We like to consider ourselves open-minded, free of inflexible thinking and open to ideas. And we probably are- in certain areas. In others, we are not.
This is one of the few statements I still feel justified making in the absolute. Every person has biases. It's one of the tougher things to swallow when in the psychology profession- that you have biases and you must recognize them for what they are. Some of those you will be able to curb, others you won't. When you know your bias, you know who not to take on to help as a psychologist, be it in counselling, advocacy, coaching, supervising, or anything else.
The same goes for writers and creators. We all go into the creative process with specific biases we may or may not be aware of. The result of an unchecked bias can be a stereotype instead of a fleshed out character, world, or social situation.
Even our pattern recognition as human beings can illustrate this beautifully: we tend to have trouble differentiating facial features in people belonging to races we haven't been exposed to often. This is not a symptom of racism- simply a symptom of exposure, and it happens to everyone: whites can look alike to asians as much as asians can look alike to whites, and the same goes for any race.
But the moment we are exposed longer to that other race, their faces start to have as distinct and striking differences as those of our own race(s). It's because our brain learns and adds new parameters to our pattern recognition of facial features. The bias of ‘all look similar’ is eliminated.
The same goes for creating and writing a character or a culture you may want but have little exposure on, and this is where the adage ‘write what you know’ comes from. Personally, I'd say ‘learn and then write it’ is better.
For learning about foreign cultures and familiarizing yourself about them, watching/talking to several different people from those cultures is key. Consuming media that is intended for those audiences is a must. Reading literature and other pieces made by people from those cultures as well.
That's how you go from writing, for example, a Greek that dances as always breaking plates and yelling ‘opa!’ to a Greek that dances differently when happy, when in grief, when burdened by troubles (yes, the dance culture in Greece permeates everything and we do have grieving dances). Sometimes they will also break plates and yell ‘opa!’ but only in the right moments. That would eliminate such a bias about the Greek dancing culture (which you probably wouldn't know you have, and justifiably so).
The same method works well when writing a person belonging to different groups to your own. For example, I'm a cis white(ish, depending on who you ask) female. If I want or need to write about a POC, LGBTQ, minority, etc person, I need to talk to, read about, consume media, and read literature made by people in those groups. I need to do that because I know I have biases about these groups simply because of a superficial knowledge of them, some of them probably undetected.
The secret to detecting our biases is to assume we probably have them, and go in with a mind of exploration as we do research, rather than barrel in thinking we know what's what because we have one POC friend or have seen one movie about crazy asians, rich or not.
Have you ever grappled with biases?
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Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Aug. 21, 2021
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