It's not your business.

One of the things that bugs me the most in the world is prejudice, and the shameless "I'm entitled to my opinion" attitude that goes with it. I'm going to go through some of the major prejudices I'm aware of and rant about them.

PREJUDICE AGAINST OTHER GENDERS. This isn't as bad as it used to be in the case of women, but since people are still of the opinion that men and women are different species (see my rant on that), they tend to misunderstand each other all the time. Men are still more promininent and better rewarded in the work force because there is still some social pressure for women to stay at home and raise kids and there are more women who do so. But single women and married women alike are moving into the work force in record numbers, and it isn't in just the female-dominated fields anymore. And yet there are still men who think women are overstepping their bounds when they work or do "boyish" things, that they shouldn't *wear pants*, that their main job on this Earth is to make babies and obey their husbands. Some people use their religion to justify this hatred and oppression.

I think it would be ridiculous to say that all genders can do all the same things . . . but everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and instead of trying to say that "Men are stronger and more logical" or "women are more sympathetic and emotional," we need to remember that as a society we *could not exist* without our variations, and that it is up to us to work together, cheesy as that may sound. Remember also that it goes BOTH ways--there is so much pressure on men to "act like men" sometimes that they are forced into roles and practices they don't agree with, and that's just as bad. Some women go overboard with their attempts to be "strong women" and act as though women should be treated SUPERIOR rather than just equal. Either way, it's abusive and wrong and ultimately bad for our whole species.

In our society, shame and disgust is attached to behaving like the "wrong" gender. Boys are embarrassed if it's suggested that they "throw like a girl," and girls are horrified if someone tells them they're "mannish." This is a big problem. Especially since gender is much more of a continuum than most people acknowledge, and not everybody needs or wants to "be a man" or "be a woman." We're indoctrinated young and told what to expect from ourselves and from each other, and stepping outside those boundaries is frequently met with violent pushback. This leads to most people accepting both their privilege and their restrictions according to gender and reinforcing the status quo. These messages are more destructive than I can even begin to cover in a broad essay, but I think the most important way to get around the messages is to listen to each other and respect each other's experience.

PREJUDICE AGAINST OTHER RACES. "Black people aren't as smart as white people." "White people can't be trusted." "Hispanic people can't keep a job." Oh please. Most people who are prejudiced don't ever make statements as bold as these, but they're prejudiced all the same. If you're a different race than prejudiced people, you're automatically looked at in a different light. If you turn out to be a fantabulous person, they will think of you as an exception to the rule, rather than as proof that there's no rule in the first place. These people see what they want to see based on their own personal experiences or based on how they were raised. And the fact that someone will have ideas about who you are before you even open your mouth bothers me.

Racial prejudice is *ridiculous*--it isn't based on anything logical at all. I can't even think of a good rant about it because I have trouble seeing justification for the other side of the argument. It's that stupid. One of my friends has (more than once) had the experience of telling an online chatting partner that he is black and having them refuse to talk to him anymore based on that! What could be going through these people's minds? "Your skin is THAT color? Oh, screw you then." AHH!! And when racists pretend that they aren't bigots but still want to justify unequal treatment and refuse to see the lack of equality in the first place, they help reinforce it.

Keep in mind there are also "positive prejudices" that are also wrong, like people expecting Asians to be the smart ones. Hey, it might be good for someone's ego to be told his being Chinese makes him more likely to be smarter or that his being black probably means he's better at sports or dancing, BUT IT ISN'T A RULE. Asking your Jewish friend for financial advice because "Jews are good with money" is ultimately insulting. We can laugh at the occasional stereotype and be silly about it, but as soon as it starts to actually warp how you think about other people, it starts to not be very funny anymore. . . .

PREJUDICE AGAINST OTHER SEXUAL ORIENTATIONS. Some people think homosexuality is deviant because it's not as popular as heterosexuality, so they don't understand it and react the way humans do when they don't understand something: attacking, hating, discriminating. Some people believe it's "unnatural" to be anything but heterosexual because heterosexual sex leads to babies, even though most of the people making this argument have no trouble with birth control or recreational, non-vaginal sex between straight sex partners. (Amazing how kid-friendly these folks are when they want to limit others' opportunities!) And still other people believe that God says homosexuality is wrong because of some sentences in the Bible. I'll put aside my other arguments (to the effect of the Bible not being the book of everyone's religion) and say that there is plenty of other stuff in the Bible that isn't recognized for what it is. The Bible condones slavery and subordination of women, and I don't see many Christians out picketing for these causes nowadays, not to mention that the same book of the Bible that outlaws homosexual encounters also outlaws eating shellfish and shaving your damn face.

