Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Quick thought: The effect of underrepresentation

One of the more interesting things I've learned recently is that when women represent just one third of a group, men believe they are the majority and are dominating.

I can't help but see how this is an effect of the persistent underrepresentation of women, especially in various forms of media and leadership. The result is that male voices and perspectives become the norm, so when there are just enough female voices (about 34%, as it turns out) it's odd enough to the men in the room that they actually feel like women are dominating. From there, we have some stereotypes and myths which follow like that women talk all the time.

And, of course, under representation is compounded when you take into account other identities such as race, sexual orientation, etc.

Time after time the default person in the media is depicted as a straight, white, able bodied, cis man. As such, we are systematically taught to empathize with these characters. We see them, their stories and their perspectives, as "normal." They are humanized. And, without critically analyzing this lesson, we are at risk of going out into the "real world" and seeing people who don't fit this mold as overbearing, simply because they are also speaking.

It's fascinating. And kinda scary.

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