November 30, 2017

HAGOPIAN | On Fair-Mindedness

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Mark Twain once said “when I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” Sometimes my own blessed mother says something that makes me do an intellectual double take. She usually follows her insight up with the phrase, “feel free to use that in a column,” so that’s what I’m doing now. Mom was a women’s studies major (back when it was women’s studies and not gender studies; don’t get her started on that) and is therefore my main resource for feminist thought. Last week the subject of Trump came up, and I asked her how so many women could have voted for him after seeing the Access Hollywood tape. “They’re used to it,” she said, “it’s how their husbands treat them.”

This quote is directly pertinent to the current bevy of sexual misconduct allegations. I’ve heard people say that there are different “levels” and that certain offenders should not be lumped in with the others. I’ve heard people say that it’s a “dangerous” time to be a man and that they feel uncomfortable approaching women. I won’t comment on the validity of these points, I’ll simply say that it’s irresponsible to make them when the narrative should be focused on the victims of sexual assault. One need only remember the soon-to-be-patented Rule #47 of The Whiny Liberal’s Ad Hoc Rules of Progressivism: when the group with all the power starts complaining about being stereotyped, it’s probably a sign that there’s a turd in the proverbial punch bowl.

But there are people out there who take it a step further. They think that significant amounts of women are actively trying to bait men into sexually assaulting them for personal gain. It’s this perspective in particular that shifts my feelings from Thanksgiving-dinner-eye-roll to genuine concern. Forget the fact that the frequency of false rape allegations is on par with that of other major crimes (that is to say, they are not common at all). Forget the fact that in a study of 216 sexual assault complaints that were classified as false, only 39 involved the naming of a suspect and only six led to an arrest. The worst part is not the ignorance but the blatant prioritization of one group over another. It boggles my mind that someone could be so self-centered and out of touch.

I make a conscious effort to be fair-minded, to entertain different points of view, and to respect the opinions of others. I told myself when I started writing opinion pieces that I would not be an “echo chamber” journalist, and I hope to adhere to that philosophy as my career moves forward. But the situation described above has taught me a valuable lesson; fair-mindedness has its limits, some viewpoints should not be entertained, and some opinions don’t deserve respect. I was planning to make this column a discussion of ways to handle political arguments (I was inspired, of course, by seeing my relatives at Thanksgiving). Presenting arguments in ways that are designed to change minds is an important and courageous thing, but I’m a white man who writes biweekly columns and I’m already tired of it. I suppose I shouldn’t be afraid to pick my spots. Anyone who believes in rape-baiting isn’t going to be convinced to change their mind through logical means; sometimes discretion really is the better part of valor.

 
Ara Hagopian is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at ahagopian@cornellsun.com. The Whiny Liberal appears alternate Fridays this semester.