Anyone who feels sidelined by stereotypes of who should be what may have had these experiences. However, and this is a big however, I can’t speak for anyone who is gay, anyone who was born with a physical reality that defines them as ‘disabled’ or ‘ fat’ or ‘ugly’. Apart from the latter I’ve been a mostly physically abled and reasonably thin person although thinness is becoming a rarity as I age. I have however been judged by my physical experience on a number of fronts: attractiveness (or lack of), age (or youth) and ethnicity.
I speak of my various experiences crossing the privilege echelons of white society. I’m married to a reasonably successful white husband who from his work has allowed me access into business and first class lounges , expensive accommodation and restaurants and residing in an upper middle class mostly white suburbs- both in Sydney and the United States of America.
In Australia, when we first moved into where I’m living, my family were ignored by the mostly white older residents. I once had a dishwasher service man ask for the ‘Mrs’ when I answered the door. ‘Oh’ he says, ‘ I thought you were the cleaner’. Nice. In America I was followed around by security guards in an up market shopping centre and had a customer in one shop say to the owner ‘watch that one’ as she pointed to me as though I was about to steal something. Travelling business class in Australia’s only national airline I remembered one of my trips to Los Angeles. The air hostess took one look at me and asked for my boarding pass as though I had made some mistake. Although I wasn’t sitting at the end row, she always served me last, making sure the older male passengers were served first. When it came my turn, I remembered she asked my breakfast option and then said to me ‘well I’m going to have to go upstairs for that one’. Half an hour later I was presented with cold scrambled eggs. She’d obviously forgotten. I wonder how quickly she would have obtained my meal if I had been an affluent looking white man?
At a first class lounge in San Francisco I remembered a lady in her late 50s early 60s, obviously well to do staring at me. When her husband joined her, she said loudly to him whilst looking at me ‘Why Hispanics have come up in the world haven’t they?’ She was obviously disgusted at having to keep company with someone who didn’t look the part and who had no business sharing her space and privilege.
Now I know we have all come across rude people. But sometimes I find myself asking ‘Are you just plain unfriendly, rude and unhappy or do you harbour a racist attitude? Would you be like this if I looked different? ‘ That is the problem with discrimination. It can be hard to tease out what is truly going on.
On another note, the world of lifestyle magazines in which we live in and the never ending social media clips have made us all a little vain and have really upped the ante on attractiveness. It goes without saying that research has found attractive people are given the benefit of the doubt, the opportunities and many more positives. My rude awakening to this was living in Los Angeles for two very long months and attending the premier of a movie where people walked across a red carpet to be photographed. Needless to say , they asked me to stand aside and just took a photo of my husband. Nice.
Here in Australia you’re only really going to make it if you don’t look like some mumma-from-a-goat-herd-village-in-some-far-flung-ethnic-outpost of the world. The more blond and bimbo , the better you’ll do (think Lara Bingle) because the last thing Australia needs is an upstart ugly ethnic chick giving as good as she gets and having a say on things- not that anyone is going to listen anyway.
I speak more about how the world looks at you in my post ‘Un-Australian‘.