Politics & Equality, Writing

The Trouble with Isms

Between the stuff in the new about the “self-proclaimed misogynist” arrest in Romania, comments about autism and criminality, and various other things that have been going on in my real world lately, I’ve been thinking about the trouble with all the isms.

Here’s my conclusion. All the isms are based on the precept that different is bad.

And that’s the trouble. The next step, that’s even worse, is directly linking the negative actions of someone different such that their difference is consider the cause of the negative action. And then, the worst of all, taking that connection and applying it to everyone who’s different in that particular way

Some one with autism is also a troll? Therefore they are a troll because they’re autistic. Therefore autistic people are incapable of having caring and considerate social interactions. I mean, are you f*cking kidding me? that’s absolutely ridiculous.

Women tend to be perceptive to emotions? Therefore they’re perceptive to emotion because of that double X chromosome (dastardly thing, responsible for some many problems). Therefore all women are emotional (and not to be relied upon). [Ignoring the root causes of being emotionally perceptive; societal? cultural? taught because of the way we treat girls? yeah, let’s ignore that and just blame that chromosome.] Are you f*cking kidding me? that’s absolutely ridiculous.

An islamic fundamentalist enacted a terrorist attack? Therefore, they were a terrorist because they were muslim. Therefore we should be suspicious of all muslim people? Again, you got it, are you f*cking kidding me? that’s absolutely ridiculous.

See, those three examples are awful and stupid, but they’re also genuinely held pre-conceptions about massive, huge groups of people who are different.

Different is not bad.

Different is good. Variety is the spice of life. Without differences, there would be no innovation, no progress, no art, no music.

Sure we can put people in boxes, list all their differences and try to make predictions based on generalisations and stereotypes.

Or we can appreciate each person for their merits. Look at their strengths. Don’t label their differences. They’re probably the same thing, but it’s all a matter of perspective.

I am very much aware that I hate to be judged on my differences and far prefer to be judged on my merits. “You do XXX because you’re a woman” is hugely dismissive and belittling (this was literally said to me a few years ago). “You are very organised and I know that working on a project with you will be predictable, timely and productive” is much more personal and specific.

As soon as we start laying expectations on someone according to the ways in which they are different, we are inherently expecting an ism behaviour. If it’s about gender, it’s sexism. If it’s about culture, religion or skin colour, it’s racism. If it’s about generation, it’s ageism. If it’s about neurodiversity or someone physical capacity, it’s ablism.

The same applies to every difference that might be identified and converted to a judgement. Sexual preferences, hair colour, ability to do crosswords, home life, social demographic, education level, whether you wear make up…. what have any of those things got to do with who we are inside. And what does it matter?! Who cares if you have a PhD, wear 4 inch heels and have 2.4 children or if you can’t do sudoku, have an extended close-knit family, no GCSEs and pink hair. Or any combination of any imaginable measurable attributes. It’s a bollocks!

If you’re kind and thoughtful and consider other people’s feelings, you’re the epitome of humanity to me.

(Sidebar: people who state, “I just say what I want and I don’t care what anyone thinks or feels” are the worst. Honesty is good. Honesty without kindness might as well be cruelty. Sorry, that’s way judgier than I’m busy preaching.)

I started writing this post in my head in the shower one morning and it’s gone on a bit of a wander as I try to capture it later. My point is that, going back to the beginning, defining anyone by their most obvious differences is unfair, inaccurate and stupid. So an autistic person behaved as a troll, the two things aren’t linked – don’t use the trolling to reflect back on people with autism and don’t use the autism to excuse the trolling.

Think I’ll stop there. What do you think?

Love from Smell xxx

12 thoughts on “The Trouble with Isms”

  1. Generalizations are awful, especially when they typically have their root in stereotypes and racism (among other -isms). It suits those who wish to cause harm (or excuse their own nasty behaviour) to generalize whole entire groups of people and I hope one day more and more people become aware about how to change this narrative. Very interesting post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I just want to make sure that I’m making the right connection between the misogynist Andrew Tate and autism. Are you talking about the legend that is Greta Thunberg? Because isn’t Andrew Tate the troll in this story? Regardless, if people are making sweeping generalisations based on the actions of one person and applying that to whole category of people, then they’re just ignorant idiots

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a great post Smelly! And I completely agree with you. The worst of it all, is that we are creating a generation that is incapable of critical thinking or empathy, because putting people into categories effectively dismisses them, as you mentioned. And no learning or sharing or discussions happen anymore once that happens. We all are different yes, but we all have ALOT more in common than we think, we just have to be open to realize that.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Generalisation and isms hurt a person and it’s unfair to judge a person based on the societal assumptions. Every person is different and at the same time every person wants to fit in and belong to a community. Unfortunately, judging a person unfairly is a result of comparison. People who travel more know that even in different cultures we can find good and like-minded people.

    Like

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