Don’t judge me!

Today we are just about speechless with excitement, honour, and awe.  We are beside ourselves to bring you a piece of writing by Betty Herbert, who wrote “The 52 Seductions“, a blog that turned into a book, detailing how, when they realised the days of being unable to keep their hands of each other were long gone, Betty and her husband reintroduced seduction into their ten-year marriage.  You can read more about the book here, and buy it at the AOW Book Store.  

Betty writes about people’s differences, and the inherent difficulty in accepting that what might be fundamentally wrong in your eyes might be exactly the right thing for others.  She asks that we be kind to each other, that we judge less, that we recognise and respect that people are different.  As Betty says; “life is hard enough”. 

I know I’m guilty of that inner judgement, particularly of other women.  Are you?

Thank you so much for writing this, Betty.  Over to you:

 

When I started writing The 52 Seductions, the first thing I learned was that I had to tread extremely carefully when talking about sex.

It wasn’t that people were offended by explicit content; in fact, most readers displayed levels of expertise that would make Tracey Cox blush. I quickly got used to being gently scolded for being such a prude.

But these same women -  women of the world, who could debate the finer points of coital technique in the same tone that their grandmothers once shared tips for lighter pastry – would only take their enlightenment so far. Certain things would see them rising up in angry condemnation. Some were hugely offended by Hollywood waxes; others by threesomes. Celebrity sex lives often attracted huge censure. From Rhianna to Ashton Kutcher, fury was never far away. But whatever the outrage, the stance was always the same: don’t you dare judge me; it’s these people who are wrong.

Since I’ve been pregnant, I’ve picked up on that anger all over again. My Twitter timeline flutters with little clumps of indignation over breast- or bottle-feeding, over sleep training or demand feeding. The same mouths that say, ‘why does everyone pick on mothers?’ will declare, a few seconds later, that some perfectly innocuous practice is an appalling cruelty.

Stepping into both worlds – sex and motherhood – I was equally terrified. What on earth were the rules here? What were the right choices? It felt like the boundaries were so hazy that I could overstep them just by following my own tastes, and by doing no harm to man or beast. It was like walking a tightrope. Every choice, every preference, had to be carefully justified lest it activate the Greek chorus of derision.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that behind this lies enormous insecurity. Whereas once we would have had few decisions to make around sexuality and parenthood, we increasingly feel like we have to reinvent the wheel every time we start something new. As far as I’m concerned, the opportunity to make these choices is a wonderful thing, acknowledging the wide range of personalities and lifestyles. But it creates huge pressure, too. If we don’t all do the same thing, we are obliged to justify what we do, and to take responsibility for any failings.

In an era of mass debate on Twitter and blogs, we’re increasingly expected to be able to justify the politics of everything we do, and yet, on a basic level, I don’t think that politics drive our decisions. Instead, we’re lead by our personalities. Some couples will quite simply enjoy playing with power roles in sex; others will find it chilling. Some parents will crave the order of sleep training; others will treasure the intimacy of night feeds. The problems is that we tend to fall into camps based around these highly personal tendencies, and, worse, we get all het up trying to prove that our way is the ‘natural’ way. 

We’re all different. We all love differently, and we live differently. Think about your friends: can you imagine living their lives? My guess is that the very thought would make you shudder. You can’t imagine coping with their partner’s foibles, or conforming to their schedule. Yet it works for them. You’re different, but you’re all okay. Life is hard enough, without making politics out of personality.

Can I make a heartfelt plea? Let’s learn to be a bit more relaxed about difference. Let’s stop making accusations of child abuse simply because people aren’t doing things our way, and let’s stop accusing women of false consciousness because they enjoy something in bed that we don’t. The vast majority of people are doing the best they can, and so are we.

Over the year of The 52 Seductions, the hardest part, for me, was to learn to engage with my own, personal sexuality, rather than with the ugly soup of what I felt I ought to be doing. It took me a long time to genuinely be able to say, ‘I don’t fancy that, but I understand that other people do’ without feeling insecure or angry. It was the most liberating process I ever went through, because the judgements I was making were harming no-one but me.

