I am Sexist, Ageist, Lookist—and So are You. A Chapter of Kick Me.

[For footnotes, see the PDF version of this file.]

“…CET has a great deal to say about the biasing influence of the experiential system on people’s logical reasoning, which is regarded in CET as a major source of human irrationality…”  Seymour Epstein

As with racism, so with other bigotries.  Prejudice, though pernicious, is absolutely normal and natural—it’s a mental shortcut for deciding how to treat people.  Prejudice is “fast thinking” at its worst, and must be corrected by “slow thinking,” to use (or misuse) Daniel Kahneman’s invaluable model.  I find this model very similar, at least superficially, to Seymour Epstein’s cognitive-experiential model, often referenced here.

Any person who is not WASP (white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) and a male adult of a certain age range is likely to be treated by some of these individuals as though carrying a stigma:

“…in an important sense there is only one complete unblushing male in America:  a young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual Protestant father of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight and height, and a recent record in sports.”  Erving Goffman.

I think that the reality extends even further than Goffman’s useful analysis; in other words, in addition to the “blush-causing” stigmas he mentions, women will be “understood” to be subject to periods of irrationality due to PMS, old people will be “understood” to possess mental and physical feebleness, children will be “understood” to be subject to irrational terrors, and so on, “understandings” which are wrong, nonsensical, or unfair; ugly stereotype after ugly stereotype.  The WASP male adult is tacitly, unconsciously accepted as “normal” or even “ideal,” and everyone else is “defective.”  Everyone’s “fast thinking” is contaminated from childhood, to a degree, by this background of normalcy and stigma.  Most of these “understandings” are shameful and destructive, and individuals vary greatly in the extent to which they either embrace or contest these assumptions by “slow thinking.”  It may be that, by including unconscious tendencies, I am making hash of Goffman’s thesis, but I sense something useful in my extensions.

In addition, it looks like being an introvert also carries this same cultural mini-stigma, which is my take on Susan Cain’s theory in her book, Quiet.  In America, this idiocy extends as well to those who are not American citizens.  Or so my theorizing leads me to conclude.  We all start as bigots, and some of us learn to slow-think better.

I can’t prove these claims; I urge skeptical readers to seek out the books from which I’m drawing (and extending) these thoughts and judge for themselves.

I was implicitly raised as a WASP and have those tendencies and attitudes of which, as with racism, I attempt to rid myself.  Since I cannot claim to have succeeded completely (my “fast thinking” remains and will remain somewhat prejudiced), I chose the title of this chapter.  I still assume, reflexively, that “doctor” is a male, although “my doctor” is female; I still am angered to see that a black person, but not a white person, is a Republican; I am more likely to trust or like someone who is well dressed (but not too well dressed), or is of my generation, or is not obese, and so on, ad nauseam.  If the reader has rid herself of these reflexes, to her I apologize for my mistake.

2 thoughts on “I am Sexist, Ageist, Lookist—and So are You. A Chapter of Kick Me.

  1. Non racists don’t worry about not looking like a racist! Or would a non racist write something like this! And no, you don’t speak for me!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s