On the difficulty of recognizing one’s own biases

Another lesson for me on the difficulty of seeing outside your own cultural context:

In Delany's City of a Thousand Suns (1966), a historian (Rolth Catham) is talking about various people writing for their ideal audiences. During that discussion, he refers repeatedly to “man” (meaning humankind), and consistently uses “he” to refer to various ideal readers. I was noticing the genderedness of all that, so I was ruefully amused when he adds (p. 158):

“… I check and recheck my historical theory for cultural, sexual, emotional bias, for that ideal man, who is ideally unbiased.”

So despite checking his own work repeatedly for cultural and sexual bias, the character is oblivious to his belief that the ideal unbiased reader is a man.

I don't, of course, bring this up in order to criticize Chip for something he wrote fifty years ago. I bring it up because I think it's another nice illustration of how hard it is to recognize our own cultural frameworks even when we're explicitly trying to avoid bias.

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