07 February 2006

Liberty, Equality, Electronically

Dear readership, I have a confession to make. I am short. No, really. It's true. I've been discussing a phenom, whereby the words I write, both in emails in my various yahoogroups, and here on this blog, seem to impact folks, whereas in my real life, I can talk about some issues until I'm purple, and no one hears me. What does that have to do with being short? I have been told by quite a few people that they picture me as bigger than I am. Apparently, my shadow is larger than I (Peter Pan had the same problem; alas, I know no Wendy to stitch it back on). And stature is related to attention. Small people are assumed to have all kinds of "issues". Thank god I'm not short *and* male; everyone assumes short men have problems with their height. But not only am I short; I'm also getting older. Study after study has proven that older (read: no longer sexually available) women get worse service, less attention, and are generally marginalized within this youth-obsessive culture. The fact, and the fabulousness, of the online world, is that ideas are presented purely, and the reader is forced to take them at their value, without having physical cues or prejudices. You don't know the physical appearance, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religious conviction, or really, anything else about the person who wrote the words. You have to take the words as written, and evaluate them purely on their own merit. And what is it that makes it so that if you can't see me, I must be just like you and you can accept what I say, but if you can, I couldn't possibly be? They say that vision is not a pure sense, that it's the combination of the data the eyes collect merged with what the brain processes. The eyes transmit roughly ten times more data than the brain uses to create the images we see. According to the groundbreaking work of Dr. Bates, most vision malfunctions are a result of either overstress of the eyes, or of mental/emotional impacts. So is it that dismissiveness of truth that happens when the messenger is Not Like Us is a function somehow of how we see them? Could it be that prejudice isn't a social malfunction, but is actually our brain's frantic attempt to throw up another filter against the overwhelming data coming in, to process it by wholesale flinging some of it beyond discussion? Wouldn't it be interesting if, after all these years of fighting for equality, for liberty, for civil rights, if all of those things were finally found in a new age of purely electronic communication?


At 2/07/2006 08:38:00 AM, Blogger SFWriter13 said...

Whatever your stature (and I've never considered you "short"), I have found that you have always been a force to be reckoned with!

I absolutely agree with your assessment. I've been pondering a related point for several weeks now. The equality that comes from semi-anonymous electronic communication is undeniable. In addition to gender and race, I've noticed that, in these forums, the opinions of a 12-year-old can carry as much weight as that of a 40-something professional with a PhD.

This is not necessarily a bad thing.

At 2/07/2006 12:10:00 PM, Anonymous Dana said...

I loved this blog. So, so true. As someone who is severely guilty of having many stereotypes and being judgemental, I could really identify with what you're saying.

And I have to admit that when I first met you I was often struck by the enormity of your words and ideas, such huge stuff and experiences coming from such a wee person. It's also what I love about ya:-)

But your in person words do have impact. I've seen it for myself. I think it's just that when you write, you hear from the people who are touched, and not so much from the people who'd make you turn purple if you were speaking to them in person.

I also think that reading concentrates our focus better than when we are talking to someone. In person we are distracted by the visual in all sorts of ways, and it's easy to interupt and not let the speaker finish his or her point.

The written word is mightier than the sword, aye?


At 2/07/2006 01:02:00 PM, Blogger Isabel said...

Dana's point that the web is a self-sorting space is true; having said that, I'm in a position to say that it's really astounding how much personal appearance affects others' responses.

My weight fluctuates widely depending on %frustration, degree of poverty, weather, and level of health. I wish it didn't, but it has certainly presented a vivid lesson in applied social dynamics. Also, I too am short, so the sizes I mention below are spread out over little height.

In the space of a year, I've been through what I've classified as 3 different "extrinsic attention states" - sizes at which others pay attention to me in different ways:

A State - Absolutely anyone will do absolutely anything for me, as promptly and nicely as possible, regardless of their sex, age, or race -- although men in their early 20's move the fastest. (I'm almost 40, so this is always a bit startling.) This is between dress sizes 8-11.

B State - Young men can only just be bothered to deal with me, but most other people are happy to deal with me as readily as they'd deal with anyone. However, I don't get pulled ahead of anyone. This is size 12-14.

C - Can best be summarized, "Good luck, bitch, nobody cares. Oh, you can't use your right arm? Pardon me, is that my problem?" This starts around size 16 and gets worse going up.

At size 18, people literally don't see me, and will talk to the person behind me in line because their eyes just go right by me. It is EERIE to be so damn big and yet completely invisible! Everyone does this - regardless of age, sex, or - yes - even their own size. Stunning.

I'd love to have a stable, healthy weight, but that's not the point here. The point is I'm going to exactly the same stores, dealing with the same neighborhoods and the same sets of people, and that the color of my hair, eyes, skin, and money is exactly the same all along the way.

I've gone up and down this particular totem pole several times in the past few years (life has been eventful!) and the pattern is relentlessly clear.

H'mm .. maybe I should put that in one of my own blogs. :)

At 2/07/2006 01:04:00 PM, Blogger Isabel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2/07/2006 01:04:00 PM, Blogger Isabel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2/07/2006 09:08:00 PM, Blogger September said...

Laureen, you so are *not* short. Or, if you are, I've never noticed! LOL This was an awesome post, and I have to agree with it, considering what we've been through recently with our son and school. I was literally told by one of his FORMER teachers "all 12 year old boys are the same, you just don't know your child." Ummmm.... yea. what you said. Don't let the door...

At 2/09/2006 05:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your post resonates with me a lot.

First, because as a (average height) late thirties mother who is slightly overweight and has a tendency to frumpiness I feel pretty invisible. It's so demoralizing! Doesn't everyone realize how fascinating I am??? Even when I am actually talking to a new acquaintance I often notice after the conversation that the person hasn't expressed the slightest interest in anything about my life :-(

Second, I often think about the fascinating online personalities that I have gotten to "know" - including you. I am realistic enough to realize that I wouldn't necessarily pick up on the "cool factor" of these people in real life, whether due to their appearance, social style, or whatever.

There's no question that the online world provides us access to a different way of relating - one that I have benefited from a lot.


At 2/18/2006 09:45:00 PM, Blogger Bets said...

Well said - and won't it be interesting whent the time of artificial intelligence is truly upon us - in most every form. As I watch our "youth obssessed" culture of today, I only can hope that we keep our children grounded. Afterall, we are the hope of the next generation, are we not?
No sense resented how are parents said "when I was your age..." because it's true - things back then were different - as they will be tomorrow.



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