Feminism And Our Unconscious Bias

Feminism and unconscious bias

It’s been a busy week in London with a lot of events around the “Women of the World” festival. A festival that celebrates the power and potential of girls and women and confronts the causes of inequality.

I happened to hear Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, writer and feminist in conversation with Ellah Wakatama Allfrey. Editor and literary critic.

I was at the Royal Festival Hall, seating capacity 2500 to hear them. At a glance, it was a sold-out audience, majority women and Black. Adichie was clearly a rock star amongst Black women, an icon, a role model. I came to hear her take on feminism. This is an area that so many of us men and women find difficult to explain.

Recently I read Deborah Orr’s article on male narcissism and how we, whether in the West or East perpetuate unconscious bias amongst our own. The larger earner is more often the man and inevitably we give that individual more importance in the home. They are given a respect and regard that the lesser earner or the stay at home parent is not given. The man has a sense of self-importance that is fed by the whole family.

I shared this article with a group I was working with in London. One woman slowly raised her hand and said that’s exactly what has happened in her home as she is the main earner while her husband is the stay at home dad. Everyone at home including herself gave her a sense of superiority. She knew she needed to address the unconscious bias that was so prevalent at home for the sake of the next generation. But she was an exception. How many others would think the same if the roles were reversed as is more often the case?

We need to smash and dismantle how we construct masculinity says Adichie. Very valid point.

What would happen if vulnerability is something to be proud of for boys? Do you remember when Gazza cried openly on the football field? That was 1990. At the time, I thought this is a defining moment in the deconstruction of expected male and female behaviour. I had just given birth to my first son. Since then he has two brothers. In my own way, I tried to normalise “difference”. He went to school with his favourite colour gloves on in winter – a beautiful bright pink pair (which I still have despite losing 100’s of other gloves in the preceding winters) and I never discouraged him from openly crying to express his feelings.

My boys and I have cooked together, folded sheets together, cried together and laughed together. We women can have multiplicity within feminism says Adichie. We don’t have to be likeable and we don’t have to have lower expectations from our men and boys. Do we women take responsibility for our actions in creating the next generation of feminists?

Our unconscious biases start at home by the stories we hear, the role models we have and what we are told is “normal” acceptable behaviour. For those of us who are parents it is so very crucial to consciously give the right messages to our daughters and sons so that women are not socialised to reduce themselves and both men and women are true feminists. It can only be a good thing for all of us.

And here’s Deborah Orr’s article. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/27/mans-world-narcissistic-men-girls-inferiority

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