There is a bigger picture here, Cory, but it is so much larger than your limited perspective.
Since you’re mathematically oriented, I’m going to try to explain it to you in terms you will understand.
Based on your comments, you see the poor decisions made by Holly and Talia (the areas where the life experience of you, Holly and Talia intersect) and judge them from the perspective of your set of experiences. You may notice that Opportunity and White Privilege are subsets of society that intersect with your world. However, sexism and poverty are subsets of society that intersect with the worlds of Holly and Talia, that do not seem to intersect with your experience.
Therefore, all the data points represented by the “bad decisions” you observe in Holly and Talia do not take into account huge areas of life experience that have shaped their decisions, but which are totally outside of your life experience. Without this understanding, your advice to take responsibility for bad decisions comes off as ignorant at best. (And even if they were to make better decisions and become successful by your definition, that doesn’t change the existence of the societal problems they point out.)
Now, if you personally knew people like Talia and Holly three possible things could have happened from these interactions:
- You would understand their lives and feel compassion for their situations
- In knowing them you would have helped them in some way which might completely change their life’s journey and perhaps change their decisions
- You would simply not care and continue to ignore all the other huge issues in society that do not personally touch your life
To prove this observation, I will provide some quotes from Talia and Holly that demonstrate how impossible it is for you to evaluate someone’s life as part of some free market exchange where everyone has equal opportunity and is fully accountable for their actions. (If you had read the original articles as carefully as I did, I doubt you would have made the comment you did.)
Holly: “I remember when I was in middle school, boys delighted in rating all the girls on a scale of 1 to 10 on slips of paper they’d cheerily pass around to each other. Inevitably, the girls would find out their “objective” ranking and emotionally implode.”
As males, we have no idea how much girls are impacted by a male dominated society and in all the ways women are being harassed and discriminated against. There are tons of examples (just do a search for womens’ self esteem issues, sexual harassment, date rape, sexual objectification, etc.) For my purposes, let’s look at societal biases that have been institutionalized in the political sector. Over the last five years, there have been over 230 anti-abortion bills passed by state legislatures, repeated attempts to defund Planned Parenthood (which is often the only affordable health care poor women can access) and the refusal to enact fair pay laws on a Federal level. Now these issue may seem perfectly fine for you, based on your religious and political belief systems, but you represent at best 30% of the country. None of us get to force our beliefs on others. The rest of the country believes that you are the one making the mistakes.
Talia: “I also desperately needed to leave where I was living — I could get into the details of why, but to sum up: I wanted to die every single day of my life and it took me several years to realize it was because of the environment I was in.”
What she is hinting at here is some really f*cked up family dynamic that she accepted as a child because she knew no other life experience. This type of experience (wanting to die every single day) usually indicates domestic violence, sexual molestation or negative feedback from self identifying as something other than a heterosexual female. Again, these are things totally outside of our life experiences. People make mistakes when circumstances outside of their control cause them so much pain or fear that they are forced to do something out of desperation.
Talia: “So, I picked the next best place: somewhere close to my dad, since we’ve never gotten to have much of a relationship and I like the weather up here.”
Did you grow up with a father around? I was separated from mine at age 10 and it was one of those life changing events that can completely reshape a child’s personality and path. So if you haven’t lost or been separated from your father, you have no ability to comment on Talia’s experience or her choices. This also implies her lack of a support system to deal with her poverty. Think about where you would be if you had no family or financial support. None of us are “self made.” We benefit from an innumerable amount of taxpayer financed services and investments, without which people would still be living off the land and bartering at the local village.
Talia: “I found a job (I was hired the same day as my interview, in fact) and I put a bunch of debt on a shiny new credit card to afford the move.”
I didn’t even understand this comment until it was pointed out by Sara (read her take on the whole thing, she makes a lot of good observations that are completely outside your world perceptions). Only people coming from poverty and desperation would use a “shiny new” credit card to pay for a move. Talia’s description of the credit card is almost child-like in its innocence. Given her poverty, dysfunctional family background and lack of support, how on earth would she have learned about interest rates and revolving credit.
Talia: “Every single one of my coworkers is struggling. They’re taking side jobs, they’re living at home. One of them started a GoFundMe because she couldn’t pay her rent.”
In this section, Talia isn’t complaining about her plight. She is observing the people around her. If no one can survive working for the company, the story stops being a personal complaint and becomes an indictment of the company and, by extension, the city and many areas around the country where real estate costs are incredibly high, but wages are lower than they were in 1973 (in inflation adjusted dollars).
I hope you read this. Maybe it will help you develop a deeper understanding of others.
If you don’t understand, maybe this guy’s take on life as a video game will get through to you.