ARTICLES

Positive Discrimination

Thursday, 07 March 2019

In theory, the Internet is a gender neutral place to be, you can reinvent yourself to be anybody and create a whole different online persona. However, eventually reality catches up with you as you get to know more people and become more engaged. The world we live in demands a gender and age tag associated with everybody as if it's pertinent information to helping people form an idea about you and your personality. Except it rarely helps create an accurate positive impression and often perpetuates more negative stereotypes about that person; it's often incredibly difficult to correct anybodies first impression of you, even if that first impression came from third hand sources. It's a shortcut to making you believe you know a person and often used an excuse to not put in the effort to discover who that person is from the words they write and the actions the perform.

Often, in many news sources and the stories they write about people, the first piece of information they divulge is their name, followed by their age and often an obvious way of identifying their gender. But why? It's interesting to analyze how you react personally to knowing this information, you may start to judge their documented achievements and capabilities coming in the next paragraph of words based on their age and sex. An implied stereotype is perpetuated about a person without the author even having to say a word, relying on a subtext that is subtlety holding your hand, reading between the lines and abusing your already established ideas and expectations of age and sex; it's lazy and sloppy writing, setting you up for a surprise about the unexpected thing that person has done that makes them different and worthy of a news story. It's sets them up to be a novelty, something different and out of the ordinary even though the reality may be the exact opposite of the reported and subjective truth.

Gender identity and age identity are firmly ingrained in our society; we have pre-conceived ideas about age and gender and people tend to apply those expectations and labels to a person the moment they find out those details, and often it can be used as a mechanism for labeling people and placing them in boxes, assigning restrictions to them based on wide sweeping ideas that just aren't true, it's can be seen as a form of oppression; it's often hard to shatter those generalized ideas people have form about these stereotypes, rather than dealing with people on an individual basis and assessing them for the person that's been placed in front of you, not the person you've imagined them to be.

Gender and age identification extend into the virtual world too, even though they don't have to, you don't need this information in order to get to know somebody, you can build meaningful and long term relationships with people without hearing their voice, seeing their picture or ever meeting them in real life; you can be genderless and ageless. Take an example though, you may have followed someone on social media for a long term, not knowing this information, but the moment you find out, can you honestly say you don't start to think of them differently? You may have known them digitally for years, you may know them better beyond the assumed identity norms, even so, your idea about them may immediately shift with no basis in reality about them.

The point I'm swerving wildly into is this, the Internet has a largely unrealized potential for each of us to explore our identities from a neutral perspective, without stereotypes, this potential has largely been ignored (although in the early days of the Internet it was one of the major points of attraction, be anybody you like, creating a new identity, be anonymous if you want to be, which raises other issues, but we'll get to that)

The Internet has the potential to support a system to cast off stereotypes based off first impression based on a physical appearance, it has the potential for everybody to compete on equal footing. This becomes pertinent to those trying to build creative careers such as those in art and photography, to allow people to be judged purely on their output and abilities; you don't need to know anything else apart from how well they do their job, a persons commodity becomes their personality and skill-set. (this idea is largely ignoring those who find out how to game the system,and fix the algorithms to improve popularity by being nothing but popular)

Imagine the online persona you create being your currency, something you build that is unique to you; you do good things your currency improves in value, you start to lie and cheat, your value decreases. Imagine if this happened and how terribly screwed Instagram as a service would be, an immediate and total shift would happen.

This brings me back to the original thought that triggered this article; there is a wide shift in many different industries to promote women into jobs that typically have been male dominated (even though I don't see an effort in the opposite direction to promote men in typically female roles(?) I may be wrong and suffering from confirmation bias); I see lots of books and other articles with similar

titles such as "20 great female photographers" or "female photographers you must follow on Instagram"; this is largely a shift that the world needs, to restore balance, but I question that an method that still highlights gender differences may still be ultimately damaging.

I also start to wonder if we have to create special circumstances for females and their work to stand out, we have to start asking the question, shouldn't we be letting their work, regardless of gender stand on it's own; why does the artist need special treatment to promote their art work and why isn't the art standing and being judged equally against all other output, regardless of gender?

Are we creating an expectation that just because somebody is female, they are going to expect special treatment for the rest of their career, and perhaps indirectly creating the consequence of reducing the quality of work.

I have no doubt the struggle is real, sexism exists in this world, but cannot help but think some common struggles in becoming successful in shared amongst the genders, and has been misidentified as a specific gender related problem. It would be great if a persons talent were the predominant reason somebody was given a special chance, or were promoted rather than intentionally ignoring everybody else, no matter how talented they are.

I would totally love to live in a word where I didn't need to give a shit about anybodies gender, I think that's the true meaning of feminism, which meaning has been bastardized and twisted along the years into something akin the politics and left and right biases with interpretation of it's meaning, and nobody really bothering to look up the definition in a dictionary, it means different things to different people, and really it should mean equality.

I remember a quote (I say quote, I may be paraphrasing) from Ruth Allen Ginsberg on the subject "I don't demand special treatment, I just ask you remove your boot from my neck", wonderful words, concise and explains the problem eloquently.

The world is shifting more and more in this direction, I cannot help but think we are creating an environment of undeserved expectations of success, promoting people who bypassed peer review and hard work because somebody just saw their gender, rather than look at their work and didn't bother to notice it was mediocre at best.

We really do need to correct a gender imbalance, but not sure we're going about it in the right way; it all feels typically superficial and not well thought out, such is the custom of the world we live in these days. Superficiality is king regardless of if that idea is doomed to collapse in the future, or create an even bigger problem.

I am also reminded of racism, an attitude that people possess, those who are the typical victims of racism cannot themselves be racist, racism only working in one direction, the same attitudes also seem to exist in sexism too. Personally, I have a rather negative view on humanity, people will always find superficial reasons to hate other people, and keep them down, once sexism is "solved", I can pretty much guaranteed something else will come along to replace it. People will always find a way to hate on others, to cover up their own inadequacies and insecurities, people love to build themselves up by knocking other people down.