Why You Need To Admit Your Unconscious Gender Bias

“I work in Business management.”

“I work with children.”

I can bet you 100 dollars that you had two very distinctive images about who the above statements are coming from.  Let me guess. The former: a man, competent, nice suit, high paying salary, well-educated. The latter: a woman, gentle, bubbly, from a “moderate” background and “nice”. What about her education? Would you guess that she did very well in school? Would you say she’s an intelligent person? Would you consider her a very successful person?

If your answer to those questions are “no”, you’re not the only person. Why is it that? Why would we assume, just based on their line of work, that some would be “more competent” and “more successful”? In psychology, these types of judgments are called “Unconscious bias.”

You might say “Well, most business students do better in school than do most humanities studies students.” That sounds reasonable. But, guess what; that’s simply not true. According to College Board, to-be business students score relatively poorly on their SAT’s. Then what is it? The salary? Actually, people who work in pediatrics or psychotherapy for young children fare well in terms of their income. The level of difficulty those two jobs pose?” I’m sorry, but who decided that working with children is “easier” than doing business management? That’s right, patriarchal ideologies took part in that.

Hendry wrote “The way in which a manager is in control ‘and the situations she is in control of look remarkably like a caricature of a harassed parent, with children crying, dogs barking, the telephone ringing, a delivery arriving, guests due, and a fuse blowing, all at the same time.” In studying management, some scholars have questioned why we don’t call the housewives “managers”, when in fact, most of what they do is, “manage” the household? Why would we consider homemakers, teachers, social workers, and any line of people-facing folks, especially people that deal with people with less power, (with exception to perhaps police, immigration office or lawyers – but even with lawyers, those who defend the less powerful are considered weaker and less successful), anything less than a manager? Surely they all manage?

Qualities and attributes often found in feminine images, (not woman), are generally considered less. “Womanly” values are only for those who are weak. To be gentle, patient, kind, positive, understanding, caring, sensitive and detailed is to “be like a woman,” and to be like a woman is to be weak and less worthy. Why are we so against “feminine” values? Why do we think that “womanly” attributes are somehow lesser?

Yes, the world has come very far from where women weren’t allowed to vote or when women were treated as commodities, (which in some parts of the world, it’s still true), but we still live in a misogynistic society, whether you believe it or not. What’s worse, this hatred for women is so deeply engraved in our minds, that more often than not, we don’t even realize that it’s there. For example, why do we immediately assume that success is an attribute only possessed by, nay, “allowed” for those who are like “men?”

Interestingly enough, even the word “feminist” portrays a woman who is not like a woman. A woman who is strong, independent, assertive, powerful and dominant. But when woman is “like a man”, then she is not those things. She is annoying, a control-freak, manipulative, and yes, even “lesbian.” Why must women who know how to defend and stand up for oneself be considered “like” their male counterparts? A strong woman in this society, then, is robbed of her gender, what forms her identity, and of herself. Solely because she doesn’t conform to the image some have decided for her.

I’m not trying to argue that one gender is better than the other. I’m not trying to argue that certain traits are better than the other. My agenda now isn’t to say everything we’re doing is wrong, that men are wrong and “I hate men.”

But I’m saying that we should at least admit to our own unconscious biases, and admit that we’re not fighting fair. And until we do, I’ll always have to be “just a woman.” Women will always have to just be “women.”

And that’s certainly not the world I want.

Jessica Ye Seul Kim

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