Understanding Implicit Biases
Under the Veil

It’s always easier to take action on an issue that has presented itself so obviously that you would be wrong to ignore its presence. But what about that itch in your bones that is telling you that something’s off,even if you have no idea what it is? There are so many wrongs in the world that happen daily right under our gaze. But because they are implied or ingrained within our culture, we pay no heed to what is happening.

Take for example implicit gender bias. Both men and women are offenders to this problem, as well as victims of it. What this means within the context of this column is the attitude one holds toward another that treats a person differently—whether done so knowingly or otherwise. In other words, men and women are treated differently in relationship to one another as a result of their gender.

For women, this is most often noticed in work-related environments, especially in fields or companies that have been traditionally male-dominated. The language used to describe men and women in positions of power really feeds into the dynamic that is at play.  Men are “natural leaders”whereas women are “bitchy.”Contrastingly, a man who works well in a group might be called a “team player”and a woman would be characterized as “feeble-minded.”These may be extreme examples, but they are certainly not exceptions to the general rule.

Men will see these biases play out in social settings, when they are expected to fulfill the societal expectations of masculinity. If you’re in a group of several men and women, but don’t have enough beds, who would you ask to sleep on the ground first? Chances are, without even thinking, you’ll ask the men to take the discomfort over the women. The bias works in two directions: women might be seen docile, but men are supposed to be hardy and acclimated to rugged ways.

Neither of these examples is all-encompassing. My own biases are exposed in writing about them — I could write about what I have experienced as a woman at great length. However, I know that I certainly do not recognize most instances of gender bias toward males, no matter how I may try to.

Additionally, you’ll notice that this column is written with a focus on the dualistic gender identification system. I have made no earlier mention of people who identify with another gender or none at all. However, many do see the world in an exclusive, two-gender view, and this does leave people under the pressure of the same biases.

These implicit biases are neither limited to gender, nor do they occur when the parties involved are different. They vary from race to socioeconomic status to level of education. They also have to do most with the stereotypes attached to our self-identifiers. The biases that we project onto others also serve to tell a lot about us as individuals.

The more you are able to recognize the biases that you live your life under, you are able to understand the source from they stem. Then, by examining the roots, you can discover how organically they grow, and if necessary, how to cut them out of your life completely. This will help us take more progressive steps, such as toward closing the wage gap, especially in communities of color and among genders.

Tithi Patel is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. Under the Veil appears every other Sunday on thehoya.com.

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