So, personal discomfort and using the Bible are the two biggest ways homosexuals seem to get the short end of the stick. WHY DO YOU CARE WHAT THEY DO IN BED? I don't ask you and your heterosexual partner what you do in bed to make sure it's legal and not perverted in my personal opinion. Some of you have condemned homosexuals to Hell anyway; if you *really* believe homosexuals are going to Hell, don't you think that's punishment enough without you bothering them in this realm? I know some people might want homosexuals to change, the same way some people want non-Christians to change so that they don't go to Hell, but when I hear "God hates fags! I HOPE YOU BURN IN HELL, SINNER!!!" I somehow fail to believe this is based on love. How compassionate!

Listen, if you believe in the Christian Bible, then you should believe it's up to God to judge those people, and leave them alone yourself. Maybe you can express what you believe but I'm pretty sure they've heard it all before and will thank you for your opinion, then tell you to get the hell out of their houses. Not everyone takes the Bible as undeniable proof that homosexuality is wrong. Most people who are homosexual are not sitting around thinking, "Gee . . . I know having sex with others of my gender is an abomination, but I think I'll do it anyway since it feels so good." Just them acting on their feelings speaks volumes about what they believe is okay.

And just to turn it around a little bit: Being STRAIGHT is not being ANTI-GAY, people. I've met gay people who think if you aren't at least bisexual, you're in denial. Quite a lot of people are only attracted to one sex, and the majority of those are attracted to cross-sex partners. Certainly doesn't mean that's the only way to go; God knows I think what "the majority" does is usually stupid. Just pointing out that heterosexuality seems to be the norm, not a delusional or "less open-minded" state. Thank you.

PREJUDICE BASED ON AGE. Yup, age discrimination! This pretty much happens to all of us, because no matter what age we are, most of us are too young for something and too old for something. For instance, I was born in 1978, so you do the math. Apparently I'm too old to trick-or-treat anymore, and I'm too young to know what I'm talking about. I'm too old for pigtails and too young to be taken seriously in my chosen career. And I'm getting to the age at which people are starting to think there's something wrong with me since I haven't found a husband and popped out any kids.

Since I still like trick-or-treating and wearing pigtails, and since I expect to be treated like I know what I'm talking about and to be taken seriously, and since I have no interest in catching a husband and popping out babies, I am disapproved of from all sides. Why is there this set idea of what is right for people at certain ages? Why do people treat you like you "haven't grown out of" certain interests or "haven't matured" if you're fine with refusing to conform to age-related expectations? When you think of someone who's been on the Earth for nine decades, what do you think of? Certainly not my grandpa, who played doubles tennis into his late eighties and was willing to take a computer class to learn how to navigate the Internet. When you think of someone who's yet to get double digits in their age, what do you think of? Certainly not someone who's going into college, but it's happened. And when very young or very old people "make it" in any field, they're shoved into the limelight and told they've done a very good job for being such an age and still "making it."

On a smaller scale, what about just applying for jobs? When managers are hiring, they're usually looking for a target range. If you're not it . . . bye bye! And older people are sometimes "phased out" of companies even if they've been there the longest, because young people are plentiful, fresh out of college with cool new skills, and cost less to give a salary to. And on an even smaller scale, how about this conversation I once had with a dork? Look how mean I was. This must really bother me. (Full screenname removed to protect the stupid.)

SNOW: hi
SwankiVY2: Hi.
SNOW: how are you?
SwankiVY2: Okay.
SNOW: where are you from?
SwankiVY2: Florida.
SNOW: i see
SNOW: age?
SwankiVY2: Old enough to know better.
SNOW: how 0ld?
SwankiVY2: My business. Not yours after one minute of IMing me.
SNOW: jusy want to know
SNOW: would you tell me how old are you?
SwankiVY2: I don't like telling my age to strangers, and usually if they only want to make sure I'm in a certain age bracket for whatever reason, they leave me alone if I don't tell them.
SwankiVY2: If they're interested in me as a person on the other hand, they continue talking.
SNOW: what do mean?
SwankiVY2: What I mean is, I get a lot of guys who IM me just to make sure I'm not too old for them or too young for them.
SwankiVY2: If I am not cooperative, they usually leave me alone.
SwankiVY2: If they just want to talk and don't care how old I am, they will talk to me without knowing my age.
SNOW: do you want me to leave you alon
SwankiVY2: I only want you to leave me alone if you're hoping to hit on me, honestly.
SwankiVY2: 90% of the people who ask me "age??" first thing end up hitting on me next, so I think it best to screen.
SNOW: ok then bye
SwankiVY2: you did want to hit on me?
SNOW: i did not sorry
SwankiVY2: Why'd you want to know my age?
SNOW: i was just asking you
SwankiVY2: come it was "location? age?" instead of "hi, my name's so and so, how are you? what's your name?"
SNOW: to get to know you better
SwankiVY2: So basically, you skipped the introduction part because you think it's a waste of time? I'm not trying to play psychologist here, just want to know why it's always "a/s/l"...
SNOW: you might be younger than me so i can not talk to you as i talk to a person in my age

