movies matter | criticism by maryann johanson
Tue May 03 2016, 03:03pm | 4 comments
Just look at the orchestra problem.
Pretty much everyone involved in hiring orchestral musicians says they’re unbiased between male and female performers, and I suspect most of them believe it.
But when they have blind auditions, they hire 50/50 male and female. When they can see the performer, it’s more like 70/30.
You can’t trust what people say about trying to overcome bias, even if they’re really genuine about it.
True. I think this is what people don’t get when they complain about “SJW’s” crying racism or sexism. It’s not that we’re accusing everyone of being malevolently, consciously racist or sexist (well, some people are, but not everybody). It’s that the system, constructed over generations from unexamined biases, leads to racism and sexism. Systemic prejudice isn’t necessarily prejudice with intent. But people tend to react as if they’re being morally judged and pronounced bad people. Hence the resistance.
I like Jay Smooth’s suggestion: we should think about prejudice the way we think about cleanliness. If someone points out we have something in our teeth, we don’t take offense and say “How dare you say that? I’m a clean person!” We just pick out the bit from our teeth and try to brush more thoroughly. We’re not bad people if we’re dirty, and we’re not bad people if we’re biased; we just need to encourage habits, set up reminders, and design systems and environments that help us to keep clean and avoid bias.
This is relevant, I think:
Correction: we should design systems not to help us avoid bias (since that probably isn’t possible), but to help us minimize the consequences of our biases. As the orchestra blind-audition process does. It doesn’t magically remove any sexist attitudes from the judges; it simply takes those attitudes out of the equation.
It makes their job easier if anything. It also helps the less attractive individual from being judged by criteria not relevant to music production. Not Orchestra anyway.
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