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18 May 2007

What form of discrimination, if any, have you been exposed to? [More:]

I know I ask a lot of silly questions, but I was sitting here (still awake) thinking how easy it is for me to talk on this forum, while on another forum, I feel restricted to reveal my true self, and I was wondering how many of you have experienced it in your own lives.

My own experience has of course been the garden variety—you’re a terrorist, muslim, backward, sub-human creature variety, and until a few weeks ago, I would’ve faught tooth and nail with the proponent of such ideas—but now, I kind of laugh at people who think like this, and don’t feel the need to invest my energies in battling them so whole-heartedly, or viciously.

Come to think of it, I wasn’t so enlightened myself until a few years ago, post 9/11.
People hate me because I'm beautiful :-P
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 18 May | 19:49
I get it pretty easy - what with being a white middle class male and all. I get a bit of grief from the young Pakistani lads in my and surrounding areas but nothing that I can't cope with. Plus i get a few funny looks when out with the g/f. But that's it.

In fact any "discrimination" I get tends to be from people who mistake my natural curiosity and slovenly appearance as stupidity. But I love it when people think I'm stupid.
posted by seanyboy 18 May | 19:50
I can really only think of one thing that was overt. Back 8 or 9 years ago I got a regular DJ gig at a local bar. The bartender, who had organized a goth/industrial night, hired me. On my first night I got there maybe an hour before I was set to start, wanting some time to get used to the equipment (it's standard in Buffalo for venues to have their own gear). Bartender's there, we're chatting, my then boyfriend is sitting at the bar. I'm messing around with the decks and adjusting the levels to my liking.

Owner walks in, walks over to my boyfriend, and says "hey, you must be the new DJ! Nice to meet you!" He laughs and says "no, just the entourage, the DJ would be the one in the booth right now."
(at this point I take off my headphones, see him and say hi)
Owner looks over, sees me, looks at the bartender and says "you hired a GIRL?!" and walks out.
Lousy jerk made a shitload of money because of me, too.

Other than the occasional odd glances because I work in IT[1], that's pretty much the only thing I can think of.[2]

[1]those could also be because I'm prone to wearing dresses and skirts every day, or because my hair is absurdly red, though, so I don't really put any stock in them.

[2]Intentionally ignoring all the shit I got in college when I was so absurdly over the top goth every day that I would look like I'd stepped out of the Atrocities catalog just to go to World Civ. Since, well, duh.
posted by kellydamnit 18 May | 19:58
When my partner and I first started looking for a house to buy, we had a real estate agent who, as soon as he realized we were a couple, told us there were no houses available in the neighborhood we wanted (where he also lived). Even though there were a couple of houses with "For Sale" signs out front! He told us those were "already under contract," and refused to even show us the inside of them.

We got a different agent (actually a husband-and-wife team, who treated us great) and found ourselves a house in the neighborhood we wanted, where we still live today.
posted by BoringPostcards 18 May | 20:12
(I truly don't understand salespeople who dicsriminate. Morality aside, your money spends, right?)
posted by jonmc 18 May | 20:22
For being gay (or appearing to be gay) I've experienced a few cases of overt "discrimination," but nothing too major. I've had beer bottles thrown at me out of moving cars, been threatened by a carful of teenagers looking for trouble, been told to "get back in the closet" during a gay pride parade, been spit at and called "faggot" by random thugs. Although my partner and I live in San Francisco, we'd never consider holding hands in the part of town we live in, for fear of making ourselves targets.

I guess one could also talk about a "soft discrimination" of growing up gay in a hostile religious environment, and the internalized homophobia that results from that. My partner and I also can't get a lot the benefits that a heterosexual married couple would get.

At the same time, I realize how much better off we have it here than elsewhere, so, in the big-picture-view, I actually feel extraordinarily fortunate. And, thankfully, I've never been denied a job, housing, education, etc., for being gay.
posted by treepour 18 May | 20:33
When I was born, the doctor came out to tell my father the news (this was in a litle college town in Wisconsin, back in the days when dads were most certainly not allowed in delivery rooms). The exchange, according to my father, went like this:

Doc: "Mr. Cody, I'm very sorry."

Dad: "OH MY GOD!!!!! WHAT?! MY BABY?!?!?!? MY WIFE?!?! ARE THEY DEAD????"

Doc: "No, no. Your wife's fine. Your baby's fine. It's just that it's another girl. I'm very sorry. You'll have to try again."

