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.