[Here I might interject . . . he thinks it's possible that he'd need to adjust his language level so a younger person would understand? Oh my God.]

SwankiVY2: You can't just start talking and figure out from the way I answer how you should talk to me?
SwankiVY2: I know a lot of 12-year-olds who speak better than adults.
SNOW: like you
SwankiVY2: Like me what?
SNOW: do you want to tell me your age?
SwankiVY2: No, I don't.
SNOW: bye
SwankiVY2: Hah . . . I've seen this game before. That's pathetic.
SNOW: ok bye
SwankiVY2: So you don't want to talk to me anymore JUST BECAUSE I won't tell you my age?
SNOW: yes b ye
SwankiVY2: That's sad. Don't worry, I won't bother you again, scrounger.

Grr. For more of my ranting on age discrimination you can read my other rant, Ageism.

PREJUDICE AGAINST OTHER RELIGIONS. If you are completely into your religion and wholeheartedly believe every scrap of it, you are likely to believe that those who DON'T accept it are "wrong" and therefore misled and possibly stupid. Well, remember that everyone understands the world (and probably the idea of God) differently, and that when you say other people's religious beliefs are WRONG, you are saying they don't know how to interpret God as well as you do. Who are you to say that? I encourage all people to fully examine their religious/spiritual beliefs and those of others, but do it respectfully. Feel free to challenge what you think is STUPID about their religion, but attack the beliefs, not the person, and do it constructively. If you'd like to read more on this subject and see some conversations I've had with religious people, go to this rant.

PREJUDICE BASED ON LOOKS. If you're skinny: "Eww, you're anorexic." If you're overweight: "Eww, you're a pig." "You're an Amazon." "You're a midget." "You're a homo." "You're gothic." "You're a hippie." "You're a frat boy." "You're a geek." Some of these "labels" people use with pride, while some people find them insulting. But the fact remains that the way you look causes people to put you in a category--A LOT. People think they can tell what kind of person you are, what your interests are, what your orientation or your religion or your intelligence is by looking at you. And some people try to take advantage of this; no problem. I very much doubt that if you wanted to be seen as a free-spirited nature-loving Earth-friendly hippie type, you would walk into a rainbow gathering wearing a suit and tie. And I very much doubt that if you wanted to join a sorority, you would attend the rush events in grunge wear. But I would be annoyed if one day I happened to wear all black and someone said something condescending about how I must be depressed. Black clothes don't make you emo. Having professionally done hair and manicured nails doesn't make you a prom queen type either. Some people mean to send certain signals with the way they do their hair, what clothes they wear, and other things . . . but other people don't mean to send any signals at all.

And there are plenty aspects of our appearance that we don't control . . . and for which we're frequently judged or even attacked. Sometimes women who dress a certain way or even have certain attributes are told they're slutty or that they deserve sexual attention and ought to appreciate it. Sometimes people who are not normatively attractive are treated like they're not entitled to pursue mates or even get attacked and mocked for being ugly. Sometimes overweight people are looked down upon, shamed, and fed "I'm just worried about your health" mantras even if they're fine the way they are (and it's not anyone else's business). Sometimes effeminate men or masculine women are assumed gay, assumed transgender, or badgered in some way for not being normative. I know we can't always help the visual information we make judgments upon, but interacting without assuming based on stereotypes is the best way to go.

PREJUDICE BASED ON ABILITY/DISABILITY. There are plenty of people out there who consider themselves in one way or another "disabled," but don't define their lives by it. A difference in ability doesn't necessarily mean the people living with the disabilities want to change them. I have talked to deaf people online who don't WANT to join the hearing community, and I had a good friend who was unable to walk but was completely fine with it, didn't wish it were different. These people will often get insulted if you treat them as if they wish they were "normal," just like I get insulted if someone suggests that my being asexual is a disorder. But regardless of whether a blind person wishes to be sighted, it's important to see people with disabilities as PEOPLE, and to not treat them as if you feel sorry for them or help them when they don't ask you to. But you should also not treat a person's disability as if it is something that cannot be mentioned, because that is uncomfortable too. Most well-adjusted people are fine with talking about themselves as long as you are not condescending. And I guess it should go without saying, but don't hire someone for a job because he's disabled because you feel sorry for him. He doesn't want your charity. He wants to pull his weight like anyone else.