True story.
posted by scody 18 May | 21:07
Hmm ... as a young woman I experienced sexual harassment on the street(s).

As a law student/lawyer, I experienced some discrimination on the basis of having a mental health condition (even though that's incredibly common). There used to be questions on the "moral character" questionnaire about any MH history. (There are still some questions, but much more narrowly drafted, about whether the person currently has a condition that would interfere with practicing law ... )

I've had some crazy NIMBY stuff for having two non-white foster teenagers. (I live in the Castro, which is not really used to teenagers.)
posted by Claudia_SF 18 May | 21:49
I experienced a little bit of "invisible white guy" syndrome when I was living in Oakland, but only a couple of times.

Oh, and back when I used to act I was told that I didn't get this one part because I was too short, even though the character's height was not a factor in the script. Fucking heightists.
posted by bmarkey 18 May | 21:57
Hmm ... as a young woman I experienced sexual harassment on the street(s).

Hm... I guess it's kind of sad that I didn't even think of that as discrimination.
posted by kellydamnit 18 May | 22:08
I attended a concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom last month. Due to my being male, I was sent to an event staffer who proceeded to violate my personal space and practically grope me without asking or even telling me what he was going to do first.
posted by oaf 18 May | 23:01

I've received a bunch of "go back to your home country", been targeted by white supremists, been told i'm "too white", been stopped by cops for having dark skin. I was discriminated against for not following the right "religion" or "beliving in it" enough or what have you. I was even labeled a satanist (I was agnostic at the time) for several years (that was fun and once that came out, I totally played it up which probably didn't help things). I've had parents tell their kids they can't be my friend because I'm too dark, not the right religion, not the right political party, etc. I've been harrassed by mall cops, security guards, and employees while just going about my business. I've been passed over in job promotions and held to different standards at jobs. I've also had teachers discriminate against me (and others) just because of skin color or disabilities that we were born with.

These are all things that happened to me and that continue to happen depending on where I am. I've never been discriminated to the point where I couldn't end up doing what I wanted - I just had to work harder and to fight around whatever it was that was blocking me.

Most of these things happened while growing up in white suburia and going to college in a rural area. In NYC, this stuff happens less and less.
posted by stynxno 18 May | 23:23
In NYC, I saw a man wearing a black slip with red hearts running through Times Square (not running like a crazy person; just going on his daily jog in his lingerie of the day). Nothing shocks us anymore.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 18 May | 23:38
I was just exchanged for a younger model by a guy last week. It was the first time that happened and I'm still in shock from it.
posted by small_ruminant 18 May | 23:49
Besides that, I just have the usual sorts that women run into- the clerks at the auto parts store or the gun shop talking to whichever male I'm with instead of to me.

I've run into quite a few Asians who aren't afraid to demonstrate their distaste for whites, and even attempted to eat at Chinese restaurants that wouln't serve me and my fellow white dining companion. I live in a black neighborhood- I'm sure I'm part of the gentrifying movement- and a lot of the locals aren't stoked about me being here, but they haven't been threatening or anything.
posted by small_ruminant 18 May | 23:55
I just had a discussion with a friend about a traffic ticket he got. He pleaded down to failure to stop at a stop sign, but apparently a woman who got busted for the exact same violation as he did pleaded down to the same infraction - and got off with a lesser fine.

As for myself, I was told to take my (quite stylish) fedora off at a bar by the bouncer while I saw a couple of women bouncing around with their ball caps on. I asked the bouncer why I had to take my hat off and he blamed "the management" but gave no other reason. I'm sure I've turned off a few women because I'm short, too (well, shorter than average).

At any rate, I've heard arguments that as a young white male I have no one to watch my back (the reasoning being that women, minorities, etc., all have organizations to lobby for them), but I'm not sure I agree with that.

Oh! I've also been at a Chinese restaurant in NYC, sharing a table with a Chinese couple that told the waiter to bring my girlfriend and I forks. The waiter did so, but we didn't need them. I'm part Chinese and was brought up to use chopsticks. That kind of annoyed me.
posted by backseatpilot 19 May | 00:10
I'm a short, fat woman. Need I say more?
posted by essexjan 19 May | 00:19
Yep, I've been discriminated against as a female and because I'm overweight; mostly in the form of snide or dismissive remarks.

