10:58 am - 04/21/2014

MMMMonday! Personal assumptions.



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Today, in the spirit of (and inspired by) Shakesville's questions of the day: What are some erroneous assumptions people make about you? Why do you think the assumptions are made? Do they bother you? Are those assumptions ever an asset? We'd just like to get some discussion going in comments, so if you're moved to, hop on in!
eavanmoore 21st-Apr-2014 07:41 pm (UTC)
People very often assume that I'm a student and/or five years younger than I actually am. It does bother me, intensely, because it results in patronizing behaviour -- sometimes from people who are younger than I am. It makes me feel like the way I carry myself, the way I look and the way I approach the world aren't 'adult' enough. I've been told that I'll appreciate this later, but I'm not sure that's true. My mother still has brown hair at age 62 and it hasn't been a blessing for her.
nightengalesknd 21st-Apr-2014 10:57 pm (UTC)
I get the "look younger" thing too. I was a high school teacher and the father of one of my students told me he thought I was also a student. In front of his teenaged daughter. That was. . . over a decade ago and I still get disbelief that I'm my age. I've finally stopped getting offered children's menus in restaurants, at least.

I'm 37 and haven't started appreciating it yet. I've considered dying my hair grey, but I figured, if I wouldn't dye my grey hair brown, it would be hypocritical of me to dye my brown hair grey.
skay210 21st-Apr-2014 08:45 pm (UTC)
Opposite to the commenter above, people often assume I'm older than I am. I'm 26, but skipped college and started working in my chosen job field at a very young age, and I've been promoted enough times over the years that now I'm at the level more typical of someone who is 30-35. In my case, at work, it's a good thing because I do think it brings a certain level of "respect" that other people in our company who are my actual age but a lower title do not have.

Also, just kind of a random side story that I think is interesting...last week, I had 2 different people assume very blatantly that I was 1) Jewish, and going to be taking some work off to celebrate Passover, and then later in the week 2) Christian/Catholic, and going to be taking some work off to celebrate Easter. I am neither, and the way in which both of these people assumed outright (vs. just asking) seemed really...anti-PC for this day and age. I was a little uncomfortable with both situations because I am not religious at all, and have some very strong thoughts about why it's not for me, and I usually try and make an effort to not bring it up with other people so that I don't offend anyone else.
nightengalesknd 21st-Apr-2014 09:54 pm (UTC)
1) That I have no disability/can do everything expected of most people (despite my using a cane and stating I have a disability affecting handwriting and other hand use)

2) That, because I have a disability, as guessed by my use of a cane or previously described by me, I can't do things that I can do - sometimes while I am in the middle of doing them. This ranges from folk dance to carrying my own cup of tea to handwriting something short.

3) That I'm straight. I'm an aromantic asexual. However anyone who isn't actively stating they are gay/bi or otherwise non-straight seems assumed to be straight. Ace never seems to occur to them.

3A) That I'm married/have a boyfriend/have kids. Having kids is not actually one of the job requirements of being a pediatrician, but people seem to forget this and ask about my kids or assume I'll have them someday.

4) That I'm Christian. Just because most people around here are, not because of anything I have ever said/done to imply that I am.

5) That I'm vegetarian. Actually I'm Jewish and don't eat pork or shellfish or combine meat and dairy products. So if I don't eat the potato salad with bacon in it and the cheesy chicken bake casserole and ask what's in the dip, I must be vegetarian.

6) That if I'm Jewish, I. . . (observe Chanukah, understand any Hebrew, belong to a temple, was Bat Mizvahed. . . ) None of the above. I do observe Passover, though, and I'm happy to share my enjoyment of it.

7) Probably more, but these are the ones that have been relevant over the past few weeks.

The assumptions can be considered an asset in that passing privilege is a form of privilege, and a lot of them boil down to passing privilege.

But they are such a symptom of how assumptions of the majority experience are made, absent compelling evidence to the contrary, and how stereotyping works once one is realized to be a member of a minority group, that I can't actually think of this as a benefit.
lanalucy 21st-Apr-2014 10:34 pm (UTC)
I'm not familiar with Ace. Can you tell me something about this? Here, or privately, if you prefer. I'm okay with No, too. I'm flexible.
nightengalesknd 21st-Apr-2014 10:53 pm (UTC)
Here works. If we can't talk about sexuality on Vaginapagina. . .although in this case it's not-sexuality. But still also relevant.

