So there are real blind spots…
(Note: Each of your eyes has a blind spot at a certain distance from objects. You never take notice because your brain makes up information based on what else is around and what your other eye sees. )
Test Instructions: To discover your blind spot, cover your left eye with your left hand. Now stare at the red cross with your right eye. Slowly move towards the screen then back. When the blue circle disappears, stop, that’s your blind spot.
…And then there are social blind spots.
This (fill in the blank) kind of life – good.
That (fill in the blank) kind of life – not good
We begin, at a very young age, to develop social blind spots, certain ideals. We embrace a set of narratives. We build upon them as we acculturate further and find comfort in their accompanying assumptions.
To wit, I came across a reference to this book: “Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People” in a recent article. The book title intrigued me so I searched a bit and found this description:
I know my own mind.
I am able to assess others in a fair and accurate way.
These self-perceptions are challenged by leading psychologists Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald as they explore the hidden biases we all carry from a lifetime of exposure to cultural attitudes about age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexuality, disability status, and nationality. Blindspot is the authors’ metaphor for the portion of the mind that houses hidden biases…Banaji and Greenwald question the extent to which our perceptions of social groups—without our awareness or conscious control—shape our likes and dislikes and our judgments about people’s character, abilities, and potential.
We do not like to have our world views or lifestyle narratives challenged. No, siree, we do not! That’s because the very act of rethinking or reforming narratives leads us to question just how many other perceptions or biases we might have also gotten wrong or, at a minimum, not quite right.
Now on my to-read list, the book concepts echoed in my mind and gave me pause as I measured my response to a recent study on failed fertility treatment. Take this rather inflammatory gem, for instance: Why Not Having Kids Makes Some People Crazy.
Seems we’re never very far away from the culture wars about whose life is better: those with or without children. Headline aside, the study introduced some complexity. The state of happiness is dependent on whether you had the luxury of making the decision one way or the other and succeeded in the pursuit of your choice.
For many of us, ahem, it’s not quite that cut and dry. (Read more on the coverage of the study and responses from Mali and Loribeth).
Then there was this take-away:
It is quite striking to see that women who do have children but still wish for more children report poorer mental health than those who have no children but have come to accept it.
Like Mali I had an instinctual reaction. My first thought was a grumbling one: “Oh sure, study originators, downplay the coping challenges for those of us who didn’t succeed with fertility treatment and focus (as per usual) on the struggling parents — ’cause they don’t ever get ENOUGH attention.”
Guilty as charged. It’s true. For a very long time my gut response was less than charitable when I would hear or see someone ask for or get out the violins for those who achieved a successful pregnancy and delivery but still lamented their life because they didn’t have XX number of children. The hair on the back of my neck would stand up. My inner voice would say, Hey, how’d you like to be in the failed fully category? You GOT the pregnancy and baby, quitchercomplainin!
Not content to be stuck in one place or mindset (and clearly there is evidence I need to continue my efforts to evolve), I paused. In the process of finding my compassion, I also reconfigured a long-held narrative: Not all who succeed with fertility treatment skip home satisfied and full of delight.
I don’t think I would have been complaining if I’d actually succeeded in getting pregnant and delivering, but that’s neither here nor there. The truth is that not achieving your full dream (as evidenced by the study participants) will still elicit a sense of loss.
The Time story closed on a strong note:
The author also throws some shade on those “I-can-do-anything-if I-try” types (cough, Americans, cough). “There is a moment when letting go of unachievable goals (be it parenthood or other important life goals) is a necessary and adaptive process for well-being,” said Gameiro. “We need to consider if societies nowadays actually allow people to let go of their goals and provide them with the necessary mechanisms to realistically assess when is the right moment.”
That last sentence I liked A LOT.
Now for the readers who might need to reassess their understanding of women without children, check out the nuance in this piece. While all the women included share one thing in common — none are mothers — they (we) all are not entirely alike. As you can see from their quotes, not all non-moms see the world the same way.
Finally, in the ovaries blind spot department, there is this story: Why Do We Treat Infertility Like It’s Just Rich Women’s Problem?
‘Fess up, now. What are your blind spots?
9 thoughts on “‘Fess Up. What Are Your Blind Spots?”
