Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Unseen Sexism

Rather than breaking down the writing of others today I am choosing to breaking down my own unconscious sexism. I recently picked up the book war of the worldviews by Leonard Mlodinow and Deepak Chopra. Partway through the book I read a passage by Mlodinow that I loved and being a good facebooker I of course had to add that to my list of favorite quotations on facebook. Then, of course I also had to add Mlodinow as someone who inspires me to facebook as well. I then thought of a few more people who inspire me and added Neil deGrasse Tyson and David Attenborough.

As I sat thinking to myself "who else can I add" I slowly noticed a pattern in my favorite quotations and inspiring people I had not seen before, namely, they were all men. I had 9 quotations and 6 inspiring people and not one was a woman. I quickly thought to myself well lets add a woman who inspires me... nothing... I couldn't think of one. So I googled and try as I might I couldn't find a woman who inspired me in the same way as the men I had listed.

So I sit with my own unconscious, and previously unknown, sexism staring me square in the face wondering why I can't think of a single woman who inspires me. As I think about it I can list a number of reasons. Perhaps it is just random chance that I picked men as there are only 15 people represented. Or perhaps it is because the people and quotes I have listed generally are all from those in science fields--fields generally dominated by men. At least that is what I would like to think, thereby placing the blame and the sexism on society as a whole rather than on myself. But I truly, and sadly, think there is more to it than that.

I think the real problem comes from within. For some reason I tend to look up to men more than I do to women. Again, the question is why...

Our society raises men to be men and look up to other men, so perhaps that is a part of it. Or it could be biological, I haven't looked at the research but I suppose there could be a biological component where men tend to look to other men for guidance and women to other women.

However, the thing I fear most is that I may just personally have unconscious sexism driving my thoughts. Maybe I do tend to give less credibility to women than I do to men and take them less seriously. I fear this is true while hoping it is not but, regardless, I am glad I discovered this because it is a great chance for change. Now, that I have noticed potential unconscious sexism I can make a conscious effort to change my behavior and look out for potential sexist thinking in my daily life. Whatever the reason for my past choices of quotes and inspiring people I want to make sure that in the future I judge people on the content of their ideas and not for their sex.

Finally, I'll answer how this fits into a blog that discusses poor argumentative techniques. The answer, well it doesn't really. But the closest fit I can give it is that it deals with the issue of framing. By creating an all male list of inspiring people I have framed the issue of inspiration in a sexist way. If someone reads my list and doesn't notice the lack of diversity my framing may unconsciously alter others views on who is inspiring and thus contribute to an already sexist culture.

So you may wonder, am I going to add a woman to my list right now... the answer is no, but only because I don't want to put a woman on the list just for the sake of adding a woman. Instead, I am going to make sure my thinking is a little more open and when I discover my first inspiring woman she'll take her rightful place on my list.

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