Ace is short for asexuality. Probably from the pronunciation - A-sexual starts to sound like Ace-exual. So some asexuals will describe ourselves as Ace. Some people use the playing card as a symbol, especially because it plays with an Ace being a single pip (that is, one without a partner) on the card. Sometimes they use the Ace of Hearts to suggest a person who has romantic attraction and the Ace of Spades to suggest a person who has neither sexual nor romantic attraction.

An asexual person is someone who doesn't experience sexual attraction to other people. Some asexuals have romantic interest and may describe themselves as heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic or with other terms. Some asexuals don't have romantic interest either, so they describe themselves as aromantic.

About 1% of the population was estimated to be asexual by the only reasonably decent study I know about (asking 1000s of people if they have ever been attracted to men, women, both or neither.) Since so few people have heard of asexuality, probably far less than 1% of people SAY they are asexual. It's hard to identify as a thing most people are raised to believe doesn't exist. I think the internet is changing that, slowly.

There's an asexuality community" here on LJ.

AVEN, which is the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, has a nice FAQ here

Edited at 2014-04-21 10:54 pm (UTC)
lanalucy 21st-Apr-2014 11:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

Very interesting. (And I mean that in the literal sense, not the other way.)
shalimar_98 21st-Apr-2014 10:05 pm (UTC)
What are some erroneous assumptions people make about you?
I'm straight, monogamous, Christian, more well-funded than I am, in a hurry to marry/have kids.

Why do you think the assumptions are made?
My work place skews traditional and conservative so of course I must fit that tendency.

Do they bother you? Are those assumptions ever an asset?
At work I just let them have their assumptions. It's safer and leads to less questioning. My social circle gets gently set straight as needed. I belong to a UU church and our congregation has a strong culture of not making assumptions on gender/sexual orientation/economic status so those assumptions happen less there. The non-monogamy thing is still a bit uncommon so that challenges their assumptions but most are pretty accepting.
lanalucy 21st-Apr-2014 10:31 pm (UTC)
The UU churches I've been to have been very welcoming. I enjoy that so much.
lanalucy 21st-Apr-2014 10:30 pm (UTC)
A lot of people assume that my weight means I'm either lazy or eat all the frakking time or both. I've seen the way people's faces change when I go for interviews. On paper, I'm impressive, but I walk in the door, and I can see the 'no' on their faces before I've even sat down.

In the long run, it hasn't bothered me, because I've found something I like better than any job I ever had, so it's good in a way that no interviews ever resulted in job offers. Once employed, I tend to stay long past the point where parting ways would be vastly better for my sanity.

I have a rather severe expression when my face is at rest (actually unless I'm outright smiling, it's hard to decipher my expressions), and I've been told I look angry or sad nearly all the time. People have told me they choose not to approach me to befriend me because they figured I had anger issues. In reality, it's just the way my dad's features look on a girl face. :shrugs:

Sometimes that bothers me, that people choose not to get to know me because I "look angry," so I remind myself that if they didn't want to put forth the effort to get to know me, they probably wouldn't have been much of a friend anyway. Whether or not that's true? I don't know.
shalimar_98 22nd-Apr-2014 01:22 am (UTC)
I'm also overweight and one of the guys m currently seeing is black. Before we went out he'd heard rumors about my interest in a friend of his. When it became obvious it was him not the friend I was interested in he hesitated for a fairly long while because he thought I was "that girl."

I was genuinely confused so I pushed him for an explanation of what he meant. He referenced the trope o overweight wire girl who's only interested in attractive black men.

I actually laughed. Reminded him of what we had I common, what we both were looking for and how well we got along. Told him on his case his skin color was just another fact, (like his height or thinness) and was neither a plus or a minis in explaining my attraction to him.

Was all around a enlightening conversation.
lanalucy 22nd-Apr-2014 01:31 am (UTC)
Someone asked me not too long ago to describe her as if I were at a party and she wasn't in the room. I went through the things I would say to find her easily, and eventually she said, "You're just going to dance around this, aren't you?"

