February 09, 2012

Fighting my own Prejudices

I've been meaning to get these thoughts down for a while, but have hesitated because it's a personal thing that I feel quite guilty about. My problem is that there are certain things to which my brain seems pre-programmed to take the opposite stance to my own beliefs and ideals.

I'm just going to say this straight. I tend to take men more seriously than I take women. And I mean that in an 'initial mental processing' sort of way. It's a terrible thing and I hate it and I have to be aware of this at all times to make sure I consciously check my own thought processes to balance out this bias. And I do. I work hard to make sure I evaluate what everyone says on their own merits, and I work extra hard because I know I can't trust my unconscious mental processing.

Here's another thing I'm struggling with: non-binary gender language and constructs. I have a friend who considers and presently emself* neither as male or female. Those reading this who are unfamiliar with transgender issues might not know that to treat a transgender person with the all the wrong gender language can be very hurtful, to say the least. Check out Trans Media Watch if you want to know more about this. Anyway, this particular person has a biologically female-sexed body (I'm not even sure if I'm wording this right, tell me if I'm not) and my mind struggles massively not to categorise em as such. I know one day, I'm going to refer to em as 'she' by accident and accidentally cause offense, but I can't seem to get it into the unconscious part of my brain. Hopefully, one day.

A further thing, that I think is common among most people is what I'll call an Argument from Idolatry. If you like someone or an organisation, are a fan or fervent supporter, it's so easy to bias your opinions towards them when there is an argument or discussion about something. I guess it's a case of love-tinted glasses. When I'm trying to form an opinion or weight in on a topic of discussion in which my 'idol' has taken a side, I find it so easy to and along to their opinion before stopping myself and studying both sides. I've managed to get to a stage now where I try not to form an opinion immediately if there's a conflict on the internet; instead I'll just wait a little while and see what's being discussed. In doing so, I've found that - on certain topics - I've disagreed with people who I think are generally awesome and mostly right: Phil Plait, Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers to name a few.

Anyway, the point of this blog post (I think), is the importance of being aware of our biases, our privileges and our perspectives. I'm not proud of the fact that the hardwiring of my brain is a bit sexist and harbours a few prejudices, but that's kind of how brains work: they make connections and shortcuts to allow you to think fast and draw up conclusions easily. Knowing this gives me the power to think a little harder, more consciously, and to overcome this in-built deficiency. And hopefully, it makes me less of a douche.

*gender neutral pronoun. construct by using the 3rd person plural and removing the 'th'. Conjugate verbs as you would for he/she/it.

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