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Lies my culture told me

June 12, 2013

I’m reading a book called, Lies my Teacher told me. One big theme I’m getting out of this book is the concept of insidious isms, like racism and sexism. Compared to 100 years ago, we’ve done away with the gross examples of racism and sexism, well mostly. But the thing that’s widely missed and widely misunderstood is how the whole culture is still flavored heavily with racism and sexism.

That’s what people are missing generally in the discussion of how historical race relations are affecting, say, black teens today. Or how historical sexism is affecting women today. Why there are fewer women in IT, for example. Is a constant influx of extraordinarily subtle messages, subtle because most people don’t even know that they’re there. TV and movies chants at us, “Women should be pretty, women Are good at these things.” The way we teach history chants, “Whites have a proud history, blacks were just stupid slaves we brought over and they’re just starting to grow up…” How do you think that affects a person’s concept of what they’re capable of doing in their life? I always knew I was capable of doing a great deal, because my mother was a pilot, and then a single mom who raised three kids and most of the time made it look fun. That’s one hell of a positive role model for a girl.

Have you ever noticed what’s odd about paper towel commercials? It’s always the mom cleaning up after her husband and kids. It’s the year 2013, and something as common, As every day, Something as basic as a paper towel commercial still tells us that the woman does the cleaning. As a sidenote, it also tells us that men are still incompetent at household chores, but I’m not going into that tangent right now.

Racism, sexism, consumerism, and a whole lot more isms are entrenched. It’s the smog in the air that you don’t smell anymore because it’s been all your life. It may well be getting better of course, the air starts to smell fresher, especially for those who lived a long time. I don’t doubt that. What concerns me is how long it’s taken me, 36 years, to realize that the smog is there, and how much it’s obscuring my vision.

I’m not a racist, I’m not sexist, but my entire upbringing has been flavored by racism and sexism. No I’ve got to start digging through all of my perceptions, all of the ideas I have, and ferret out those that carry the taint of cultural fog.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 12, 2013 6:02 pm

    I like the imagery of “ferreting out” the next layer of sexism and racism. A ferocious, tiny creature with very sharp teeth, ripping away at the smaller morsels the big wolves couldn’t get with their big teeth (the big teeth being the legislature that made the grossest kind of isms illegal.) Little ferret people, worrying the bones of society until they are clean. A very pointy metaphor.

    It is astounding how blind people can be to certain small prejudices. Just yesterday I was told that how my husbands dresses reflects poorly on me. What, because the laundry and his hygiene are my responsibility? This person thought so. I gave not a damn, of course. It didn’t even occur to them it was doubly sexist – that I needed to look after his appearance, and that he was incapable of doing so.

    Examples like that happen every day. I’m with you, fellow ferret.

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