We already talked about how our hobbies are not judging your choices. I am constantly seeing blog posts wherein a member of the majority group complains about a small vocal minority’s choices as somehow being wrong or superior (but not superior as in better, superior as in smarmy). The article will then go on to explain precisely why the minority is blowing something out of proportion or there’s no science yet or that they’re just superior jerkwads with their superior attitude. (This last one irritates me because A. I’m often in that minority, except as a silent member, and B. Outside of Mothering.com, which one does not have to read, I don’t actually know minority member folks who are that kind of vocal on most of these issues.)
Like we said, we’ve already addressed this issue with TV. The majority of folks watch TV. A minority don’t own a TV. It’s probably generally thought that people who don’t own a TV do so because they believe that decision to be superior. The majority, of course, does not have to justify its decision. They have a TV because the majority has a TV.
Exercise is generally thought to be healthy and there’s peer-reviewed articles and so on showing its benefits. Most of us don’t exercise as much as we ought to. That doesn’t mean that the people who run marathons are trying to show us up. Folks who are vocal are probably trying to find partners to run with.
Epidurals… this is a really big one. I cannot tell you the number of blogs owned by PhD women with science degrees that say super nasty things about women who try to have a natural childbirth. Also the lady who runs the NYTimes motherlode blog. Titles to the effect of, “Having a natural childbirth does not make you a better person.” H’okay… And my childless partnerless colleagues who think women who have natural childbirths are crazy (“Um… B? I had a natural childbirth…I hope you don’t really believe what you just said”). The majority of women in the US use epidurals. By FAR the majority. Women using epidurals are not some persecuted minority. Are there some women who strongly believe that one should avoid the epidural if possible? Certainly, there are. And not because they believe women should always suffer either (having an epidural, contrary to what some of these blog posts would have you believe, is not a feminist statement). There’s some good evidence that it leads to slower labor, among other things, and I know people who have had epidurals go wrong leading to bizarre or unpleasant side effects. There actually are pros and cons that any woman should consider carefully before making a decision (disclaimer: I could not care less what you decide, but I do think it’s important to have full information). Some women who have made the choice to go natural are very vocal about these potential cons, possibly beyond the bounds of peer-reviewed science. But without these women, who would let people know that there was even an option? Who would organize the Bradley classes so that natural childbirth can include as little pain as possible? The minority sometimes has to be vocal to let folks on the margin of the majority know that they have a choice.
Breast-feeding… whether this is the majority or minority culture depends on where you are in the country. Right now the entire country has recently tipped towards doing some breastfeeding. But it’s interesting that you can see the vocal minority of breast-feeders (I was one!) and the vocal minority of formula-feeders, depending on where in the country you are. And the majority pressures you to do whichever you’re not. I was vocal because I was coursing with hormones, felt like I was invincible, and wanted to make it easier for other women to breastfeed their babies as well. When it’s common-place you’re less likely to get those disapproving looks. When visiting cities where I was in the majority it was so much easier to nurse and I didn’t feel any need to advocate. (I also figured it wasn’t culture keeping moms who weren’t nursing from nursing in the city, whereas culture and lack of support is definitely a main reason in the small town. In the city women know they can nurse and where to find support and they may need information on alternatives… in Small Town there’s a big knowledge gap in addition to culture being against it.)
Potty training… I wish we’d met a vocal minority person on early potty training before DC decided at 12 months that ze didn’t want to poo in hir diaper anymore. As we said in a previous post, I didn’t know it was possible to do something in between infant potty learning and Brazelton’s signs of readiness. Now I’m quite vocal about it, putting on my professor hat and educating people who said nasty things to us when we started at 15 months. It’s not that I care when you train your kid… there are pros and cons to all of the ages of training. But I’d like people to know that if they start young they’re not scarring their kids for life. There’s support. They’re not the only ones. The vocal majority trains their kids after age 3. That’s fine. But there are other ways. I’m sure many people went away from my lecture thinking horrible things about me, but that’s their problem, not mine. And vocalizing their concern for my precious toddler crossed a line anyway. They needed to know there’s no reason to call CPS.
The majority doesn’t like to let go of its status. I’m sure other social scientists have full-blown theories on this subject (and published papers and stuff). But the majority likes to keep the status quo. The majority likes to tell the minority to shut up and stop being so arrogant.
Maybe you have to be a vocal minority if you want to stay sane in a majority culture. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a few outliers that share your own culture. Or you’ll steal a few folks from the majority, and maybe, deep down, that’s what the majority are afraid of.