I have recently realised the power of the sentence ‘You don’t know it!’. It may appear in many different wordings, for instance, ‘you don’t understand nothing about it’ or similar. Though the meaning is always the same, that is, the statement of the ignorance of someone or a group about a certain subject. This kind of message always put the person who says it in a higher position, one where he or she is the one who holds the knowledge and therefore the power. This person feels entitled to make judgements on the other (‘the ignorant’) capacities and worth.
I have came across this sort of expressions in different moments in my life.First when I was just a teenager and I was directly labeled as ignorant because I was unaware of certain historical facts. Later on it was myself the messenger of this judgmental voice that had been internalised and have caused me a lot of trouble with my self-confidence and self-esteem. More recently I remember an episode when I was discussing politics with my uncle (and holding a totally opposite opinion of his own) and at at a certain point in the discussion he just stated that I didn’t understand nothing of politics (and therefore there was no reason to engage in a discussion with me). In another recent episode, that actually triggered this post, a close friend of mine was told she didn’t understand football, just because she was not agreeing with the other person.
Perhaps it is just a coincidence, and most probably it is not, but the authors of all the judgmental statements were men, the receivers were women and the topics under discussion were the traditionally ‘men’s subjects’ (facts, politics, sports).
But what does all this exactly means? Why is it important to have a conversation about it?
I acknowledge that the expression ‘you don’t know nothing about it’ is actually an easy way out for the person who says it. It enables this person to stop a conversation in which he or she does not know what else to say, it is a direct way to neglect the right of the other person to a different opinion, and additionally a simple and effective way to put him or her down. Yet, in reality, this sentence says more about the person who says it than the other way around: it says a lot about the lack of capacity to dialogue, to listen, to be empathic, and to accept and respect diversity. To say nothing of the inability to change and envision change. Unfortunately these are some of the negative characteristics and values of patriarchal society: the inability to dialogue, the incapacity to acknowledge diversity and the lack of empathy and respect towards those who think differently. Because diversity hurts the very heart of patriarchy as it is essential to change and implies the need to review privileges and power imbalances.
In my opinion it is important to have a conversation about this because we are all entitled to hold our own opinions and ideas, we are all entitled to freedom of expression, and no one has the right to put other human being down. Being aware about this perverse controlling mechanism used in patriarchal society to dominate and nullify diversity enables people to reply appropriately the next time they will be told ‘you understand nothing about this’. And guess what, I not only have an understanding of what politics are, moreover I have a daily experience of what is means ‘to make politics’ through my work with youth and adults. Or wouldn’t I have written this post!