It’s probably too much to hope that we’ll all learn to hold proper and respectful debates online, and I guess we’d get bored if we did. But perhaps, instead, when confronted with choices that we wouldn’t much fancy, we can learn to say, ‘that’s none of my business,’ and get on with our day.

Categories: Life Experience, Politics and Feminism
21 interesting thoughts on this

21 Comments

  1. Posted April 25, 2012 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Great post and absolutely agree with you.

    I see comments on blogs sometimes that are genuinely shocking- all this ‘troll’ business wouldn’t exist I’d people just took a second and thought actually there are a million other blogs, I’ll go and find one I like.

    Really enjoyed this

  2. Posted April 25, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    “It’s probably too much to hope that we’ll all learn to hold proper and respectful debates online, and I guess we’d get bored if we did. But perhaps, instead, when confronted with choices that we wouldn’t much fancy, we can learn to say, ‘that’s none of my business,’ and get on with our day.”

    …and on that note, WELCOME TO AOW!

    It’s not boring (don’t judge)

    Great piece.

    Px

    • Posted April 25, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      I thought *exactly* the same thing when I read that sentence.

      AOW, the least scary/intimidating/judging/argumentative place on the Internet, ever?

      Fantastic article! I think we’ve all been there, judging or being judged by other women. I know I have, on both counts. But I also feel like as I get older, I’m learning to calm down, to be more open to other ways of doing things and more importantly other reasons for doing things…reasons we often can’t fathom.

      • Clare
        Posted April 25, 2012 at 9:20 am | Permalink

        I know – we’re so proud to have created this place on the internet, free from nastiness and judgement. It’s something that we are always concerned about though – it could only take one troll to destroy the safe space we have here.

        Although having said that, we have had one troll – and it was responded to by one of you guys so calmly and sensibly, that we’re pretty sure you all would suffocate any potential nastiness with wisdom, humour and kindness.

  3. Posted April 25, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    I moderate a pregnancy and parenting forum, and some days it seems (women especially) go out of their way to judge, demean and berate others for their parenting choices. I don’t understand it, and trying to remain reasonable when virtual hair and skin is being ripped off can be hard work!

  4. Clare
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    First off, Betty we are so honoured to have you gracenour peachy pages today – thank you.

    And having just travelled through the pregnancy and mummydom online world, I can fully get behind what you’re saying. It seems like motherhood and the Internet bring out the worst in women, and I don’t know why (surely it should be the opposite? Surely as mothers we should all be more caring?). I have been truly shocked how some women can turn on one another at a time when you most need support. I also saw it in some (shall remain nameless) wedding forums.

    I’m interested – has anyone found this level of negativity in non-female dominated online environments? Is it something that happens Internet wide, or something that is specific to women on the Internet? And if so, why?

    • Posted April 25, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      Oh my god, a thousand times yes! Trolling has no gender bias! I’ve seen some horrible things out there on boy sites too, and trolling by men on blogs by women as well. I’ve also found lots of female-centric blogs that are just as friendly and supportive as AOW. It’s down to the people you attract, I think.

      There will always be the odd random troll out there that will stumble across you and take the opportunity to stir. As you said Clare, it’s often down to the other readers and how they handle it as to the impact it makes. If we don’t rise to it, then they won’t come back. Job done!

      Px

    • Posted April 25, 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      Absolutely, I used to be a moderator on a film forum (I know, I know, I just get cooler the more you learn about me), and trolling, judgement and bitchiness are very definitely NOT limited to female online environments. Men can be horribly judgemental, personal and downright unpleasant aswell. Always amusing to watch a debate about the relative merits of Star Wars and LOTR descend into casting aspersions upon the size and girth of the participants manhoods.

      This also gave me a solid grounding in responding to trolls with humour. And, y’know, a big-ass BAN button.

      K x

      • Clare
        Posted April 25, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        It’s actually really good to know – I’m so pleased that it’s not something that can be ascribed to just women being ‘bitchy’, but something that needs to be changed across the board.