Or, what EJ said.
posted by deborah 19 May | 00:30
Well, being a dark-skinned foreigner in the US, I sure get less (at least overt) discrimination than I expected (even for Seattle). I've never been harassed, kicked out, called names, or anything nasty. And even though when there are only Brazilians on the table we usually talk in Portuguese (sometimes loudly)*, noone ever bothered me.

Except, of course, the recurring episode of drunk people babbling to me on an environment with very loud music and then, when I don't hear a word of what they're saying, invariably trying some form of broken Spanish. But that's still inside my "just funny" threshold - as yet noone replied to my "Sorry, I don't speak Spanish" with "Of course you do!" or "Are you ashamed of your ancestry?".

* I actually think it's a bit rude to talk in another language in public (specially loudly), but I can't help if my friends don't share the same opinion.
posted by qvantamon 19 May | 01:07
The aggressive and violent kind in surprise bursts amid the general sea of stares and more passive harassments.
Everything to "Wow, you speak good english" to being shot at.
posted by ethylene 19 May | 01:24
I grew up in a small town in Texas. I grew up in a place where gay boys were taken out into fields and beaten up, James Byrd was dragged from a truck, women holding hands were jumped or raped, etc.

Growing up gay in Texas, I was always prepared for hate. "Prepared" in the sense that I always thought I had a certain set of comebacks and punches stored in my brain and fists, ready to present when it finally happened.

Every time I drove through a small Texas town, I steeled myself. But even when my hair was at its shortest, it never happened.

I relaxed a bit after moving to California. Figured it didn't happen here. And for a couple years, after being more publicly out with my partner than I ever had been in Texas or Boston, still no slaps in the face.

It wasn't later until it happened. And then, it wasn't strangers in small towns, it was coworkers. Two people specifically, and a large group of them collectively, who decided to make my "sexuality" an issue.

It shocked me.

These were people I knew, people I had lunch with, people I helped when they were too stupid to figure out Microsoft Word, people whose phone numbers I had written down at home.

I'm not really sure what the moral of the story is, except that at some point I convinced myself that the world really wasn't as bad as all that. And then, some time later, I realized it was actually much worse that I'd realized.

I'm more prepared for it now. And really, looking back on it, I'd take the idiotic hatred of strangers over the ignorant posturing of friends.
posted by mudpuppie 19 May | 01:31
I'm white, but I've been treated like shit by the police, followed around stores, told that a place wouldn't be rented to me. I didn't get any direct anti Semitism until I went to the writers workshop--being called a jap, hassled by the manager of my building after I told him I was a Jew. Now it's mostly being harassed, condescended to and taken advantage of because I look like a naive cow.
posted by brujita 19 May | 02:26
As a teenager in New England I was viewed as lesbian (I wasn't, I was maybe a hippie-weirdo type, but any female who was different was automatically a "lezzie," it was sort of the only slur people could think of).

Actually, I'm still basically viewed as lesbian, but that's probably because I live in the Castro, wear comfortable shoes, et-cet-tra.

My ex-husband has a physical disability, uses a wheelchair. So for about 5 years I experienced with him all of the horrible access stuff plus all of the weird "oh are you taking care of that man in the wheelchair?" shit.

Overall I've had a relatively easy time of it, discrimination-wise, especially in recent years -- being white, pleasant-looking (neither gorgeous not ugly), socially approved weight, no visible disabilities, etc.
posted by Claudia_SF 19 May | 02:34
Most of the usual "female trouble", but not really professionally (back when I had a regular career), which I'm grateful for.

Probably what has pissed me off the most has been male doctors. I dislike doctors (not personally! I just don't like to go to them!), clinics, hospitals, anything like that, and pretty much do everything I can to avoid medical situations (it's almost a phobia). When I choose my doctors, I always choose women, and every single fucking time I've ever been forced to deal with a male doctor because of some sort of emergency thing, I've ended up furious. Every. Time. I'm astonished how many male doctors automatically believe a) you're an utter imbecile, or b) your symptoms are psychosomatic/hypochondriacal if you're female.* Dude, I haven't been to a doctor in five years; I'm only here because my husband dragged me here, kicking and screaming, and sitting in this office feels like somebody is driving bamboo splinters under my fingernails... and you think I'm doing this to - what? get male attention or something. Die in hell.

I won't go into my other wonderful stories, which are even worse... 'nuff said. And apologies to ikkyu2; obviously, I know all male doctors are not this way. Just one of my particular bugaboos.