A few more questions revealed that she expected one of the first descriptors to be skin color/race, and I never mentioned it at all. As you say, it's just another fact. It's not relevant to the soul (that sounds kind of hokey, sorry) I'm getting to know. If it were purple skin or something, I might mention it, because hey, purple. lol

I really dislike that assumption - that any person who shows sexual interest in me should be rewarded for deigning to flatter the fatty. >:( Like there's nothing else about me that's interesting. Mrgh.
joshuaorrizonte 21st-Apr-2014 11:36 pm (UTC)
1. That I identify female. Not much to be done about that, as I present very strongly as female even when I'm actively trying not to (I'm FtM trans), but it bugs the shit out of me. There is nothing wrong with being a woman, but that is when you actually are one. Part of the reason I enjoy online interactions so much is that people cannot see the shape of my body - I can present and be read as male, and relatively few people will question it (or tell me to "keep it in the bedroom" which is so much absurd that I don't even know where to begin...)

2. That I'm a teenager because of my acne. Yes I'm aware that my acne is something that people usually grow out of by their mid-twenties. I'm reaching my mid-thirties and I still haven't grown out of it. It's safe to say that I won't, and you can stop commenting on it now.

3. That I'm immature because my secondary hobby is video games. My writing is soundly ignored by these same people who assume that I've got the mind of a ten-year-old (although this works out to my benefit sometimes... for example, the bar at work is set to "idiot" for me by my supervisor, which is massively insulting since I work circles around her - and I'm not exaggerating - but it also means that she's almost constantly "impressed" and when I'm having a Bad Chronic Illness day, I can slow down and I won't be grilled about why).

4. Conversely, and very oddly, that because I show a high level of competence at work, it means that I'm "good at" (insert basic subject here). Example: Math. I work with a lot of numbers and I do it well but don't ask me to do anything mathematical with them without a calculator if I can't count on my fingers. I will trip all over myself if I try. (Also, I'm still trying to "train" my husband not to ask me how to spell words out loud. I cannot do it. I haven't had to use spellcheck once in this comment but if you were to ask me to spell, say "Conversely" out loud, my response would be "No". He's not the only one who does this and I'm starting to wonder if it's just me who has good language skills but can't spell verbally for shit...?)

5. That I'm faking my chronic illnesses and/or can feel better if I just eat better/exercise more/change my perspective. This particular assumption made by people is particularly hurtful and an absolute minefield to try to navigate, so unless anyone wants an explanation about this one, I'll refrain. Suffice it to say that it never works out to my benefit.

Wow, this got rambly. :(
okamikaze 22nd-Apr-2014 12:52 am (UTC)
OT but I've received a perfect or near-perfect score on all standard tests I've ever taken and never use spellcheck, but can't spell for shit out loud. I've always thought it was due to the fact that English isn't my first language, and that in my native language there's no such thing as spelling something out loud. Lol

Edited because I fail on my phone.

Edited at 2014-04-22 12:52 am (UTC)
nightengalesknd 22nd-Apr-2014 12:59 am (UTC)
I have quite strong verbal skills and can't spell, verbally or otherwise.

I used to get angry at people who said "people who read a lot are good spellers. I felt as though the comment implied that my poor spelling was a criticism of my not reading enough, and I wasn't sure how I was supposed to read more - I already read in the car, at the dinner table, in bed and under my desk at school. . .

In my case, I think it's related to my strong verbal skills and weak visual-processing skills. When I read, I hear the words said aloud in my head. I look at them - I mean, I KNOW I have to look at the words to read them - but I don't really notice the letters as individual units, or even words as individual units. To learn to spell a word, I have to make a concerted effort to verbalize the letters in order or memorize a reason why they are in that order.
lanalucy 22nd-Apr-2014 01:42 am (UTC)
I'm sorry you struggle with the first one. It's a tough thing, not to be accepted for what you are. You already know that.

#5. Yes. "It's all in your head." Of course it is, you prat. Thank you for your condescension and dismissal of my daily struggle.

Aimed at other people, not at you you, which hopefully you understood.

The spelling thing - my mother and I talked about this several times, and the reason we spell well, either in written or verbal communication, is because the words are pictures in our heads. When asked to spell, I access the file, so to speak, and get an actual flash of the word. I am a visual person, with both words and numbers. Other people don't have these, I don't know, Rolodex-type files in their heads? There are a few exceptions, but I can pretty much spell anything I've seen at least once, though I have to close my eyes sometimes to see the picture. The human brain is weird.
nightchild01 22nd-Apr-2014 04:11 am (UTC)
I get you on issue one. I'm short, hourglass shaped, FAAB, and have long hair (though I still got read as feminine when I had a "boy cut" so eh). Wearing masculine clothes doesn't help. Not sure if binding my chest would, either. It's so frustrating.
sarahmarie02 22nd-Apr-2014 12:15 am (UTC)
People assume I'm younger than I actually am. I'll be 30 in a few months and regularly get mistaken for being in my early 20s. I hated looking younger when I was growing up, now it kind of amuses me.

