Stigma, bias, preconceptions, constructs, prejudices, call them what you will, but they hurt or more like annoy.

They vitiate the way we see things.  They distort the way we see people and therefore affect the kind of relationship we might build with them.

“But how, you have a partner? I always saw you with short hair, full of girlfriends, and I always thought you were a lesbian.”

“Eh yes, I saw that you were posting pictures of your cat and I thought you were one of those catty spinsters who channel their affections and shortcomings onto animals.”

My God, I feel sick.

So: if you wear your hair short because you don’t like to see hair around the house, even less in the bathroom or on bathroom fixtures. Because you think you have a pretty face that stands out more with a French cut than with long, shiny hair. Or simply because “it’s my business,” to quote someone, then you are a lesbian?

Oh Gosh, evolve. Go beyond that. Get past the stereotypes. And in the end anyway, so what if? 

You can love animals deeply without being extremist. In my case, animals filled many of my lonelinesses and, indirectly, were the cause of them. I happened to post pictures of my cats, maybe in strange poses, because I thought they were funny. So to understand: you post a picture of your cat and you are automatically without a shred of a man (or woman…. Should you also have short hair), with a house full of cats and hair?

Oh Gosh evolve.

If you are a mom who works full time, in the mom world you are not a good mom. Or rather, you look around and risk feeling that way, because moms with school-age children with full-time jobs can be counted on the fingers of one hand. And even fewer among them are those who have no help: those who work full time have grandparents on the go ready to go. It doesn’t matter how much you give up, how much you jump through, how much effort you put in. You will always be a white fly among those who “I quit my job to follow my children.” “I have a degree in applied petrochemical engineering techniques, but I decided to switch to teaching to manage the family. Specifically, I teach English in middle school.” So what? If you then happen to have to do some traveling, well that’s it. That’s the end of it. Social services are just around the corner. 

And in all of this the institutions don’t help: with schools of all grades ending the day at 4 p.m. when it’s good, and with services being interrupted for 3 months during the summer. In short: good moms are only allowed part-time work. All others are a disgrace. Here is the mom-bias.

Finally, how can we not mention mental health-related biases? If in the middle of your life’s walk, you happen to find that you need the help of an expert to solve issues, which alone you can’t cope with and they only sink you, sink you, and slow you down. If you happened to “fall” for a moment, not being able to find yourself again.  If you found the courage to embark on a path to help you resolve the unresolved, you would remain in the eyes of many a “mentally ill,” a fragile, unreliable person. Not a person who has gained awareness as well as the tools to deal with situations that would have sunk others.  

Think what life must be like for a working mom who loves cats, wears her hair short and has gone through psychotherapy. How can she find the courage to leave the house?

I fear then that those listed are only a small part of the preconceptions we are so good at constructing.

Why is it so difficult? Why can’t we open ourselves to new horizons without applying labels? Why do we always feel this strong need to label, frame, position. Could we not look at people for who they are in their essence? Perhaps always because of that need for security that distinguishes humans, that fear of the unknown that holds back discovery. But how beautiful would the world be if we lived without fear and without constructs? But how beautiful would freedom be?

Speaking of freedom and lightness, this song comes to mind:

It amuses me to think about what bias such a proposal might trigger in readers’ heads!

By Cinzia Costi

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