“Women Can Be Doctors Too, Rob”

2dRqaDMIn case you are tempted to think that I get this male-privilege stuff right all the time, believe me, I don’t.

Allow me a short story to illustrate:

This weekend I was talking with two friends of mine about their doctor, and how they had been sternly warned to wear sunscreen in order to avoid skin cancer.

My friend said, “Yeah, and Dr. So and So was all over us about it.”

I replied, “Wow, he was serious then.”

Pause.

Same friend says, “Wait a second, our doctor is a woman.”

At which point my other friend says, “Um, women can be doctors too, Rob.”

Doh.

I’ve blogged before about being a work in progress, and this short story illustrates that point again. The fact that this interaction came on the heels of two hard weeks of working on my doctoral program in inter-gender partnership in mission? All the more embarrassing.

Simply put, we’re all indoctrinated by a culture marked by male privilege. So much so that we only notice it when we choose to, or when someone points it out.

Which is exactly what Nicolas Kristoff did in his column from yesterday. In the piece, Kristof starts with the same study on hurricanes that I blogged about last week (great minds…), and from there he engages the sexism that lurks below the surface in our culture. Here’s a particularly rich quote:

We often assume that racism or sexism is primarily about in-your-face bigots or misogynists, but research in the last couple of decades — capped by this hurricane study — shows that the larger problem is unconscious bias even among well-meaning, enlightened people who embrace principles of equality.

This affects the candidates we vote for, the employees we hire, the people we do business with. I suspect unconscious bias has been far more of a factor for President Obama than overt racism and will also be a challenge for Hillary Rodham Clinton if she runs for president again.

“It’s a mistake to assume that gender bias is only or mainly about misogynists,” said Susan Fiske, a psychology professor at Princeton University and the editor of the hurricane study. “Much gender bias is more automatic, ambiguous and ambivalent than people typically assume.

Something tells me that I will never be over Tertullian’s influence. After all, when you’ve been breathing bad air for 42 years, it has cumulative effect.

So recovery is a step by step process.

One that happens one conversation at a time.

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