I’m not sure if this is one of my intrinsic biases rearing its ugly head, or if I’m just really that dysfunctional, but either way I should do something about it.
First and foremost folks, we all have biases. Every single one of us. Yup, that includes you; the ultra-woke, self-aware, finger-on-the-pulse, conscientious and comprehensively conscious individual that you are, and I’m not being facetious here, every single one of us has biases and in order to overcome them we’ve got to first accept them, then embrace and attack them.
There are different types of bias. Intrinsic bias is a consequence of biological evolution and common to us all, though it can present in different ways. Intrinsic bias can in fact be used as a tool to broaden our horizons, if properly understood and addressed. Extrinsic biases, things we have been conditioned to believe through external – often social factors, are also pretty much universal, but rather more diverse. Peer pressure is a major cause of extrinsic biases, we adopt cognitive shortcuts that align with our professed beliefs and rob us of our perceptive and interpretive abilities, because we think they’ll help us conform within our chosen subgroup. Confirmation biases are another huge hurdle here – things we may have heard from someone we respect or admire, and then decided they were true, for no reason other than that they fit into and reinforce our current worldview; we then contrive evidence to support them where none actually exists. For example, I may have grown up a poor white kid in the hood, hearing that all Mexicans are gang members, having no prior experience or reason to believe either way I remain neutral, over time I grew to believe that all, or almost all at any rate, Mexicans are in fact gang members because that’s what I saw growing up in a majority hispanic neighborhood plagued by gangs. This happens all the time, just come down to Arizona if you don’t believe me and you’ll see the irrational tension between people who occupy the same geographical and socioeconomic position and are only different on the surface.
Once again folks, we all have biases, that is not and never will be a reason to hate somebody. We should view it as a common enemy to join forces against, a reason to come together in the face of adversity. Intrinsic biases are more pernicious, in my opinion, because they’re not as easily addressed. Extrinsic biases can usually be overcome simply by going out and seeing the real world, traveling or reading books and interacting with people in real life – education and honest investigation can always show a rational person their own cognitive mistakes. Intrinsic biases, on the other hand, affect the very foundation of a person’s worldview and are much more difficult to even identify, let alone combat.
Intrinsic bias is, as I said, a consequence of our biology. Over eons our brains created neural superhighways to assist in new tasks by utilizing generalization. Generalization is often very useful for gross tasks, but when nuance exists and finesse is required it more often than not gets in the way. First off, here is a link with information and tools that are extremely helpful in explaining and identifying intrinsic biases. They aren’t perfect, on taking the tests I found a few examples of why these tools will never beat individual self reflection, but they can be very illuminating and serve as a strong introduction to the subject. Over the course of my life I’ve been tasked with educating many people, youth and adults, some very educated and proficient already and some complete novices, some of them eager to learn new things and some of them decidedly opposed to it. The worst and most ubiquitous barrier I’ve encountered when educating people is intrinsic bias. Often these biases present themselves as a general doubt of anyone who doesn’t fit into one’s in-group; I am a straight white male, intrinsic bias would have me preferring and giving the benefit of the doubt to other straight white males at the expense of everyone else. It’s funny, but my bias is actually kinda reversed – I identify more with people of color and have to work to overcome my distrust or resentment of other white people, just as a consequence of the way I grew up. It’s important to be aware of the fact that intrinsic bias exists in all of us, but that it isn’t some magical force that causes everyone to hate or fear everyone else, it’s just an artefact of evolution, from times when we weren’t always smart enough to fear lions and tigers and bears; it just a preference for people who you identify with, and it can be overcome.
Anyway, I sense that I’m rambling and starting to lose some of you, so I’ll get to the point of this post. Yesterday it dawned on me that I’m kind of an asshole. I am often struck by this realization, and it’s just as surprising and distressing every time, but this time I decided to really examine it, as it usually fades away and I find myself doing the same old thing before I know it. I have always thought of myself as a person who tries to be a good person. I want to be a good person, I know that I have good ideals that I’ve rigorously considered and have always been willing to adjust, and I deeply care about humanity as a whole, but I also know that I tend to sloth and avarice; so as much as I’d like to say I’m a good person, I’ve only ever been able to say that I try to be a good person. One of the many things I’m aware of and try to combat is inequality as a consequence of prejudice, or bias. One of the long-established inequalities in human history is the dominance of men over women. I’ve always been outspoken against misogyny, sexism in general, but I think men have a greater responsibility to be conscious about this due to the fact that over the totality of our history we’ve generally had the privilege to do as we please because we can physically overpower, and thus shutdown, women.
Roughly half of the people that I know, that I ever have and ever will meet, are women. The overwhelming majority of them are awesome people, and every single one of them deserves to be treated as an equal. I make fun of men who expect their women to stay home and cook and clean and be obedient, I feel punched in the gut when I see a woman who supports these things herself. I do my best to be an advocate for humanism, but one of the worst things I do every day is expect those things of my partner.
I used to like cooking food, I’d try new recipes and enthusiastically involve my kids in the planning and preparation of our meals. I would watch food network on Sundays and pine for the newest Kitchen Aid attachment or VitaMix blender. A number of years ago that changed, and since then I have essentially been a grown man-child when it comes to feeding myself. More often than not I would rather forego eating than prepare myself a meal. Even when I’m really hungry and I know it’s affecting me physically, I’ll usually refuse to be responsible. I have a partner who, most of the time, I know will cook for me and clean up after me, but when she is not home I just don’t eat. I don’t know if I could tell you the last time I prepared a meal, I’ll order delivery or take out when we agree in advance that I’m going to be responsible for feeding us, but when she is just late or on an improvised absence I’ll sit and text her about how hungry I am. I’m the same with grocery shopping, I just don’t do it. I give the excuse that it makes me depressed, or gives me anxiety, or that I’m too tired from work, but we both know that’s bullshit. I’ve seen similar behavior at times in my dad, and my brother, and most of my friends.
C’mon fellas, we’re supposed to be better than this! I know we know better, and most of us claim to be opposed to this ridiculous behavior. This is a prime opportunity for every single one of us to demonstrate that we can walk the talk if you will. I’m sick of seeing manly men walk around and act like they’ve done so many great things in their lives, only to go home and treat the women in their homes like lesser beings. I work a lot, my job is physically demanding, and outside of that job I do other time consuming things that I really want to succeed at, but that is no excuse for me to act like an incapable child with an obedient servant.
Thanks for stopping by, folks, I appreciate your time and attention. I hope you are able to see your own weaknesses, whatever they may be, and do the hard work required to overcome them. I don’t ever want to write anything attacking or alienating anybody, but I really do think it’s ridiculous that so many of us men see no problem in acting this way. All I can do is share my own faults with you and hope that it helps you do the same for yourself. Have a good one!