Being Sinister

Since breaking my wrist I’ve learnt something about prejudice. I’m already well aware of prejudice for various reasons that I’d rather not write about here. But I’ve learnt about a new one. That of the pro right handed individual prejudice.

There has always been a prejudice against left handed behavior. In the past there has been religious and social persecution. Left handed people were referred to as sinister or evil. Children who were left handed were punished for for using their left hand and aversion therapies used to teach them to use their right. In Christian mythology Jesus sits on the right hand of God. Some cultures still have defined rules regarding the left and right hands. In Islam the left hand is used for cleaning oneself after toilet and the right is used for eating. Again this associates dirt and sin with the left hand.

My wrist is in a cast and my thumb is in it too so I can’t actually touch the end of my thumb and forefinger. This makes using the right hand problematic. Luckily I’m fairly ambidextrous. I already use my left hand for tasks that right handers typically do with their rights, such as driving the mouse or trackpad, catching things, and so on. I can even write legibly, if not neatly, with it. So switching to using the left was not too onerous.

However I am now discovering how nearly everything is set up for right handed people. For example my microwave has the controls on the right and the door opens to the left. This assumes you will open it with you left hand whilst carrying what ever you will be cooking with the right before programming it, again with the right. Since I can’t take any weight with my right hand right now this is difficult since I have to cross my arms. After realizing this I looked around and my dishwasher, washing machine, hob and oven all have their controls on the right. My TV has controls on the right. Even computer keyboards have the action keys such as return, arrow keys, insert and delete on the right.

We write from left to right. That favours the right handed. Left handed people who used quill pens would smudge the ink with their hands as they write. We even drive on the left because of right handedness. It became convention for knights to pass left of each other so that their sword arm, i.e. their right arm, was nearest the person they were passing. That became true for horse drawn vehicles and so when cars finally were invented they followed the same convention.

Its possible that left handed people do not notice the issues like I have. Mainly because they’ve always suffered them. I have to admit I’ve never asked anyone. But because I am right handed and I’m now having to use my left I can see the problems. Its like institutionalized misogyny. Women are programmed to behave in certain ways because we’ve adjusted to the environment and social frameworks in which we live.

I should get my cast off next week but it has been a learning exercise.

Leave a Reply