Snap Assessments

If I could pick out one thing about myself that I hate, it’s the way that I judge other people. Specifically other women and usually in relation to how they dress.

I see a woman walking down the street in a pair of tiny shorts in the middle of winter. My first thought is, “She must by cold.” My second, “Is that really what she wants to say?” I’ve now just mentally implied that she’s a loose woman and seriously that is none of my business. Especially because I think of myself as a sex positive person. You want to have casual sex because you think it’s fun and enjoyable? Do it! You want to wear shorts because they make you feel good? Do it!

So why does my brain default to these thoughts, thoughts that don’t even really align with my values?

Snap assessments are something that occur to people naturally. It’s an instinct that allows us to assess for danger and to react quickly to threats. The fact that we can make these quick judgements is biologically speaking a good thing. But the way we perceive things and the lenses we use to evaluate them are entirely influenced by society. We see what we see and society tells us what it means.

I see a pair or short shorts and before I can even think it all the way through, my brain defines that to me as “slutty.” It’s so ingrained in there from years and years of repetition and subliminal advertising that it just pops up before I can even finish processing. Of course when I get to the end of the conscious thought I remind myself that I don’t actually care if that woman uses her short shorts to hook up. If that’s what she wants to do, who am I to judge her or the tools she uses to get there? You do you, girlfriend. But for just a split second while I’m thinking that society regurgitated thought, I feel like a jerk. And it’s something that I really wish that I could change about myself.

I want to be supportive towards other women. But this subliminal stuff that’s stuck in my head kind of freaks me out. It means I can’t always trust my first assessment of social cues. I means that I have to take an extra step to mentally put myself in someone else’s shoes to try and tamp down that societally influenced thought. I don’t want to judge other people, especially other women, for the choices that they make. We should be able to dress without our clothes saying anything, but that isn’t what society tells us is true and so it isn’t what my brain defaults to.

It’s hard to overcome 26 years of indoctrination, to stop judging other people based on society’s values. It’s going to take some time to get there, but I think it’s important that I stay vigilant about it and that I continue to check myself on it. Because for every judgment I make, someone else is making one about me, too.

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