Bias Against Our Own Kind

I hear some lawyers say, “I don’t like other lawyers. They’re money hungry and unscrupulous.”

I hear some police officers say, “I can’t stand other cops. The job is the center of their life and identity. Not me.”

I hear some psychologists say, “Psychologists are crazy. I stay away from them in my personal life.”

I hear some teachers say, “Keep me away from other teachers. They’re bossy know-it-all’s.”

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I noticed recently that when someone tells me they have a friend named Candy, I instinctively picture the woman as frivolous and dimwitted. Then I remember that my name is Candy and I wonder what other people are thinking when they hear about me.

Women have told me, “I hate having a female boss. They’re impossible to work for.”

In my job as director of an employee assistance program, I hear lots of complaints about bosses, male as well as female. But I’ve never heard anyone say, “I hate male bosses.”

Women who denigrate “female bosses” don’t realize they’re being sexist. When I tell a woman who’s complaining about her female boss, “It sounds like she’s not a good boss, but that has nothing to do with the fact that she’s a woman,” the complainer looks at me blankly. She doesn’t get it. She feels she’s entitled to insult women because she’s a woman.

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When I was raising my two sons, I often heard women combine a positive stereotype with a negative one. “Boys are much easier to raise than girls,” they’d say. “Girls are moody and difficult.”

Really? And boys aren’t?

I’ll ask them, “Were you difficult?” Sometimes they’ll admit they were. And sometimes they’ll say that they were different from all those other girls.

How do you respond to that type of ignorance?

While I loved raising my two wonderful sons, I grew up in a family of 4 daughters. My mother says we were all a pleasure to raise and she’s surprised when I tell her how some women think it’s harder to raise a girl.

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Is there a difference in boy children and girl children? Yes. But how much of that difference is because individuals are different?

Speaking anecdotally, my boys were more physical and rambunctious than I remember my sisters and I being. My boys kicked in doors while chasing each other, broke lighting fixtures with errant balls, and did a lot of rough-housing. They also spent hours reading Shakespeare, painting landscapes, shaping pottery, and learning the guitar and piano. (Just like me and my sisters.)

My sisters mostly had verbal arguments. We didn’t engage in destroying property the way my sons did in their unintentional exuberance. But my boys were just as verbal as my sisters and I were. (And I guarantee that at least one of my sisters will remind me of all the physical fights we had too.)

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Maybe people think boys are easier to raise because they worry about their daughters more. While I worried about the typical things that parents worry about, my boys were tall and strong, and I knew they were safer walking down the street than I, or my sisters, would be.

But easier to raise? I doubt it.

So why do people express biases against their own kind? I think it might be that when we’ve heard so many negative things about our own group, we assume that people are judging us harshly, based on a stereotype. We want to protest and say, “That may be true for other women, cops, teachers, and lawyers, but not for me. I’m different.”

We all want to be judged as an individual, not as a representative of a stereotyped group.

But when we fall into the trap of joining the outsiders who stereotype us, that’s a shame and a missed opportunity to set the record straight.

When have you caught yourself expressing a bias against your own kind?

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