Walk in someone else’s shoes

That’s what I proposed to a young, intelligent man a few weeks ago.  We were three around a lunch table, having an interesting discussion about culture, particularly French culture. I mentioned that the pressure on women to always look slim, attractive and well-groomed is much higher than my own culture. And then, the surprise hit me.. My lunch companion insisted that women, at least in his own culture (not French), WANT to always look representative, even when they go to the supermarket. “Hmmm”, I said. “Do YOU always want to look representative, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?” “And do YOU appreciate to get comments every time you have a bad hair day, or are not dressed according to the taste of the other gender?”.  He didn’t think it’s the same thing, and that’s when I asked him to try to walk in someone else’s shoes.

I have written about majority/minority viewpoints before. But, I just can’t stop being surprised when heterosexuals insist that homosexuals have no problems in today’s society, or when men insist that women are treated equal to men, or when the native population insists that the second generation immigrants have the same job opportunities as them. Really, I just want to say; “ARE YOU BLIND?”

Yes, things have gotten much better, compared to e.g. 60 years ago. Most countries these days have laws that protect, help and promote minority groups. But, I think we have a way to go to create an equal society where differences are understood and appreciated. Staying within our comfort zone, staying within our own majority groups is so much easier. However, “walking in someone else’s shoes”, to open your eyes, doesn’t have to be so dramatic. You could for example;

  • Imagine you are in a wheelchair next time you take the underground, how would you go about it?
  • Ask someone at work from a different culture than your own how s/he experiences the work place and opportunities (you need to create a trusting environment for the person to open up).
  • Read statistics and insights about women and careers, e.g. http://www.20-first.com/
  • Discuss with someone gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender about how they talk about their private lives at work.

And I may be preaching to the choir right now, so feel free to share these suggestions with people who need it!

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