I’m A Sexist, Raciest, Bigot: Comfronting My Own Biases

Henry A. Murry developed the Thematic Apperception Test during the 1930’s. You may have seen or read about it studying children’s social biases by showing them ambiguous pictures of different scenes and examining how they interpret what is going on in the pictures. Recently, I unknowingly participated in a real life form of this test by projecting my own sexism onto a news headline.

‘She’s getting violent’: Miami doctor suspended after attack on Uber driver was the title of an article published in the Washington Post which caught my eye. The thumbnail showed a women with her leg slightly bend, a rather bland expression on her face, and a male arm reaching into the side frame of the picture. The ambiguity of the photo forced me to interpret it using my own schemas.

Obviously it was a male doctor. He must have gotten suspended for attacking this poor female driver. I wonder if she is okay. Then I watched the video. The women was heavily intoxicated. Surely she was not driving in that state. So, she must have gotten violent with him and he got suspended for defending himself. Do a lot of doctors drive Uber cars? Don’t they make enough money? How would he have time for that?

You may not be as biased as me. It might be clear to you by now that the women was the intoxicated doctor and the driver was the male victim of assault. I’m embarrassed to say how long the video confused me. I was determined the doctor was a male. Before watching the video, based only on the thumbnail, I was sure the female was the victim, despite the title.

We have schemas about everything from certain situations, races, sexes, to professional positions. When I think about all the underlying biases that affect our every thought, my first instinct is to push these associations away; to try to make myself totally unbiased. But we cannot separate these associations from our experience of the world. By attaching certain characteristics to different symbols, we make the world easier to understand. At best, we can make ourselves more aware of our own biases by seeking them out rather than pushing them away.

This experience made me wonder what other biases I hold. So, I googled racial bias test and took the first one that popped up. The debriefing page at the end of the test, which felt more like a brain teaser than anything to do with race, proclaimed me morderately raciest! Well, it found that I had a moderate automatic preference for European American children over African American children.

Immediately I think the test is not accurate. Sure, the test was have been designed by Harvard, but it couldn’t be accurate because I don’t have racial preferences. Then I recall my shock at my own sexist interpretation of the Washington Post article. I would like to rectify these prejudices I hold about the world. How exactly, I’m not certain, but I think having the desire to become less biased and seeking out my own preconceptions is a good start.

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Chewing, Slurping, and Misophonia

I squeeze my hands and press my legs against the bottom of my chair, bracing myself as if preparing for some kind of internal combustion to occur. Holy good mother of god, he still has three pieces of broccoli left. The good news is I am back in class, so as soon as I am done eating, I can excuse myself to study.

Misophonia is the “hatred of sounds”. Eating with others is not only never racking for me because I feel very conscious of how I am eating, but also annoying because the noise of others eating makes me want to punch my fist through a window. Chewing anything, crunchy or otherwise, causes this feeling in the base of my abdomen which is something of a mix between the feeling you get when about to start a race and having just seen a spider on your shoulder. Mix in a little anger and you’ll know how I feel during most meals with my family.

This is not currently a psychiatric disorder. In fact, this article states that it not the chewer’s fault at all, but rather something the annoyed individual must learn to cope with. They suggest exposure therapy. Honestly, sometimes the sounds are more tolerable than others. I’m certain my emotional state effects how I respond to the sound of the mastication of food.

I cannot remember when this started, but I would guess somewhere in middle school. I have a lot of bad memories surrounding food. I wonder if that effects my reaction to eating around others now. 

Most of my memories about meals in my family, aside from when my father was not home, involve tears, and all involve anxiety around the end of the meal. I remember keeping a close eye on my father’s plate, knowing when he was done he would assess whether I could leave the table or not. Then, inevitably, he would demand I eat more while everyone else left the table. I remember feeling trapped. You have to remember that to a child, parents are gods; their word is the end all. There was no way out. 

One particular meal I believe we were eating lima beans along with our usual precooked chicken. The end of the meal arrived and my father tapped my plate, saying I needed to finish my beans. Everyone got up and put their plates in the dishwasher. I started crying. I had developed many methods of cutting up and pushing my food around to make it look like I had eaten. I asked my mother if I’d eaten enough. She couldn’t say yes because that would be going over my father. She begged him to let me get up. 

“She’s just pushing it around her plate!” They started yelling. My mother picked me up for some reason. I clung to her and this upset my father. He wanted me to go to him. I remember him grabbing me while they yelled and I screamed. I was terrified. He was angry and his grip was strong. Mother pulled me back, saying he was scaring me. At that point they were really yelling, so my father sent me outside with my brother and sister.

Eating was okay when my father was not around. From a young age I can remember sneaking food when nobody was looking. This may have been because I didn’t eat at meals. The few times we did visit the doctor growing up, I was always underweight. I wish that was the case now. My mother started giving me some kind of shake drink in the morning to help me gain weight since I wasn’t eating.

Whether my negative memories surrounding meals effects how I perceive eating around anyone now, I cannot be sure. I don’t like eating around others. Often I cannot stand the sound of anyone eating. A more positive perspective on the cause of this supposed misophonia, is that I am simply a creative person. I saw this in the Huffington Post. I’ll have to set aside the fact that I believe there are a multitude of creative paths that I don’t believe can be measured accurately by any one test. It’s a little bit brighter and what I’m going with for now.

The Weddings are Weird and Women are Weak

This past weekend, a friend of my brother’s got married and I attended the wedding. Not only was it surreal to think people so close to my age are getting married, it was bizzare watching the wedding.

Sure, there were tears, the emtions were true, but everyone looked as if they were playing some role in a play. Layers and layers of cultural values, symbols, and traditions came together in a strange, medieval-like theatre.

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These particular friends of my brother’s are particularly religious. The misogyny was pugnant in the air. Phrases like “submit to”, “helper for”, and being “ruled by” a Christian husband were referred to straight from that holy book.

Like many other situations, this wedding reminded me how much I hate women. The bride, while not literally being sold to a man, was being given to him. Yes, yes, he was devoting himself equally to her. ¬†Additionally, the act of the father stating he was “giving away” his daughter enforced the feeling of the women being sold.

Aside from that, I generally hold women in contempt for their purpose as men’s pleasure and baby-making machines. This wedding brought those thoughts to the forefront of my mind.

She was dressed up with hair pinned in a painstakingly complex fashion and dressed in a frilly white gown like a present waiting to be unwrapped. Her dainty figure reflected her purpose as a play thing, and foam orbs on her chest represented her future use as a caregiver.

Women aren’t just for making babies! They are people too. We make our own purpose in life. This is the reaction most would have to these ideas. Today we women can make their own purpose. However, from a biological and evolutionary sense, our purpose is to perpetuate the species. That means using a women’s body. Men are necessary, but not used to the same degree– no, they aren’t being used at all, they are using. And that irks me.

It more than irks me. It makes me want to rip out my ovaries and slice off my breasts. It makes me want to hide from myself even more and dig into my fat.

It isn’t the Stone Age. Women are not forced into lives they don’t want- at least for the most part in the United States. They are still vulnerable to it though. I don’t know how to get over this. I don’t know how to be okay with it and recognize the opportunities I have.