Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Being the only one...

A few days ago, a colleague of mine remarked on how, being Jewish in an environment of mostly non-Jewish people she is usually called on to be the expert on her "people", how it really sets her apart, and how odd and sometimes uncomfortable that is.

Of course (being the completely self-centered person I am) I immediately tried to think about how this concept can be turned around and applied to me! LOL I'm not Jewish so that's out. In fact I'm not religious at all (I'm interested IN religion but am not a believer per se) and most people are if only just a little, but I don't think that really works either. But I am a male in a primarily female field (librarianship, for those of you not paying attention) and to some degree I can see how she feels. I take great care to communicate my non-stereotypically-male characteristics: I don't like sports, I don't drink (beer or otherwise), I'm a total spice-wuss, I'm not totally colur-blind, etc. but I still feel occasionally that I'm slotted into the "oh, he's just a guy" category. It's not vindictive and sometimes I play it up just to get a laugh. But there is slight pressure there to be the example guy in the room (there is one other male in the library out of 20 staff in total, so it's not all on me... lol) and a bit of barrier that I work at keeping down.

Or perhaps I don't know how she feels. I am not often specifically called on to be the expert on the male perspective and perhaps this feeling that I am an example is all of my own making. There are plenty of us guys around to examine and interogate so it's not like I'm a new concept to be explored or an issue to be tip-toed around. I can imagine this is probably how some "minorities" feel - like a specimen or a land mine depending on the level of comfort the people around them have - when all they want to be treated like is a regular Joe... er, Joan.

I don't know how I would feel in that situation. I like to point out and push out my differences (and eccentricities sometimes) but to have your difference(s) defined and thrust upon you might become tiresome and restrictive. We all want to belong somehow and to constantly be held at arms length for some stupid, superficial reason would be difficult to handle.

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