Yes, as much as we can collect ourselves, and try to step back and see things rationally and without bias (as much as is possible), it is still hard to suppress that first, instinctual reaction or – in my case – roll of my eyes! It’s why I’m grateful for the internet. I can have that little “seriously?” moment, then go back and think about what the person has said. (I hope my post showed that I tried to do this.) This was also really important when I was volunteering on the ectopic site, because there I was, no kids after two ectopics, helping all these women who were devastated that they had lost a child, whether it would have been their first, or their 8th. It did teach me to step back and try (TRY) to put my own blindspots aside.
I love the piece you linked to – the 25 famous women on childlessness. I’m only up to #15, but already my brain is crying out, “men don’t have to make these justifications, these decisions!” Argh.
And the “rich women’s problem” article is interesting too. I have some views on this is NZ’s cultural context, impact on adoption, etc. And of course, publicly funded medicine in a country like Australia (where the govt is very generous) or even NZ gives the poor greater access to fertility treatments than they might have elsewhere.
Lots of food for thought here!
As I mentioned in my comment to Mali, I too sometimes have difficulty mustering up sympathy for people who have a child or children… and still aren’t satisfied. Or weeping over their husband’s vasectomies because it means no more babies, even if they know their families are complete. My initial reaction often can be, “Oh, cry me a river.” :p Likewise, I find my eyes rolling when women (young women — who have been able to get pregnant in the past) confide they have been trying for THREE WHOLE MONTHS and WHY aren’t they pregnant YET?? and OMG, I need to see a fertility doctor!! But I try to remember that their experience is not mine, and this is how THEY feel.
Thanks for the links — both great articles.
I’ve been unpacking and examining some of these blind spots for the past couple of weeks. For a long time I’ve felt that when a person gets pregnant, even under less than ideal circumstances (with the exception of rape, obviously) that they are lucky. I’ve also felt like women who do get pregnant but end up without a take home baby are somehow luckier than I am too because they got to experience pregnancy, even if just for a little bit (yes, I do feel horrible even putting that in print). I concluded that a positive pregnancy test is something very symbolic to me, likely because it’s an experience that I will never get to have, and this really does cloud my mindset. People who have unintended pregnancies or who have losses don’t see themselves as lucky and I shouldn’t either. All I can do is acknowledge my blind spot and try to put it aside, or at least acknowledge that it shapes my attitude.
I thoroughly appreciate your candor, Kinsey. As hard as it to acknowledge and examine our thoughts and feelings, we usually grow and learn as a result. xx
Thanks! I wrote and deleted that response several times. Sharing my feelings, particularly the really raw feelings, doesn’t come naturally for me, but to grow, learn, and become a better person, I need to. Feelings are messy and illogical sometimes, I guess.
It’s good to be reminded of the existence of those blind spots.
One of my biggest blind spots is when I hear people complain about how expensive their kids are (bonus points if they then make a crack about my presumed amount of disposable income since I don’t have kids). Generally makes me want to roll my eyes and tell them how many tens of thousands of dollars I’ve put into fertility treatments with no guarantee I’ll get a child at the end. I try to empathize and remind myself the fact is, kids *are* expensive, and I’ve seen that when I’ve observed my friends with children.
Thanks for the links too, those are really interesting.
Boy, this thread really resonates with me as I know I’m guilty. I have absolutely been unnerved when a friend with 2 kids complained because she couldn’t have a third. I remember at the time being so upset but then I realized this was a loss for her and even though it was hard for me to get since I am with Pamela and believe I would have never complained, the truth is until we walk a mile in someone else’s shoes we just don’t know how it feels. I currently have to remind myself of this when friends who got to conceive, and did so naturally after experiencing IF, actually go on about how hard it is and how tired they are. I so would have been willing to be tired and taken on that workload but alas if I had I may have expressed the exact same feelings. I know I have blind spots and with age I am really trying to spot them–sorry, couldn’t resist the pun. :) thanks ladies! So nice not to be alone anymore. Wish we all lived close so we had friends with similar lifestyles to hang out with.
I have all the blind spots from the comments above.
And additionally: one of my biggest blind spots (that had cost me losing a dear friend from university years) is lack of understanding, how hard it is to be single in late thirties. This friend of mine has just never met the love of her life. And she truly believed that you can have children only if you find the love of your life (not just with the first suitable one, as many people do).
Anyway, I was so full of bitterness and sorrow for myself that I failed to see that I was not alone in dealing with my childlessness. So I lost a dear friend.
Thank you for all the great links… they give us a lot of material to think about.
Take care & see you in 17 days.