I wish I could tell you that I don’t have biases. But as hard as I have worked, there are still some that sneak out of my subconscious sometimes. I am appalled when I find myself about to tell my grandson not to do something “like a girl.” Like that’s a bad thing.
I was raised in a big family in the 60s and 70s. My older brother played football and got lots of attention for that. My sisters and I excelled in academics (he refused to do the work), and we were VERY involved in clubs and groups. But we didn’t play football. So by college, I was pretty sensitized to the whole “girls can do as well as boys” stuff.
Or so I thought. Recently, I was watching a episodeof the Graham Norton Show with Rachel Weisz. She was about to hit a punching bag (as were the Olympic heavyweight champion and actor Martin Freeman). But before she did that, she noted that she should take off her heels so she wouldn’t “hit like a girl.” I caught it pretty quickly.
Do I think Rachel Weisz has an issue with gender equality? I don’t know her, but I’d guess not. I think she fell victim to built-in bias, those subconscious things we’ve learned along the way that are hidden in our brains, waiting for us to stop paying attention so they can sneak out of our mouths without us thinking about their deeper meaning.
I know that I am working hard with my five-year old twin granddaughters not to chastise them for being “bossy” (OK, you should meet the older twin) and to be clear that they sometimes do bad things instead of saying that they are being “bad girls.”
Our words have power, especially as we raise that next generations of women. We should use that power to ensure that they have what they need to stand in their power and demand equality. Let’s keep them from developing these unconscious biases that I, and perhaps you, sometimes still deal with.