Just Past the Horizon: Neutrality
This month I saw a few links and conversations that seem to miss a basic fact of human society when the subjects of gender, race and sexual orientation are brought up, so I’m going to state this sentance in all caps on the front page just to make sure everyone has it perfectly clear:
THERE IS NO NEUTRAL ZONE WHEN IT COMES TO IDENTITY.
It’s the way human society is set up. Sex–the physical characteristics–isn’t really a binary, but gender–the social construct–is an either-or deal. We’re taught from birth via stories and songs and interaction with relatives (and really, no matter how neutral you try to raise your kids odds are you have some relative who fucks things up somehow, or the neighbors introduce traditiuonal gender types) that girls are this way and guys are this way. This is something that affects our lives from very young ages, affects how we see ourselves and how others see us. When discussing social interaction of any sort, gender is an angle that’s always open for discussion. Always. Because it has an effect more times than it doesn’t. It’s part of our lives, whether we’re male or female.
While I’m at, guess what else we’re taught about at a very early age? Race. You know why? Because guess what everybody gets categorized into somehow. Guess what everybody sees the effect of in stories and interactions with other people. Our society is still set up for race to have a factor. That’s because we’re multicultural, and we’re making our way through generations of setting the value of one of those cultures above the others. There are people who are consciously aware of race, and people who aren’t, but the messages of our culture–told in stereotypes in the media and in “common knowledge” from our elders–are affecting how we deal with each other. This goes even if you have people of the same race interacting, because the chance that the conversation would be different if it was one white person and one Asian person rather than two white people makes race a factor in how they interact.
So when discussing social interaction of any kind, race should be open for consideration. No one should get eyes rolled at them just for bringing a subject that has such a major impact on their life to the table.
Class, sexual orientation, nationality… All of these are things everyone has! All of these are things that cultures place value on, things we get fed stereotyped messages about constantly, things that are the very building blocks of our identities. These are things people take into account when we look at first impressions. These are things that affect how people interact with each other.
And yeah, it happens in different levels and there’s circumstances where things would happen the same way anyway but there’s a lot of circumstances where they don’t. We might end up dismissing it as a notable factor. But it’s an natural thought, and odds are even when the primary reason has nothing to do with the demographics of the players, the identities of the people involved are still a secondary or tertiary reason. And really, if we’re trying to get past snap judgments and prejudiced behavior we have to entertain the possibility that it might be affecting how we deal with each other. We have to at least fucking talk about it.