Along the same lines, people assume that I'm sweet and innocent. There was a point in my life that I definitely saw this as an asset and actively played up the sweet and innocent thing. I could get away with a lot. I get it a little less these days, but it still happens. It sometimes bothers me, but it's also sometimes fun to shock people.

People assume all sorts of things when they find out that I live with my parents and don't have a job. The truth--that I'm on disability for mental illness--usually brings a whole new set of assumptions.


Edited at 2014-04-22 12:15 am (UTC)
shalimar_98 22nd-Apr-2014 01:17 am (UTC)
Something abouty expression makes it so I get the "sweet and innocent" thing regularly. So much so that for a girls night (was our tradition for birthdays to get smart ass pins) they handed me the "I only LOOK sweet and innocent" pin.

Was interesting when I started working in a factory as the guys tiptoed around me for weeks because I'm female and read as sweet/innocent. Luckily they got past that and started treating me more as a person. Or in a few cases "like one of the guys."

They still try to shock me but nowadays I'm pretty unflappable so that severely lessens their amusement.
nightchild01 22nd-Apr-2014 04:09 am (UTC)
What are some erroneous assumptions people make about you?
People assume I'm a cishet woman when I'm a genderqueer FAAB, pan person. Also that I'm whatever religion they are, especially if they're Christian and I've gone to church with my dad to keep him company, despite the fact I always wear a visible symbol of my faith. Also that I'm younger than I am.

Why do you think the assumptions are made?
Because I have classic length (bottom of my butt) hair, even though I usually wear men's clothes (I think I'd read feminine to people even if I had a binder), am married to a cishet man, and I don't correct people on my faith unless they ask. I do correct honorifics but my pronouns are feminine so it lets them assume. I'm short and have a baby face.

Do they bother you?
Usually.

Are those assumptions ever an asset?
Sometimes. Sometimes it's safer/easier to let people make their own assumptions about me than to be fully open with every person I meet. I'm not old enough (27) to have had people finding me 5+ years younger than I am an asset.

Edited at 2014-04-22 04:13 am (UTC)
madamevoilanska 22nd-Apr-2014 04:22 am (UTC)
Assumption: That I'm younger than I am. That I'm a virgin.

Why: Mostly appearance (rosy cheeks, round face, bobbed curly hair), but also I don't drink or swear very much and I don't talk freely about sex to people I don't know very well. I don't like to share details about my sex life, which is (by choice) pretty quiet. I've never had a problem going without sex; I don't consider myself asexual, but somebody has to be extremely special for me to even consider sleeping with them. And discussing sex in public makes me feel self-conscious about my experience.

Do they bother me? Sometimes. I was in a production of Carmen in January and the director looked at me on the first day and said, "You're a GOOD GIRL, aren't you?" That made me angry. Why should it be anybody's business if I am a good girl? And what does that even mean?

Are they ever an asset? Absolutely. I find that when you don't use profanity or make sexual comments all the time, when you actually do swear or come up with a great innuendo, it has a bigger impact.

Edited at 2014-04-22 04:24 am (UTC)
zedrobber 22nd-Apr-2014 01:06 pm (UTC)
People assume that I am a lesbian, when I'm pansexual, and assumed I was straight in my last relationship. They assume my sex life is 'boring'/'bad'. They assume I identify as female, when I'm genderqueer.

why? Well- I'm in a relationship with a girl, and people here seem incapable of understanding the concept of being bisexual/pansexual. I'm not gay or straight based on who I'm with.
I'm fat, and people seem to think that this means I don't somehow 'deserve' to have a 'good' sex life. ('good' being subjective as to whatever you deem as being good for you, of course).
And I have long hair and a girl's name, so despite wearing 'men's' clothing and generally being fairly androgynous in my clothing choices, I get seen as female.

It doesn't bother me as much as it used to; after all I'm in a stable relationship of my choosing and it has nothing to do with anyone else how I live life; however I do resent being completely misread so often XD
stothyra 22nd-Apr-2014 01:13 pm (UTC)
The main assumption is that I'm younger than I am, because I look younger than I am. It's extremely irritating when men are hitting on me and the only thing I have to do to get them to stop is to tell them that I'm actually legal. The other problem I have with it comes down to the getting a job bit. Apparently I look too young to be old enough to even drive, nevertheless work at some of the places I've been applying to.

