The observer effect is one topic covered in David Castro’s Genership 1.0: Beyond Leadership Toward Liberating the Creative Soul. In Chapter 2 of the book, Castro talks about the observer effect:
“A person perceiving something affects what he or she sees through the effort to perceive. Relying on someone else’s perception or even instruments still entails knowledge. Knowledge demands perception.” (p. 64).
If you think that we live in a purely objective world, think again. The reality is that we see layers with pieces of opinions and perceptions. We hear things, and that affects how we view and respond to situations. We read things, and that affects…Well, you get the point.
While Castro does not make direct references in this section of the book to feminism, I will do so for one main reason. That reason is to start a conversation that might help us one day reach a state of gender equality, or at least come close to it. Different views exist— still!—on what qualifies as “women’s work” and what is “men’s work.” Slowly those views are changing, thanks to campaigns such as the Made with Code initiative, but gender bias still exists around the world.
How did the notions of what men and women “should” do come about if our world is truly objective in nature? The answer is that the world is but a mix of our perceptions, and certain genders are perceivable in certain (different) ways. There are norms, desires, tastes and so much more that people categorize or associate with one gender or another.
So, do we accept these judgments and hide within a group consensus, hoping other people in the group will like us and the sea will stay calm? Or, or do we rise to the top of the water and paddle like mad to achieve a place where we can finally change perceptions about gender?
Of course, there is a third choice. Do we say there is no observer effect, and there is no gender bias? Ah, you may say, don’t be silly! But I’ve received comments out there in Social Media Land that insist feminism has no use and there is no gender inequality. That would mean that all of the work of feminists and any drive for female empowerment are for naught.
Doesn’t that mean, then, that the person who holds that third viewpoint thinks differently than a feminist? Isn’t that, ironically, support for the observer effect that says we project our perceptions onto the world? Perhaps…depending on your viewpoint.
What are your views on the observer effect and how it ties to feminism?
©2014 Christy Birmingham