One of Those Women…the Human Kind

I’ve been doing the work that any novice blogger needs to do to develop a readership – reading other people’s blogs and commenting on those that interest or inspire me. I love good writing on any subject, but have been reading a lot of posts about women’s issues. Unfortunately, I keep running into blogs by both genders on exactly what’s wrong with women. I know this is a horse I will continue to beat (sorry, horse), but this notion that we are chronically a problem to solve makes me irritable.

I don’t know where all these manipulative/masochistic, overly fertile/infertile, cruel/doormat, and high-heeled/matronly alien women are living, but in all my travels, interactions and friendships, I’ve never met one. I’ve met a lot of emotionally challenged women AND men, just doing the best that they can do. Sometimes the best they know to do is be manipulative, cruel and make themselves 4″ taller, but I’d wager that they are statistical anomalies.

When I read blanket sexist, racist or simply hateful statements, I want evidence, which eventually boils down to a personal anecdote. The man who was dumped after SHE took all HIS money. The woman who never received a phone call from HIM after SHE got pregnant. The time he was walking in HIS neighborhood and THEY jumped him. Fear, sadness, anger, powerlessness – emotions all funneled into a blanket opinion covering entire populations of humans. Protective and warm. Isolating and ignorant.

I’ve always tried to look my prejudices in the face. Why do I have a chip on my shoulder about wealthy people? I felt looked down on as a poor kid and was bullied by some kids who happened to have EZ Bake Ovens and new bikes. As an adult, I can throw in some anti-consumerist, socialist and high brow rationalization for my prejudice, but if it weren’t shaped by a personal experience, I’d go a little lighter on the well-to-do.

Why do I resent and fear ignorant white people and not the scapegoat du jour, Muslims or young male African-Americans? I have a happy childhood friend story and she wasn’t white. I have a scary white person story and he left a lasting impression. Anecdotal, personal experience is what we build our opinions around and if we need the security of that opinion to comfort us, we’ll add layers of rationalization until it seems like truth.

What I see behind these hostile and sometimes frighteningly well-intentioned editorial posts, are untold stories. There was a moment in this person’s life that made them think that all of THOSE PEOPLE are a certain way. They’re either being dishonest or lack awareness about the origin of their antipathy. Sometimes it’s embarrassing to admit to your own prejudices, because once you say them out loud, they seem just a little crazy.

I like to believe that most of us aspire to be better human beings. Looking into the heart of one’s prejudices is Human 101. I’m not pretty that way. I have prejudices against the color pink, fraternities, male pinky rings, cauliflower, people who lick their fingers before turning the page of the book or counting back your change (okay, not a prejudice, just gross) and a hundred other biases that make me human. Each belief or preference carries a story and each one I have to challenge when it rears its crazy little head. Is it rational to apply it to all people in a particular group? Is it reasonable to take one story out of a million and make it a truism?

Unchallenged, our prejudices color our interactions and decisions. It’s hard to evaluate our beliefs in this cultural environment, where individuals gain attention by erratically spewing opinions online and through other media outlets. People holler about transparency for the government. Let’s start with some transparency for and of ourselves. That’s when the real dialogue can begin.

29 Comments on “One of Those Women…the Human Kind

    • Thanks. This one took me the longest of all of them to write. Not sure I quite nailed the subject but I hit the “publish” button when I got frustrated with all the re-writes.

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  1. I hope a lot of people read, and apply this. Starting with me and my prejudices: men with facial hair, people who wear fake tan, and men who don’t like meat.
    Random, I know, but I have deep-seated ideas about these groups (in order: liars, shallow, and untrustworthy) that I need to challenge.
    Your post made me realise that just because I don’t hold prejudices about gender, race, sexuality, disability, or age, doesn’t mean that I am not prejudiced at all. So I shall get off my high horse and ask myself a few questions…

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    • Sometimes my own biases catch me by surprise. And I spent at least half my time while writing this, arguing with myself about differences between biases, prejudice and preferences. It’s really hard to sort them all out, especially if you’re not sure of what, in your mind, motivates them. Questioning one’s beliefs, I think, is always a worthy pursuit. As Socrates wrote “A life unexamined is not worth living.” Thanks for reading and commenting!

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    • I’ve heard of the facial hair one before. FWIW, in my case it’s mainly due to having sensitive skin that doesn’t react well to daily shaving (and partially due to being very low maintenance). OTOH, would never consider a fake anything, and I love meat! 🙂

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  2. >I agree with your call to transparency. I used to join people blaming the government for everything, but really, we are much to blame as they are. >The good thing is that being aware of our biases, we process decisions and thoughts with a certain consciousness.
    =>

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    • I think it’s very difficult to have real, meaningful dialogue in the personal or political arena, unless we strip away all the rhetoric and get to the real motivations behind our feelings.

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  3. I enjoyed reading this. I remember learning about prejudice in school and being taught to identify how they are formed so we can take a step back and look at our own. I hope they are still doing that.

    And I am guilty of licking my fingers before turning pages occasionally. Oops.

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    • I wish that I could remember talking about this in school, because it’s so important. I wasn’t really able to expand on the topic, because I was getting too wordy, but the prejudices we are raised with are sometimes the more difficult to counter with reason. It’s a big subject.

      We all have our personal foibles and more than likely, habits that other people would find unappealing. However, I draw the line if I see you licking through pages of books at the public library. Note to self: Never borrow books from Heidi.

