Sunday, March 15, 2015

Absolute Values

At work earlier this week, the subject of sexism and gender bias in media came up. And as people brought up various studies and papers that they'd heard about, it quickly became apparent that you couldn't please all of the people, all of the time. In fact, there seemed to be enough instances of mutually exclusive thinking on the subject that you couldn't please all of the people at any one time.

The search for clear external markers of internal thoughts and feelings is hampered (made impossible, really) by the fact that thought and action need not be related. In other words, a particular depiction of, in this case, women in media, or audience reactions to certain female characters cannot be mapped 1:1 with a particular attitude towards women, because the attitude being tested for is not a prerequisite for a given depiction or reaction.

Of course, the same goes just as easily for racism, or any other variety of "ism" as it does for sexism. I understand that this leaves room for people to be sloppy, or to deal in bad faith. But those are constant hazards. It's not possible to create an absolute test for unwanted bias. Accepting this may seen like a victory for the bad old days, but it's better than constantly holding people to standards they simply cannot ever reach.

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