Perceptions, Reality and Prejudice
As a statistician one of the things that I come up against a lot is the challenge of reconciling what we perceive with what actually is.
Here is a stupid example: if my coworkers are perceiving that we have an increase in the number of customers calling to whine but my data about whining customers shows that there is no change, we have a conflict. The problem often comes down to the fact that as humans our perceptions of things can be biased or affected by a number of issues, if for instance the customers calling are angrier than they used to be, we may perceive that as an increase in the frequency of calls, but in reality it is just an increase in the angriness of the calls, which makes them more memorable to our easily swayed brain matter.
So what does this have to do with prejudice? Am I saying that we only perceive prejudice and that in reality it is not there? That would be a totally assholey thing to say. Not to mention it would be demonstrably wrong based on tons of studies and actual data sets that prove discrimination.
I am saying that there is a substantial challenge for activists and members of groups that experience prejudice in examinging actual prejudice and attempting to seperate it from general asshatery.
Today’s example of perceived prejudice comes from MMORPGs (which I think would be a really interesting place to study the interactions of groups of different makeups in stressful scenarios, if anyone wants to give me a grant or a job doing this, e-mail me.) Ren over at Feministe posted about her experiences playing City of Heroes/Villians (Which I have never played but which sounds totally awesome.) And she said the following:
On teams, no matter who the team leader is, who’s quest/mission/instance it is, sure enough, if it is known that the leader of that team is in RL a woman, nine times out of ten some dude will try to take over and call all the shots and dictate how the whole thing should go. This, my friends, pisses me off big time.
Now this pisses me off big time too in WoW, exept for one small thing, this happens in groups I am in all the time, and I have never been in a group or raid being run by a female toon. It seems like no matter what group I am in or who is in charge some asshat is convinced he can do it better. (Now I think the fact that chicks don’t even bother to run raids or groups on my server may be evidence on its own of the hostile climate for women on the server.)
I’m not saying it isn’t worse for female group leaders, what I am saying is that it is already pretty fucking bad, and so while we might percieve that female leaders get usurped a lot it may be that they get usurped at about the same rate as dudes but that we just notice it more because they are chicks. Mr. I argues the inverse, that males will be nicer to female raid leaders because they would like to plow them. Now personally, I think that is just as sexist (and just as likely to lead to totally ignoring the leader.)
In any case, I’m not trying to prove Ren right or wrong as I don’t know what she’s seen and I don’t have any data or anything to back ANY of this up. Her example just happend to be the most recent example of this kind of thing I came accross.
What I am trying to get to is that when we percieve prejudice it is worth considering our perceptions versus what the reality might be. We could ask ourselves if the asshatery we are currently putting up with is due to our gender, race, size, sexual orientation, or if it could just be because the person(s) we are dealing with desperately needs to see a proctologist to have their head(s) removed from their ass(es). (Maybe the proctologist will tell them to “just lose some weight?”)
The reason I think this is important is because there are plenty of priveleged (i.e. White Males) out there in the world who have a shitty time of it. Their ideas for their boss are ignored, they get passed over for promotions for no apparent reason, people are asshats to them in online video games. So it goes.
If we stand around saying “My boss ignores me because I’m X and he’s an Xist” while other non X people are also being ignored those people are not going to believe our claims. They are going to percieve us as being whiney minorities who see prejudice everywhere and play the victim card. This is especially true when we are dealling with the actions of an individual over the actions of a group.
Sadly it is hardly practical to conduct a double blind experiment and have it peer reviewed every time we think we see some form of prejudice. We know that prejudice exsists, but what we can’t know is the motivation of every individual who treats us like crap. We interpret the behavior of others according to our own lives, biases, motivations and experiences. Our interpretation may be completely at odds with the interpretation of the other party, and both interpretations could, in theory, be completely divorced from the reality of the situation.
I just think that it is interesting to think about.