Today is International Women's Day. The theme for 2022 is #BreakTheBias. Working towards a world that is wholly diverse and accepting, where all individual is value and celebrated for their own uniqueness and differences.
In order to write this post, I have had a really long thought... when in my life have I experienced or witnessed bias? And how has it affected me?
As a kid, I remember being called "girlie" for being irked out by worms. That said, in my family, boy or girl, we siblings all learnt the piano, did martial arts, and danced with our parents all the time. My sister and I used to wrestle with my brother, and my brother used to play Barbie with us. The boys in our friendship circle never excluded us from their basketball games and attempts at "BMX" around the neighbourhood. As dangerous as it was, we were also always included in their firecracker shenanigans every Lunar New Year (I had an amazing childhood).
In highschool, our teacher (of another race) called out all Chinese prefects to admit to a wrongdoing that we were innocent of. Needless to say, we were all punished for it. I grew up in a country where racial and religious discrimination are embedded within policies and regulations. But through my childhood, I've had friends of different races, religions, and mother tongues. We've learnt to embrace each other's differences and even had the opportunity to take part in each culture's celebrations. We were also well aware of each culture's nuances, and accommodated to each other out of respect. That said, we could openly discuss them and did not have to tiptoe around each other.
In college, my male friend was balling his eyes out in front of me and another female friend. He had been holding his sorrow in and felt like he had no one to talk to, because apparently boys don't do feelings. Since then, I have known more male friends who are open to talking about their feelings and emotions, and who readily cry at sappy romantic dramas. Times have changed, more males are more open to vulnerability, and it is a slow but great shift.
I've had ex-boyfriends who didn't let me drive their cars. One can only wonder why 🤔. Similar experiences have affected my confidence with cars, but the people around me have been incredibly encouraging. Heck, my mom even made sure I got a motorbike license, even though I don't own a bike.
In uni, I was penalised for not showing up for my presentation, even though I was right there but didn't realise the lecturer was calling out what he thought was the right pronunciation of my name. I also have friends who were given "easier" names. Since then, many have embraced my full Chinese name that I am very proud of, and I have convinced others to embrace and be proud of their given names or the names they have chosen for themselves.
Yes, I've had many other negative experiences (both personal and witnessed), but there were enough positive experiences to counter them. Enough to make me proud to show that I am a Woman and that I can carry my own weight. Enough to make me proud in saying that I am an Asian Woman who speaks fluent English, though in an accent, and admit that I am not brilliant in driving 😜 Enough to give me the confidence to have an open conversation and learn about other people's cultures. Enough to encourage conversations of vulnerability. Enough to give me the courage to spot biases and speak out against them.
"I just don't feel like doing woodwork. It's not because it's a 'manly' thing."
"If sweet drinks are a girl's drinks, how about girls who enjoy whiskey? Is whiskey too 'manly' for them?"
"But why can't you say that I'm Asian? I AM Asian, and I'm proud of it. As long as you weren't saying it in an insensitive, taunting manner, you have all the right to say that I'm Asian. If you were worried of being thought as racist, please, I know you aren't, and you have my full permission to."
"How do I pronounce your name properly?"
So, I count myself lucky. And I hope others were as lucky.
Now, I won't deny it. I have had biased thoughts and have stereotyped. I think we all have. But it's okay as long as we are able to spot these thoughts and acknowledge that they are irrational and baseless, and let them pass. In fact, recognising and analysing them makes us wiser and more human, as opposed to ignoring them and pretending that they had never crossed our minds. We can learn and grow from them instead.
Happy International Women's Day! Let's #BreakTheBias
We may come from different environments and backgrounds, have different strengths and weaknesses. But that's what makes every individual special and important in our own way 💃
Leave a comment to share your experiences and the strengths you have grown from them. I'd love to hear from you too.