As a science student, my assignments and evaluations are generally, straight forward. There’s typically a right answer and a wrong answer—pretty black and white. While I can explain to you the entire process of protein metabolism from beginning to end, if you asked me to write a paper about my opinion on the most influential films, I’ll probably be grasping at straws to put my feelings into words. When I would submit essays and receive grades lower than what I was getting on my science midterms, I would fall back into the blame game; it was all subjectivity’s fault. I find it a little ironic that I’m sitting here, writing on subjectivity itself, when it’s the very thing I’ve seemed to avoid confronting my entire life. 

As an attempt to understand my resentment towards subjective topics, I chose to surround myself within them. I’ve enrolled myself in classes where I’m forced to write from an opinionated narrative and I attempt to ask questions which have no definitive answer. Throughout this entire endeavor, I’ve actually come to appreciate the varied and differing opinions shared by both my classmates and educators. The entire concept of subjectivity permeates the boundaries of fashion, art, music, education, and sports, and I would confidently argue that it may be what keeps creativity alive. Paying homage to my 5th grade speech – can you imagine a world where everyone looked the same? A world without opinions is probably a pretty boring one, and I don’t even want to try to imagine a world without curated playlists for every single emotion known to man. 

I also have my Pinterest feed to thank for developing my opinion on subjectivity. “I want to make beautiful things even if no one cares,” was a quote I came across while mindlessly scrolling. Being an avid writer, I’ve always felt confident in the words I’ve written and put out into the world. I knew the way I interpreted my opinion and that was enough for me. There would definitely be people out there who would read my work and not quite agree, but I of course accepted and understood that that was the way the world worked (“Not everyone’s gonna agree with you all the time Isabella,” I could hear my dad telling me in my head). Not until I reflected back on the quote, and simultaneously pitched this article, did I come to understand the vulnerability that it takes to share an opinion, without fear—something that more often than not gets overlooked. Reflecting on this idea now, I realize that this is something each and every single one of us do every day. The clothes I wear, the music I listen to, and the books I read, are all aspects of my life which both define me as an individual, and act as creative outlets which I fall back on when words aren’t enough. 

The idea that art is subjective, is probably a subjective argument in and of itself, but I’ll spare you the complexities. I find solitude in visiting art galleries, even though I have an extremely limited amount of knowledge in the realm of art history to back up my opinion. In this way, I have learned to appreciate things that I cannot always understand, and that even if my opinion is not necessarily backed by years of education, it still holds weight. That is the beauty of subjectivity; everyone brings something different to the table which can be appreciated for what it’s worth, in a variety of contexts. 

“Not until I reflected back on the quote, and simultaneously pitched this article, did I come to understand the vulnerability that it takes to share an opinion, without fear—something that more often than not gets overlooked”

I view fashion in a similar way to art, even though my repertoire is a little bit more stacked in the realm of fashion history. I take an interest in fashion because I believe it’s a direct expression of yourself from the inside out, whether done consciously or not. Championing sustainability in fashion is something I will always advocate for, whether that be in terms of production or consumption. I believe that we all have a responsibility to create art, in all its forms, with the health of the Earth in mind, and that is an opinion which I value extensively (plus, it’s backed by some really intelligent people, i.e Valerie Masson-Delmotte and Panmao Zhai). The subjectivity aspect of fashion appreciation has been mixed as of late, with many people eager to label designs as overdone, tacky, and just outright boring. The majority of these claims come from social media accounts with no profile picture, who are probably created with the sole intention of spewing hate. Nevertheless, they create an extremely toxic environment where compliments can’t be appreciated, let alone critiques. Subjectivity loses its meaning when these opinions shared online aren’t real opinions at all, and instead an attempt to silence those who are actively contributing members of the fashion community. For the most part, these comments do more harm than good, and it’s exactly where the line is crossed between appreciating subjectivity for what it’s worth, and using it as a tool to spread negativity. 

If you’re anything like me, it’s probably easier to blame a bad grade on the subjectiveness of the topic rather than the work itself. I’ve been found guilty of this on a number of occasions, yet I’ve recently seemed to find the greatest fulfillment in writing about topics that, at their very core, are opinion-based. I’ve attributed this to the confidence I’ve built up, through many years of self reflection, to share my opinion. I’ve found that starting out by finding a community with shared interests makes this process much easier, yet the most productive conversations stem from those who may not always think in the same way as you (I want to be clear here not to conflate opinion vs fact; there are many topics that I do not believe are open for debate). As an individual, this is still something that I’m working on, but I consider it a lifelong journey with no established end.  

Questioning subjectivity has also led to my own questioning of objectivity. If the world was viewed solely through either an objective or subjective lens, nothing would have meaning. People value art just as much as others value mathematical theorems because they hold truth to a certain extent. At the same time, art loses meaning when it’s only considered a subjective medium. Thus, subjectivity and objectivity are crucial in so many different aspects of our lives, even when one is better utilized than the other. 

Rather than turning away from the concept of subjectivity, I implore each and every single one of you to reevaluate its contribution to your life. Bask in the beauty that is chaotic playlists, eclectic outfit choices, and abstract art. Or relish in your entire closet of white t-shirts and black leggings. The choice is yours, and we all have subjectivity to thank for that.

About The Author

Isabella Hamilton (she/her) is an Online Contributor for MUSE. If she’s not stomping around campus in her heeled boots, she’s probably at the library (pretending to get work done while actually scrolling through the latest i-D articles).

About The Illustrator

Valerie Letts (she/they) is an Online Illustrator for MUSE. They specialize in portraiture and representational artwork. By primarily working with oil paint, graphite, ink and new digital media, their art provides a focus towards ideas of humanity, identity and sensibility.

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