What we don’t see

There was a time in my life when I believed that everyone, at their core, was essentially Jamaican.

I probably wouldn’t have said it that way, but that’s what it boiled down to. Growing up in Jamaica, in the dominant majority culture, it was easy too think everyone had the same core beliefs and experiences, because everyone I met, and everyone who was respected, had those beliefs and experiences. So those things are just part off being human and deep down, everyone’s human, right?  So deep down everyone is like me.

The obvious problem was that for years I missed the ways that people were, deep down, not like me. It took me even longer to realize that their experience of the same world I lived in might be different from mine, even if we were right next to each other. I found myself able to rationalize away those experiences as isolated, unreal or unimportant. It turns out, that they were real. One of the major disadvantages of being a member of the majority or dominant is being blind to what others may see, and I was blind, and probably in some ways I still am.

The following headline and quote jumped out at me when I saw it.

Men are treating 2016 as as ‘normal’ election; women aren’t – Five Thirty Eight

To put this year’s gender split into a little more context: Trump’s 7-percentage-point lead among men is about how well George W. Bush did with men in 2000. If we had an average gender gap this year, we’d expect Clinton to carry women by between 5 and 10 points (given how men say they are going to vote). That kind of gap would result in a close race overall, which is exactly what the state of the economy suggests should be occurring.

Instead, Clinton is leading by about 6 or 7 percentage points nationally in the FiveThirtyEight polls-only forecast. Basically, the vote among men looks “normal”; the split among women does not. That is, the historically large gender gap this election is because women are disproportionately favoring one candidate (Clinton) — to an extent we wouldn’t expect them to in a normal election given the “fundamentals.”

It seems that women in this election overwhelmingly see something that says this isn’t just the regular battle between two less than ideal candidates. It also seems that whatever it is that women are seeing, as a group, men aren’t.

Unfortunately, this particular form of dominant culture blindness is not limited to the election. If you are a man reading this, you probably don’t think that women are saying proportionately less in meetings or classes than the men are. You probably think that their views are given equal weight as anyone else who is equally qualified. While stories and statistics say otherwise, it’s not something you’ve ever seen, so it probably doesn’t exist in your spaces.

While it is possible that your office, school, or community may be unusually woman friendly spaces, it is more likely that, as a member of the dominant group, you don’t see the ways in which those spaces aren’t women friendly. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it means you’re a human who happened to be born into the dominant culture.

What it does mean, is that when you hear a story like this one, when the non-dominant culture says something that doesn’t fit with our perception, it’s our responsibility, and our challenge to listen.

And to do something about it.

Photo Credit: paolo bosonin Flickr via Compfight cc


I’d like to introduce my [adjective] wife

Today, my wife and I watched the 2013 United States Presidential Inauguration, and we noticed how much time was given to talking about what Mrs. Obama and their two daughters were wearing, as well as what Mrs. Biden was wearing, yet they didn’t spend any time talking about what the President or Vice President were wearing. It reminds me of how much we communicate that a woman’s value is in her appearance. This post was originally published in August 2011

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting much recently. There’s a very good reason for that. I’ve been getting married! You may have also noticed the blog name change as well. If you haven’t, the blog title is currently Richard Matson-Daley instead of Richard L. Daley. Getting married has brought into the practical world many of the things that were simply theoretical beliefs (like what I’ve believed about the significance of names). This is one of those things.

You’ve probably heard the standard introduction from speakers, pastors and others that goes like “I’d like to introduce my beautiful wife…”. It’s pretty ubiquitous, and (at least in my case) very true. My wife is beautiful. Stunning in fact, and I have no problem saying so. Unfortunately, the ubiquity is what makes that statement problematic.

Recently I happened upon a blog post that led to an article that points out the same thing, that when we meet little girls (like younger than 10) we often compliment them on their appearance. We tell them that they are wearing a really pretty dress, that their hair is beautiful, or simply that they are really cute. And when that is consistently the first thing, and often the only thing we compliment them on, we teach them that the thing that is most important is how they look.

Obviously, little girls are more than that. And I don’t think that anyone who compliments a six-year-old girl on the ribbons in her hair thinks that those ribbons form the entirety of their character. But the ubiquity and primacy of these compliments perpetuate the idea that beauty is a prerequisite for worth, if you are a girl. And if nothing else is said, it implies that beauty is the entirety of a girl’s worth.

And the truth is, beauty isn’t why I’m married. I’m married because my wife is brilliant, she graduated from seminary this year with an almost perfect GPA. I’m married because my wife is caring, she cares about individuals, communities and the world. She works really hard at all she does, and gets an amazing amount done. And there’s a host of other reasons, not just because of her looks. And while I could introduce her as my beautiful wife, she is so much more than that.

So I’d like to introduce you to my brilliant, caring, hard working, capable, godly wife Katie Matson-Daley. Oh, and she happens to be beautiful too.