The following is a personal reflection on Auckland University of Technology (AUT)’s ‘Diversity, Power and Discrimination (SOSC787)’ paper.
Having born and lived in a rather patriarchal and meritocratic society with high power distance for the majority of my life, I have always accepted that people in positions of power achieved and deserved it. However, the ‘Diversity, Power and Discrimination’ paper widened my perspectives significantly.
Through this paper, I learnt how patriarchal social conditioning reinforces gendered stereotypes and gender inequalities. While there are numerous ways to define one’s gender identity, society tends to view gender via a narrow binary —the reproductive arena. As a result, people who violate traditional masculine or feminine ideals are likely to experience ridicule and disapproval. It saddens me that women of colour often end up amongst the bottom of social hierarchy due to the multidimensionality of marginalisation —who bear the brunt of sexism, racism, and classism. I grew up thinking that women needed to depend on men for security and protection. It is true. Only a man can provide women with protection, FROM OTHER MEN. It is perplexing that in this modern era where creativity, intelligence, and innovation are recognised as leadership attributes — attributes both men and women are equally likely to possess — men are often the ones holding leadership roles —positions of power and prestige. I learnt that meritocracy only rewards people who already possess privilege, and ignores background and systemic factors that deny people of opportunities and affect their ability to live and work. I learnt that poverty and social class inequality are erroneously justified as the result of individuals’ merit and moral worth. I also recognised the problematic nature of mass media, which depict social hierarchies, rigid class systems, and gender binary.
My learning experience was enlightening and invaluable, but terrifying —when I consider how many people still hold the naive and stereotypical views that I once did. Social patterns are not accidents, and social progress would depend on people recognising that something is wrong, that it is a problem, and believing that each person has a personal responsibility to change things for the better. For a long time, I conformed to accepted norms and I never contemplated challenging dominant ideas. This paper has taught me to be critical, and not be a passive bystander. Conversations about discrimination is never easy, and can be distressing. However, this paper presents a glimpse of hope that society can be transformed — culturally, economically, and legally — the same way social conditioning has done for racism and other forms of discrimination.