May 12, 2016

So Apparently I'm Sexist

A while back my sister told me about a study on sexism done where the primary researcher, who considered himself a feminist, discovered that he himself displayed misogynistic behaviors.  Rather than discount his study, he gave it an honest look and realized that we aren't always aware of our own prejudices, because they're so ingrained that they're not always conscious behaviors.

I've observed this in my friends and my own behaviors.  The people who are the most prejudiced tend to be the people who have given the least thought to their beliefs.  "That's just the way it is" and "I call it like I see it."  I have had plenty of my own sexist beliefs that, only after growing up and examining them closely, did I realize were patently untrue or instilled in me by our culture and not by any sense of logic or fairness.  I thought men should be tough and never cry.  I thought women shouldn't be muscular and should be nurturing.  If someone had told me "Black people do ___" or "Mexicans are ___" I probably would have just believed it without questioning where that information came from.

I've come a long way in the last few years.  Part of that was just growing up and realizing that you really can't put people into neat, little categories.  No one is a cliché or stereotype once you get to know them.  And part of that was actively seeking out information through blogs, Reddit, or books like Lean In.

That last example was pretty mind-blowing because I'd thought I'd already made so much progress, and then I found myself guilty of several of the misogynistic tendencies Sandberg talks about.  Successful women are considered cold, arrogant, and selfish.  Men can take credit for their successes, while women are expected to attribute them to teamwork, outside assistance, or luck.  I forced myself to rethink my opinions on prominent business women I've known personally and to definitely question other people's perceptions of public figures.

I think I had some misguided notion that at some point I'd have it all figured out and I'd be "done."  At some point I'd have successfully reached a point where I didn't have any more subconscious prejudices.  But that's silly and here's my latest example.

We've had a dog for 4 years.  He's a male.  I have given this absolutely no thought for the last 4 years.  But we just adopted a female dog.  Guess what their nicknames are.

Luke = buddy, bud, bubba.  Toast = baby, babes, sweetie.  I did not even notice I was doing this until Ryan started calling Toast "buddy" the same way he calls Luke by that pet name.  And it felt wrong to me.

I still can't make myself call Toast "buddy."  So I started calling them both "baby" or "puppy" because that feels right.  And trying to use their names more often, which is better dog training anyway.  I realize there are other factors at play, like the fact that Toast is the new dog, and she's younger, and so on.  But at one point I found myself using the pet names my mother used for my sisters and me (she called us "baby duck" and I called Toast "baby dog") and it's kind of bizarre that I only did that when I had a "girl" around.

So I'm watching myself, because I'm fairly certain there's some prejudices left in there and I absolutely don't want to pass them on to my children.

What are (or were) some of your subconscious prejudices?  How do you make yourself aware of your own inconsistencies?

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  1. I think we all have prejudices, and some we don't become aware of until we do. LOL, not really the best way to say it, but it's true.

  2. I catch myself thinking sexist things sometimes and then I am all WTF is wrong with you.

    Also I call Salem buddy because I call my girl dogs girl, as in hey little girl what are you doing but it felt wrong to call Salem boy. I'm not sure if it's sexism or because Salem is a big huge dog, the biggest we've ever had, and calling him boy didn't seem to fit his size.

  3. I'm sexist with the dogs. I call them all baby or puppy, but I also call Hawkeye 'sweetie' and Joey 'handsome.'
    I'm sexist with humans though too and I don't necessarily think it's bad nor do I try to stop myself. Example: john is starting at the fire academy. One girl failed the beginning test thing, she wasn't strong enough. I immediately thought 'yeah, if I was trapped I'd want a guy as big as John coming to save me. Not a girl who may not even weigh as much as me.' Now, I don't think all men are stronger than all women, obvs. But I still stand by my original thought and get why most firefighters are men. Is that even sexist though? or just accepting of biological truths?

  4. So many thoughts here, I could write a post and probably will at some point. I definitely agree that most everyone has some hidden prejudices in them from how they were raised and cultural beliefs. Like you said, they are so ingrained they don't even realize they think that way until it somehow rears its head in an ugly way. I am Korean and grew up in a very white community, so I dealt with a lot of prejudice to blatant racism. Oddly enough, blatant racism is more tolerable because it is rarely a surprise. But friends, family members, people I respect would say stupid, horrible things and that hurt beyond belief. I also discovered that I had some of those same prejudices in me too, which shamed me greatly because I know what it's like to be on the receiving end of those beliefs and having done nothing to deserve them. It was a good wake-up call though. And yes, I've had the same misogynistic tendencies too. I think many women do because that it how we were raised unfortunately.

    1. I would love to read your post on this topic! I know I can't be the only one who keeps discovering inherent negative beliefs that I need to reeducate myself out of.

      One of the worst things we do is meet someone of the race/gender/whatever category from our prejudice, learn that they don't fit it and are awesome, and then decide that that person is an exception and the rest of that race/gender/etc is still what we thought. I know our minds are hard wired to find patterns, which is great as a survival trait, but unfortunately it bites us in the ass now that we're able to use logic and make better decisions, because our brains still want to simplify things into good or bad and life doesn't really work that way.

  5. I had a professor in college who horrified half the room when he said he was racist, sexist, classist, etc. etc. because as a white male, he has inherent prejudices based on the fact that he can only truly know the world through his own experience. I think he was a little heavy-handed with the -ist terms, but I completely see his point and like to think about this every now and then. Some people in the class, I remember, we like OMG WHAT YOU'RE THE WORST but I think they just aren't able to confront their own biases. I think it's important to confront them and assess them often!

  6. Gender identities is such a layered topic, and one that I've examined myself in recent years. I'm still questioning things. For instance, my favorite color - I always say "hot pink". I like the color. I don't know (and at this point in my life, I'm not sure I care) if I like pink because it was ingrained in me as a girl that I should like pink. I'm curious...but I like what I like, and pink it is. And, with our pets, the girls have pink & purple collars; the boys have red & blue. I have noticed this before, thought about it, and decided it's not that big of a deal. But, some would say it is......


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