* I am not the sort of person who presents as a scared/silly/weepy/dramatic patient - quite the opposite.
posted by taz 19 May | 03:17
I've can't remember off-hand any overt discrimination I have experienced, aside from the little indignities that go with being an overweight woman (I'm still slightly overweight, but I used to be 25 lb heavier), and with being very poor growing up.

Taz mentioned doctors, and it reminded me of the only time I had a pregnancy scare. I had gone off the pill because my 4-year boyfriend and I had broken up (this was 3rd year of college) and I was *broke*. I couldn't afford the $30 a month - I could barely afford to make rent. I'd started sleeping with another dude, and the condom broke. When I went to the dr. for the morning after pill he started interrogating me about why I went off the pill. When I said I couldn't afford it he sneered: "but I bet you still went skiing on winter break. I bet you still drink every weekend" and refused to believe that I didn't.

So not really a discrimination story, but definitely an asshole story. Still makes me angry.
posted by gaspode 19 May | 08:33
taz- I've gotten the same thing from female doctors, especially ob/gyns. (well, that doesn't happen to ME, so I don't see how that could be the case for you...)
posted by small_ruminant 19 May | 11:00
your symptoms are psychosomatic/hypochondriacal if you're female

I'm convinced that my thyroid cancer was misdiagnosed for so long precisely because of this reason (combined with being broke and having no insurance for part of the time).
posted by scody 19 May | 11:29
((((big hugs for everyone here)))) - it's tough being human, eh?

Surprisingly, most of the "discrimination" I feel is online, since it's still such a male-dominated space. A lot of the guys (particularly on MeFi), assume my vagina gives me an agenda that includes the oppression of males worldwide. It's really upsetting, because their impression of females is so totally different from my own experience as a woman, and of my few female friends.

In real life, I'm mostly sort of invisible to strangers, because I'm overweight and don't really care about dressing sexy or whatever.

It's not too bad professionally, either. Recently I've started doing contract work for an oil company, and the difference between normal engineers and career petroleum dudes is striking - stuff like I never get forwarded emails, it's assumed that I'll take the meeting minutes/notes, I'll make the copies, etc. They have discussions that make me feel a little uncomfortable, as well (Like how their wives love to shop, love to pretend their better than their husbands, etc). I usually just brush it off, though. In 30 years they'll be dead, and hopefully we'll have moved on as a society.
posted by muddgirl 19 May | 11:58
General street harassment, including being followed home by a couple of guys, one of whom I suspect wanted to hurt me and another who would not have taken no for an answer (had I not almost slammed a 16th-century wooden door on his fingers...)

My last company was almost entirely women -- except for management. There was so much "Oh, why don't you take notes?" directed at any woman having meetings with the higher-ups that it was insane. Women in middle-management jobs were often fired or transfered while their male compatriots were promoted. I more or less think I was stuck in a (well-paid) dead-end job there because I didn't want to move up, but on the other hand, I don't think it would have been an option had I wanted it to be.

There's the whole MeFi "We're not going to listen to you if you're a woman" thing, which is mostly why I stopped posting on the Blue. It shows up much less on AskMe. And that dynamic happens so much that I can mostly just roll my eyes at it... other people taking credit for my ideas or coming back a week after a conversation we've had with "I just thought of something!" and it'll be something I told them a week ago...

I don't know if it's discrimination per se, but I got a lot of "legacy admit" jokes in college and right after, which had the lovely effect of (still) making me question myself. In good ways -- I think it's more than probable that I got a leg up because of my family background, and it's a good thing to remember that I do benefit from that privilege -- and bad -- it can make me question my intellectual weight. The Larry Summers debacle brought that up for me a lot.

My current office is almost entirely female, and most of the support-ish staff is (not surprisingly) in their mid- to late-20s. I'm close enough to that age, and more or less support staff, that I get thrown in with "the girls." (Yes, that's what the office calls them. And me. I don't like it.) So there's this feeling that I should be shunning them if I want to be taken seriously...

