Thursday, January 22, 2015

Lingering Bias

I've heard it said that prejudging people by their weight constitutes the "last socially acceptable prejudice."* I think that might be overstating the case just a bit.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m basically privileged to move through life without an obvious calls to ignorant pre-judgment—because that’s what prejudice is, judging in advance of knowing.

Except that I’m short, blonde, female, quiet, and tidy.

None of that in any way prevents me from being strong as heck, smarter than the average bear, tough as nails, a fantastic leader, and a lot of fun.

But people think it does. Big A. recently said to me that he wouldn’t have really believed that women face a bias in today’s world if he hadn’t seen the way I’m treated when it comes to home repairs and cars, for example. (For the record, he feels that way because it wouldn’t occur to him judge women’s aptitudes as categorically different.) And, as he said, “You usually know more about cars than I do!”

That’s because I was blessed to know a mechanic who didn’t see a “girl” but someone who was fascinated by how all this stuff worked. He took the time to teach me what did what in my car and why it broke and how to fix it.

Our bodies are just vessels for our spirits.

Ah, yes, but what about our demeanor? Our actions? How we choose to present ourselves? Surely it’s okay to judge people—a little bit—on that?

I'm currently--and very slowly, out of respect for my blood pressure--reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. As I told a friend, parts of it make me want to "rise up and politely ask my close friends to consider acting on behalf of introverts, if the spirit moves them to do so."

The Introvert Revolution, available in armchairs near you.

But seriously, why do people constantly assume, for example, that I lack authority? I assure you, my children will testify otherwise. I am not loud. I only speak when I have something to say. But if I go to the mat for something, I am all in. My word is solid. Not to mention that I understand and deliberately use all kinds of mad leadership skills in many situations. So why do people see me as a pushover?

Here’s another one that just baffles me. I had a friend decline an invitation to my house because she couldn’t bring her kids over—it’s too neat. But I invited her, so…you would think that I’d thought it through and decided I’d enjoy the company in my house. Did I somehow lack credibility?

Besides, can you imagine saying to someone, “I can’t bring my kids to your house. It’s too messy”? They’d post that comment on the internet, there would be trolls, Today Moms would do a fluffy article on it…. Total madness.

But I’m not just talking about me here. At least, I’m only talking about me to get to the big point. So this is not a pity party or a call to action. Well, not really. Or maybe it is a call to action. Yes, it is.

With my deeply hidden authority, I ask you to make a mess of your neatly labeled lives. Forget what you see, ignore these vessels we travel through life in. Speak truth in love and act as if others do the same. Be Quakers, for crying out loud.

Speak truth in love and listen, one spirit to another, in all the beautiful and endless possibilities those spirits hold.

That’s all, folks. Do that and we’ve just saved the world.

Speak truth in love and listen.

*For the record, in case the whole post doesn’t make this clear, I find no such biases acceptable.

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