Anyway, the main point of this rant is that no one should judge someone else based on bodies or personal choices. If people would just learn not to make premature assumptions and treat each person who comes into their lives as an individual capable of being defined outside of labels and groups, we would all get along much more smoothly.

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Comments from others:

Mikey: I agree with everything said here, I can honestly say that I really don't understand why people find ways to pick apart their fellow man it should not matter of age, sex, religion or color of one's skin or whom they choose to sleep with, I am so in agreement......

Sardonyx: Word! Yes, predjudice of any sort makes me want to rip my hair out and swallow it. Boundaries are a state of mind. I find bisexuality quite beautiful; it's the best of both worlds. (Not that I'm bisexual.) The body's nothing more than the shell that harbors a soul, a puppet pulled by strings of thought and feeling. (I'm not sure if I read that somewhere or if I made it up. :P) People assume that all teenagers' vocabularies consists of "Ohmygod, lyk he's so hawt and lyk he's lyk so not!" and that I do voodoo because I'm dark complexioned and reserved. I say f'k you all, you just need people in categories to make things easier for you. People don't fit into file drawers to sort through and decide which one fits your needs. And I better stop now. Again, good writing. :D

Aleister Christ: My dear, pagan friends. After going through a number of fundamentalist web-sites claiming that Harry Potter, the most exciting fantasy/thriller/teenage series of all time, is satanism dressed shallowly in Anglophilia, it is touching to reach a place where I can get my frustration off my chest. I agree that Pagans do not practice magick in the way Harry and his loved ones do. There is no waving of wands and blue lightning when I perform the Beltine rituals. This predujice, that we are all Death Eater-like murderers and that we participate in violent orgies that would make a vicar tremble, is one that hurts me. I feel discriminated by, among others, my Christian friend, who sees me as a sadistical anarchist. On Sunday I will go with him to Mass, so that I can enlighten frightened church-goers to the wonders of my creed.
Though my chief concern is to critisize the racist attitude most Christians hold against Pagans, Wiccans, Druids and tribal beliefs, I would also like to adress a note to so called Satanists. Your rage against Catholic doctrine and your vandalism in the name of a Christian antagonist, the Shaytan, is more destructive to the cause of "legalisation" of Paganism and Heathenry than helpful. In my country,Norway, during the 90's, there was a great public outcry towards the actions of Varg Vikenes, aka The Count. His church-burning,murders and connections to national-socialistic organizations (Such as Vigrid) made any religious act based on the principles of Asatru, seem anti-christian and nazi-sympathizing. Satanists are twisted and I do not in any way wish to be confused as one of them.
My dear, Pagan friends, do not hate Christians for their predujice. We must tell them that we have a right to our creed and something more than mere arrogant tolerance from their side. To deny religious freedom to the many thousands of us is as fruitless and "Un-Christian" as it is to deny homo-sexuals to live together in holy matrimony.

SinOan: I also have to agree with everything said here. Prejudice and labelling people are things I just donít get and really frustrate the hell outta me. Every person is unique and everyone should be treated according to who they are as an individual. I have come across so many exceptions to the rules that there shouldnít even be any rules about things like this in the first place. I guess thatís the oh-so wonderful human nature in action.

I think everyone should go through the same treatment that Hal Larson did in that film, Shallow Hal - deprogrammed of our preconceptions and prejudices so that we could see people for what they are as a person as opposed to what we normally see with our eyes.

Synesthesia: Prejudice is stupid and outmoded. I find it frustrating that so many people have yet to evolve above it! To do something else besides hold on to outdated notions about people.
It's so... wearing whale bone corsets... It's just so... It makes no sense.
Shouldn't we, in the year 2010 be over this sort of thing and have respect for variation? Shouldn't it be obvious that we're all different and different is good?

Nick: I don't think actual sexism and racism is common any more. Sure there are isolated pockets, but in my experience, if someone acts racist or sexist, they are crucified( rightly so).

swankivy: People to whom these things can't happen tend to assume they aren't happening (or that when we talk about them, they are lesser examples or not "really" racism or sexism). It has to be an actual slap on the butt or calling someone the N word in the office before some will acknowledge sexism and racism are very much alive. It is not just in isolated pockets. Maybe "in my experience" is a very good key phrase for you here.