonal feelings from larger social issues. It is so easy to feel offended when someone makes a suggestion, but it is always your decision whether or not to take it, and that choice can be based on your own research and priorities.

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