  5. Posted April 25, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Clare – I can’t say I have. I think the anonyminity of the net allows inside thoughts to become outside thoughts, which isn’t always a good thing. AOW is the exception – but is that down to its very nature – an online sanctuary for the thinking women?

  6. Posted April 25, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I love Betty! Thoroughly enjoyed her book – it’s my tongue in cheek, go to gift for married friends’ anniversaries!

  7. Posted April 25, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    So, I’m off to buy Betty’s book on pay day!

    Brilliantly written and so thought provoking; it’s definitely made me think twice about my own judgements.

    Mazz
    -x-

  8. Posted April 25, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    “We’re all different. We all love differently, and we live differently.” <- Amen to that.

  9. Zan
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Great article! Have to say, there’s very few blogs where I feel I can post/comment without having to ‘edit’ myself or worry about how others may respond & AOW is one :) it’s truely a great space for women on t’internet!

  10. Posted April 25, 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    It’s not just saying judgemental things though, is it…it’s also thinking them. I sometimes make snap judgemetns about people and how they live their lives and I know that’s down to my own insecurities more than any reflection on them. Learning not to do that would make me happier, healthier…and allow me to focus on the important stuff.

    Love this post, Betty…thank you so much!

    • Clare
      Posted April 25, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      We’ve discussed this off-blog I know, but you’re right – we all need to make snap judgements of people and their situations. You never know when YOU may be in that situation for a start (hi, I’m a non-working expat wife…oh what I would have thought of someone who was in this position a few years back – hint: it would not have been positive).

      I’m not sure how we address this though, apart from all learning to be more confident in ourselves and our choices, thus negating the need to analyse others choices.

      It’s a tough one. Thank you so much Betty for raising it.

      • Clare
        Posted April 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        Perils of typing whilst also entertaining baby… That would obviously be: ‘…need to STOP making snap judgements…’

      • Chalotte Spafford
        Posted April 26, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        Clare,

        I have read AOW for about a year now and hardly ever post, but I, like you, have found myself as a ‘non-working ex-pat wife’. Previous life included a full on full time job and very ambitious plans. Life is very different now

        Once I may well have villified a woman in my current situation. Now I am here, I have a whole new perspective. I feel a submission coming on…………………………

        Loved the birth story too. Can’t wait for part two x

  11. Posted April 25, 2012 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Wow what a fab post.

    I have to say that there are times when I have been guilty of making snap judgements about people too. People I know, people in the media, anyone really. For me a real turning point was actually being in a happy relationship where I feel 100% secure – as others have said lots of these things are born out of insecurity. I was in a crap relationship and felt awful about myself so it was a way to make myself feel a bit better. Terrible I know, but true.

    Now so long as me and my husband are happy with what we’re doing and the choices we make I couldn’t give two hoots what anyone else has to say on the matter. And equally, knowing how happy I am I hope that other people can experience that too – even if how they choose to get there isn’t the same way I would that’s all fine with me.

    After all how bloody boring would life be if we all wanted and did the same things? Most of the interesting posts and comments we have here wouldn’t happen for a start! And what a shame that would be.

    x

  12. Posted April 25, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    This. Just, all of this.

    I know I used to be terrible for making snap judgements about people in my head, 99% of the time to prop up my own sense of self worth and hush the screaming chorus of insecurities. I’m not saying I don’t still do this occasionally, but I have managed to start addressing the underlying insecurities, which helps way more than the bitchy-brain. Now each time I catch myself thinking a judgement thought, I force myself to think of a positive thought about the woman/man I just judged. Then I make myself think a positive thought about myself aswell. Then I have a stern word with my brain about how I am quite good enough as I am and that the fact that I have mascara on my forehead (how?!) and no career does not make me a failure at all of life. Ultimately, both me and the unknowing subject of my judgement are not failing at life, we’re both just different kinds of awesome. We should give each other, and frankly ourselves, a break.

    K x

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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