Lose-Lose. As Per Usual.

Shaker Radelica sent me this article in the Boston Globe about a study done by researchers at West Point and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, British Columbia, Michigan, and Washington universities, who found that "white males got higher customer satisfaction ratings than women or people of color, whether they were doctors, university bookstore employees, or staffers at a golf course."

I don't know the details of the study, so I can't speak to its methodology or merits, but I did find a couple of things interesting. First, the article's focus on how Obama became president if the findings are true, as if one of the key features of any institutional bias is not exceptionalism. Secondly, this:
Co-author Karl Aquino, who is of Asian descent, said, "What's unsettling about our study is that when women and minorities perform better, they actually get lower performance ratings and are perceived more negatively. And we don't yet really know why. They even judged the overall environment [of the doctor's office, bookstore, or golf course] more negatively."
It's easy to have a bit of a giggle at "we don't yet really know why," since "endemic misogyny and racism" is such an obvious retort—but Aquino's asking a serious question about why it is that misogyny and racism specifically manifest in lower ratings for higher performance. Bias alone doesn't account for that in a readily discernible way, especially when many of the study's participants were women and/or POC reflecting internalized biases.

I suspect the answer lies within a particular aspect of privileging white maleness, which is treating it as "the norm." Our expectations are set by the way white (straight, cis) males do something (doctoring, retail service, caddying, etc.) just because examples of their doing it are ubiquitous. We thus tend to interpret a deviation from that established "norm" as a failure, even when it benefits us.

So if a woman provides a service in a different way—something that would not be remotely improbable, given the vast divergence in male and female socialization around servitude—most people will axiomatically interpret that as less than, because it defies their expectations. Even if they're ultimately served better.

Tangentially, we have expectations of how women and/or POC will behave in various roles, and if they are not sufficiently deferential—that is, if they behave exactly as a white male would in the same situation—most people will axiomatically interpret that as less than, because their expectations have been defied in a different way.

If you're paying attention, that means woman/POC (and, I would argue, identifiably queer men) cannot win. If they do things differently than white men because they are different than white men, they are judged negatively for being different. If they do things the same as white men despite being different than white men, they are judged negatively for not being different.

Lose-lose. Huzzah.

This, btw, is precisely why progressives must be willing to acknowledge differences among people without fear of implying innate inequities—"equal" does not have to mean "the same," nor should it—and why progressives must actively discourage judgment, both of which I've written about previously.

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