I have been silent for too long.
I am ready to come out with the truth.
I am not a Beyonce fan.
I've read the Buzzfeed articles. I've watched the Video Music Awards. I've Urban-Dictionary-ed "surfbort." And, despite my extended research into the various phases of Beyonce's musical career, I honestly don't relate to her work. I find her music over-played, boring and unimaginative. And I can't lie about it anymore.
But with this open confession to the world, I realize I have probably lost at least half of my friend base, including my fellow Chronicle editors. Just last night I experienced the immediate prejudice that comes with expressing this sentiment. As my coworkers watched the entirety of Beyonce's 16-minute VMA performance, I rebelled.
"Turn it off," I yelled, in what probably could have been a more polite manner to get my point across more effectively.
Of course, this outburst was immediately met with an angry "What! You don't like Beyonce?! Get out!"
As you can see, the Beygency—an anonymous group intended to convert Beyonce haters everywhere and impersonated by Saturday Night Live that I am sure also exists in real life—is clearly alive and well in The Chronicle office.
But whether I like Beyonce or not is a moot point. We all have personal tastes in art forms, and mine happen not to gravitate to someone who "wakes up like this—flawless." But yours might, and that shouldn't stop us from being friends.
Here's where the problems begin. We need to facilitate an environment of openness towards opposing opinions. It's easy to start small—Beyonce is only a small part of the problem. But too often we are afraid to engage in arguments, afraid to be proven wrong. It is easy to pick a majority opinion—be it sometimes the ethically right one and sometimes not—and silence others, ones that are "wrong" in the eyes of most. But not wrong in the eyes of all.
The truth is, opposing opinions don't die with silence. In some ways, they breed. Talking about our opinions enables us to understand why they are wrong. But repressing everything we are told not to feel only develops a very real fear of breaking from the status quo. And breaking from the status quo is not always a bad thing.
What I fear is that this desire to conform stops fruitful ethical discussion. We are so scared of how someone might react to a possibly controversial statement that we hold our opinions in altogether. The questioning of ideas is what makes an intellectual environment so important. Every interaction is an opportunity for you to understand yourself better and opinions are not hard, steadfast rules. They can be changed.
The scary thing about opinions, however, is that they closely toe the line into impersonating certainties. Universities from all over the country know this phenomenon well—a young, confident student spouts their opinion as if it is a fact. Opinions at their root are emotions. They are based on each of our unique combinations of life experiences. To treat them as facts is to misunderstand their entire origin.
Once people acknowledge the personal nature of their opinions, they then need to respect the personal roots of others'. If we are going to hold educated arguments, respect needs to be brought to the conversation, as well as a willingness to broaden one's perspective. An argument between two parties unwilling to budge is not productive to anyone and could be needlessly offensive, and understandably so.
So here's what I propose. Next time I express a negative opinion about Beyonce, I won't be met with a gasping "How could you?" and automatic disgust. Instead the people around me will actually ask why I don't like Beyonce. Perhaps I will ask back—what do you like about her? And maybe, by the end of the conversation, one of us will change our opinion.
Or maybe we won't.
Elizabeth Djinis is the Editorial Pages Editor.