A “Strange Days”/”Google Glass” Like Perspective on Sexism/Gender

Have no fear of robbers or murderers. They are external dangers, petty dangers. We should fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers; vices the real murders. The great dangers are within us. Why worry about what threatens our heads or purses? Let us think instead of what threatens our souls.
Victor Hugo

Note: I normally would have posted this on my side-blog, “Ark of Ideas“, but it’s on hold at the moment. But given that it is about perspective taking (which can be important for being creative) and it has (I think) and interesting idea in it, I put it here (yeah, it’s a stretch ;-)). I am currently working on a 20+ page manual on writing (unfortunately, in German) so despite having a couple ideas for the core postings of this blog, it will take a few days for the next posting.

I recently saw the following tweet that turned out to be meant as a short, general definition of sexism:

“Do men have to put up with this shit? No? Then it’s sexist.”

I think there are at least three things wrong with this definition — and perhaps an interesting way to deal with the issue of perspective taking.

  1. It defines sexism as something that only women have to suffer from, and also (suggests) that it is only done by men.
    Sexism, treating people differently due to their (presumed) sex, is something that affects both men and women.
    Also, treating people differently due to their (presumed) sex also works within the sexes. Women treat other women differently because they are women, and men treat other men differently because they are men.
  2. It defines sexism as something negative (“shit”).
    Sexism can also be a positive discrimination, men and women have their advantages of being, well, men and women.
  3. It assumes that a person can accurately gauge the kind and intensity of the ‘shit’ (and … uh … roses) the other sex has to deal with.
    I think it is very difficult to really experience the world from the perspective on the other sex (for the sake of simplicity I focus on men and women only). I highly doubt that a person is able to accurately gauge how a different group of people (or even a another person) is treated and how it adds up over time. There is the fundamental attribution error (overestimating the influence of the person while seriously underestimating the effect of the situation). Then there is the confirmation bias, people focus on things that confirm their expectations. Then the whole thing of having made different experiences. Perhaps transsexuals (post-op) can gauge it better — biases from previous history aside — but I am skeptical.

But I also wonder whether technology does not give us some interesting opportunities here. After all, one thing technology like Google Glass could enable is seeing the world from the perspective of the wearer — and thus could give people an impression of how it is to be a man or a woman.

All you would need is a person wearing something like Google Glass for a long time. It could give some interesting insights in everyday behavior, once the ‘newness effect’ of Google Glass is gone. Not only for general consumption but also for science. There are already mobile eye trackers available, but this is a very obtrusive research instrument. It draws attention, making the data difficult to interpret. But if Google Glass is becoming standard, you could observe ‘natural’ behavior. Combined with a video analysis software you could do some seriously in-depth analysis. That would make some interesting papers (ethical issues “aside”).

You could even make it more interactive to give people a more in-depth perspective — a bit like the technology in “Strange Days” (in the movie SQUID’s allow people to really experience what another person felt by directly interfacing with the brain). Google Glass would not go that far, but one person could see the video feed in front of his/her eyes in real time (and listen to the audio), while at the same time giving commands to the wearer of the device. With some wearer-training you could essentially act like you were in that body, which would allow a man to see the world as a woman and vice versa. It would not give you the full impression of being that person — even with unobtrusive ‘cybersex’ suits your internal workings would be different, nor would you make the same experiences (as what you experience and take out of situations is dependent on your prior experiences). But it might come closer to experiencing the world — and its reactions to your behaviors — from the perspective of the other sex. Probably far more realistic than any in-game perspective or novel could ever give you — or body suit/styling that is anything but perfect.

Hmm, regarding the body suits, I keep thinking more and more about the cyborg bodies in “Ghost in the Shell” — and what that future would bring. Can you imagine what perspective you could get? What experiences you could make? What stories you could write? You could even bypass the issue completely and create a physical body that has no sex. That would be an interesting perspective.

But even Google Glass might be an interesting experience … and could contribute to the discussion and understanding. After all, I guess (and hope) that few people want to be treated extra-positive or extra-negative just because they are members of a category that was beyond their choosing.

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