In any event... I don't know. Nothing hugely overt that I remember. Just, you know, fear of being in public alone, fear of being in public at night, fear of strange men, fear of speaking too loudly, fear of speaking at all, fear of being unattractive, fear of being too attractive... the usual.

posted by occhiblu 19 May | 12:08
I'm on the road and short for time, so here are just a few off the top of my head:

-Having to really push in order to get on a Little League team in 1978, and being treated badly on the team
-Fewer sports opportunities in grade/high school
-Being paid less than equally experienced males at at least one job (where the boss admitted this was his policy, because he found it just worked)
-Being treated as though I was ignorant in instrument /music stores
-Sexual harrassment, both on the street and in the workplace
-Paying $50 monthly for birth control on my insurance plan, though things like vasectomies are covered and ED meds are covered at the $15 rate
-Being charged more for a haircut than men, by the same stylist, even though my hair is short and straight and as easy to cut as a man's
-Being charged more by the dry cleaner to clean wool trousers or simple button-down shirts
-Being accused of being 'cold' or 'intimidating' when I am in fact just being self-assured and demonstrating that I know my stuff.
-Dealing with the expectations of people about whether I could physically do jobs I was interested in doing. I've yet to encounter anything I was physically incapable of, including working at outdoor sites, boatyards and camps where lifting 80lb bags of concrete or holding belt sanders overhead for a ceiling job was part of the the work, that I couldn't do. But it always required me to speak up and make a 'let me try' case before anyone offered it
-Not being educated by my father in home and auto maintenance because he assumed I wouldn't be interested (he's said as much and he learned later that I was interested and has been helpful since).

-There are probably any number of ways that class discrimination has impacted my life, most of which I haven't time to resurrect from memory right now. One family story has to do with when I was tested in grade school and came out with a high score on the Stanford-Binet. When the school district psychologist had my folks in to discuss a plan, she said something like "We'd expect this in a community of doctors or lawyers, but not here," where here was a working-class town. I can't help but wonder how those expectations and lack of the subsequent opportunities I was offered impacted the lives of the other kids, whose parents didn't know that they could request this testing. If you only go looking for intelligence where you 'expect' it, that's the only place you're going to find it.
posted by Miko 19 May | 13:20
Been whistled/catcalled at on the street. Been called a "fat bitch". Been called a "dyke". Had a guitar store guy talk only to my male companion. Been fired from a job once for being either a woman or queer, take your pick. But I'm white, well-educated, urban, relatively affluent, reasonably gender-conformant, and can pass for straight, so I've had it pretty easy. And I've actually had very few problems (except for the aforementioned job) being a woman in the high-tech industry.
posted by matildaben 19 May | 16:58
I was a poor white girl growing up in a mixed section of town, though most of the homes on my paper route were black. Every Friday, collection day for the payments of their subscription, the families would all disappear as I came down the street. Seriously. I could see them playing in their yards, sitting on their porches as I was riding my bike up the street. As soon as I got close, they'd let their dogs out so I couldn't get to their front doors, or suddenly "no one would be home", even though I knew they were. I would eventually just cancel their subscriptions. Not a nice way to treat a 12 year old kid.

I have also had forms of sexual harrassament at work. Myself and another girl complained repeatedly to our manager about one coworker, who was only finally fired after some customers complained. And one co-manager who loved to sidle up to me in a noisy meat room and say rude things to me that no one else could hear. Other than that, I've had guys not even give me a second glance because I'm curvacious, but those who did really found a gem!

posted by redvixen 19 May | 17:30
Wow, fascinating thread. I'm reading with a little guilt as I've never really had any of these things happen to me. I'm a big currently-abled straight white middle-class Anglo-Saxon guy who's family has been here since the Dutch owned New York. It does suck that any of those qualities mean anything to anyone and I probably should be a little more cognizant of how lucky I am that bigoted assholes don't mess with me.

The last year that I was in Grad School, I was the only white non-foreign guy in my program and it was very interesting to be the token for once in my life being much paler, taller and heavier than anyone else. I look very out of place in the group photos. Seeing as I was never the smartest guy in the room, I often wondered if I got accepted into the program just so that there would be one white guy in it.
posted by octothorpe 19 May | 21:41
Other than having custody of my children stripped by a Tennessee court in 1974, because, in the absence of "moral turpitude" or other compelling evidence, by court rules, mothers were presumed to be better custodial parents than fathers, and being saddled with 15 years of court mandated child support payments, which I exceeded, ahead of schedule in every year, by more than 200%, because I could, and because I felt the kids needed it, I can't think of a single time when I was discriminated against unduly, because of my race or gender.

Those disastrous promotions of minimally qualified persons, in companies where I worked in the early 80s, on affirmative action grounds? Yeah. I've forgotten the details, entirely, in my desperation to make up the lost pension benefits those financial collapses caused, since.
posted by paulsc 20 May | 03:25
I am indeed going to go to gaspode's party. || WackyWadio on the Hour (9PM ET, 6PM PT)