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  4. You most definitely nailed the subject. (in the post and in your comments) It is a big subject. I have been told that I can be a bit “too wordy,” I think that person must not know that many words…anyway. I like to see how writers expand on a topic through the dialogue that develops in their comments.
    Most excellent! I’m happy to be one of “those” women, not to be underestimated, unwilling to be intimidated, vertically challenged, sassy but perhaps a bit too wordy, human kind. 🙂

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    • I wonder at my own naivete, when I read all the vitriolic posts from both genders about women. The idea that any one person or event can, in someone’s mind, represent millions just strikes me as fallacious and deliberately ignorant. But that is the nature of prejudice – the rationale is usually slight in favor of deep-seated and unreasonable emotion.

      “Continua bene il resto del tuo tempo in Italia!”

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  5. This is a great post! I think it’s so important to look at each person as an individual, leaving our own prejudices and blanket opinions aside. I agree that the key is transparency, especially with ourselves.

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    • Thanks – I agree that seeing each situation and person as unique in its own right is the key. Humans can react to someone or something based on past experiences or be in the moment and take things as they are in the present. Wow – that’s a weird combination of L. Ron Hubbard and Buddhist philosophy wrapped into one thought.

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  6. Hi there. That’s one really great post. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and this is one of the best I think. Great work. Looking forward to read more 🙂
    Scarlett

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    • Thank you! I really worked at this and didn’t feel comfortable when I posted it, so it’s interesting to hear that feedback. You just never know what is going to work for readers (or in Oprah-esque terms, what will “resonate”). I really appreciate the comment and feel encouraged to keep slogging on.

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  7. I have lots of thoughts about this post. It ties, in my mind, to a post that I have been working on about oblivious marketing that seems prejudiced to me. So as I was reading this, I kept thinking about what I have been writing and want to say there and here as well. So, I totally agree with what you have written, but to play Devil’s advocate, it’s really difficult for most people to see past whatever biases they may have because experience is meant to teach us something. I sometimes wish I had the memory of a goldfish, so I could overcome my own personal biases more quickly and efficiently than I do currently. In addition, because we are all so different culturally, I find that stereotypes are developed because most cultures have their own values that are shared and passed down. For example, I come from a family of Pakistani Muslims. I have a bias against people who don’t take their shoes off when they come to my house. Why? Because the culture I was raised in is fanatical about not wearing shoes in the house. I immediately label those individuals as rude, uncouth savages. Which is not a fair assessment. But that thought pops into my head anytime I see someone wearing shoes in my home. Of course, I get over it quickly because if there is a person in my house, I must like them for some reason otherwise they would be denied entry. It’s hard to be bias free. Which is why I so admire people who do the best they can to overcome.

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    • I understand what you are saying about having the experience, but one person’s experience can teach them to dislike children while the same experience makes someone else want to be a teacher. How we process and assimilate those experiences can be subjective.

      I think this ability to scrutinize your own beliefs is a skill that must be practiced until it is habit. Awareness of the world at large, of different cultures and childhood experiences is needed. An eye to a bigger picture than one’s own corner of the world – these all must be part of that practice. If we can train ourselves to reflexively challenge our own thoughts, biases and reactions, we put ourselves on a path towards self-knowledge and human enlightenment. No matter what your background, religion, culture or family dynamics, this can only be for the greater good.

      I need to get off my soapbox – sorry! I will say, on a lighter note, I don’t like it when people wear shoes in my house, either – unless they’re going to jump in and vacuum, scrub or mop my floors, it’s shoes off! Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment.

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  8. A provoking idea you presented: challenge our prejudices.

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  9. Fantastic post! You are so right about bias/prejudice/whatever-you-want-to-call-it. Everybody has them; and anyone who says they don’t is in denial.

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    • Thank you! Sometimes they’re just thoughts you think every time when “x happens” or when you see a “y person”. It can be so reflexive and hard to catch ourselves.

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  10. This is a really great post. I get frustrated by the fact that real conversation stops whether in the arena of male – female / donkey – elephant / race, creed, color / it is very frustrating that one look, or listen, or sniff, and we pigeon hole each other.

    thanks for this well thought out post, and I am sure as you mull, more will come out – looking forward to it.

    Ben

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    • You’re right – those dividers seem to halt any true dialogue. The political, public rhetoric (whether from politicians or pundits) has reached such a divisive pattern, that it is trickling down to the rest of us. Reasoned, thoughtful dialogue is simply shouted over or shouted down. I’m optimistic though, believing we can change it by starting with ourselves. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  11. I really enjoyed this post. Regarding blanket statements, I’ve found that they usually incite more discussion because there are bound to be people that disagree. In some teaching situations I’ve made blanket statements about a science topic just to get students to start disagreeing with me and promote a class debate. It seems that blanket statements start discussions in the blogging world as well, so I wonder if some bloggers make a controversial statement covering everyone to start discussions.

    There are posts in which authors do not want to start discussions at all and really do believe their story represents all. Even then though, I listen if the story is not spewing hate and bias. If there are enough similar stories, there might be something to be gained from them.

    I will certainly be thinking about your post next time I write something.

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    • I hadn’t really thought about that aspect of making “-ist” statements. I am sure that what you say is true – in some cases, it does inspire further conversation. Somehow I think the level of quasi-anonymity that the internet provides makes people think they can let the hounds loose. And if readers don’t like what is written, they don’t stick around to debate. In a classroom situation, it sounds like it would be a useful tool. On the internet, it just means the writer is a tool. I think I just made my own blanket statement. Might need to work on that.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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