How Not to Feel Stupid in a Political Discussion
By: Susannah Wellford Shakow
I am sick and tired of hearing some of my female friends say “politics is not my thing.” That is a cop out. Politics is not one thing that you can decide not to pay attention to – it touches every area of our lives. And I suspect that sometimes women opt out because they are afraid that they are not informed enough and will look stupid if they try to join in a political discussion. Wouldn’t you like to be the one at a cocktail party whom everyone is clustering around to hear your opinion about matters of the world? I know you can’t like that image of the men withdrawing to the parlor to smoke their cigars and talk politics while the women sit and knit.
So, the question is, how do you get informed? I know you are all busy – kids, career, dating, exercise, writing the great American novel – but it really doesn’t take much. I have found in so many conversations that if I don’t know what the group is talking about (social security, the worth of the alternative minimum tax or pharmaceutical pricing) that I just need to wait for that lull and then introduce my own topic. I don’t spend hours pouring through every detail of the paper. I don’t watch the Sunday political shows, and I don’t spend all day listening to political news on the radio. What I do is find a few topics that really interest me and read (or listen) to enough information about them to form an opinion. Often just a snippet of news that I read on the front page of the paper, or a short segment I heard on National Public Radio is enough to form a real opinion that other people are going to want to talk to you about. You are smart and your opinion is valuable. Don’t be afraid to state it.