Edited at 2014-04-22 01:15 pm (UTC)
ginny587 22nd-Apr-2014 01:40 pm (UTC)
Assumption: Because I'm underweight, I am trying very hard to maintain an unrealistic body image and need help realizing that I just don't look attractive or healthy being rail thin. Reality: my metabolism is too fast for me to keep up with.
It's quite common in many areas for excessive thinness to be bashed in favor of larger, curvier types and the assumption seems to be that the unintentionally thin don't have any confidence issues and don't mind being constantly put down. I have had people put more food on my plate, question my eating and exercise habits, a friend even once held up a piece of clothing in my size while shopping and loudly proclaimed that "this clothing's existence promotes completely unrealistic body ideals and shouldn't exist."
Yes, media does skew healthy body ideals. Dieting and losing weight are a huge part of magazines aimed at women and there is a serious photoshop problem. Hurtful comments are also, I'm assuming, part of life for those who are at the other end of the spectrum. It just seems to be frequently overlooked and ignored that these kinds of comments and actions can be hurtful for those of us labeled as "too thin."
neumeindil 22nd-Apr-2014 04:58 pm (UTC)
What are some erroneous assumptions people make about you?
Outside of this immediate area, people tend to assume that I'm a lesbian based on how I dress (jeans, hoodie, ponytail), where I work (technical theater, so covered in construction mess at any moment), my hobbies (dog rescue, hiking), and how I deal with difficult people (quietly but sternly and with direct, powerful body language).

In our home town, it's assumed that I'm a mother, or want to be, or that I should be upset that I'm not and can't be; that I'm whatever political or religious affiliation they hold. (The racists assume I'm also racist because I'm white. The Protestants assume I'm also Protestant, because I'm white, etc.) It's also often assumed that I'm less intelligent or less educated than I am because I'm a sales associate instead of something that requires a skirt and heels.

Why do you think the assumptions are made?
People here, at least, aren't exposed to a lot of wider or worldly experiences, which makes it hard to understand that the entire world isn't just like you.

The population here is quite outwardly homogenous and therefore, assumptions that the person you're talking to is straight and Christian and (if outwardly female) a mother are (outwardly) correct much of the time. People seem to think in binaries with very little recognizable gray area. And regarding education, college is a pie in the sky dream for most of the population, and the myth that all you need is that BA or BS to make sure you avoid a crummy minimum-wage retail job is believed like gospel. A lot of my neighbors simply can't fathom someone who "went to a fancy school" standing behind a cash register and on SNAP, and won't believe it because then, they have no guarantee that their sacrifices for their own childrens' educations will be worth the suffering.

Do they bother you?
Some, yes. I find it troubling that someone would assume I'd join them in running down another ethnicity or race "for fun" or "to be funny". I'm saddened that so many of us are so close to the line between "poor but living like humans" and "too poor to care any more". I'm angry about the tinges of misogyny in the things I hear every day. (If nothing else, ffs I'm 32 years old. Stop fucking calling me "such a good girl". I only say that to dogs!)

Are those assumptions ever an asset?
Only when my choices are to be honest or to pretend to be stupid/ignorant (in the uneducated sense of the word) and let the bully on the other side of the counter leave without the rush of knowing they've upset someone intentionally. Simply acting like I don't get their meanness makes them the angry one in the situation, which only seems fair. (The US retail system is, put succinctly, abusive, and designed to maintain the status quo. I think we see a different side of people when we're presented as powerless, worthless, or servile than we do if we treat them as equals.)
dkwgdk 24th-Apr-2014 01:53 am (UTC)
People assume that I am married and have children, because most women my age (and in my peer group) are married and have kids. I live in a mid-sized city in the South, but when I go home to the Northeast the assumption about marriage and kids is less pronounced. Those who know I'm not married now often assume I am divorced. Again, I think it has to do with how many women are married and divorced -- it's statistically likely that I'm NOT single.

People also assume I'm Christian, which again has to do with statistical likelihood. Most folks haven't ever met an atheist. (I also avoid 'outing' myself as an atheist because, again, the South. People want you to be Christian, even if it's "only" Unitarian.) It's been suggested to me that I have depression because I'm an atheist. ("If you just prayed more / believed in something / etc. you wouldn't be depressed.")

The best thing that has happened to me as I've gotten older is that I give much less of a damn about what other people think.
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