The limits of experience

There is a distinction between saying “that was a sexist comment,” and “you’re sexist for saying that.” All the time in conversations I see someone point out “that was a sexist comment” and people replying with “How can you say that?! I’m not sexist!” Well, we’re not talking about the speaker. We’re talking about the comment. But because it came out of the speaker’s mouth, they’re more inclined to feel personally affected, those being their words. However, trying to keep the distinction in mind is crucial to not going insane. Because our experience is limited, our intent only goes so far.

It takes humility to own up to a mistake. And it’s easier to decry “I didn’t MEAN it that way!” than to admit that one simply didn’t consider how others might interpret one’s words differently. And it’s not because one’s an anti-equality heathen, but simply because they didn’t think about it. One can only live their life as their self. It’s not malice, it’s just… the limits of a human being’s experience to their own and not being privy to everyone else’s in that same personal way. It’s difficult to imagine how the experiences of others might make those others feel differently.  It’s literally impossible to live the experiences of another. After all, we’re not the Borg: we cannot literally hear the thoughts of other people. Or Betazoids: we cannot literally feel the emotions of other people. We can only talk about our own and hear or read about those of others.

Because of the limits of our own experience (we’re not all-knowing), we have to accept that others’ experiences make them better informed in matters that affect them. Indeed, they have authority in deciding that something does in fact affect them. To argue otherwise is to argue, for example, that a bird knows better than a fish about life in water.


~ by Picaspexit on March 6, 2010.

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