Today is International Left-Handers Day. It’s not a major observance by any means, and having met two lefties today who were unaware that today is our day, you can see that the importance of the day, if any, doesn’t have any impact even on those who are supposed to benefit from the celebration of our left-handedness and increased public awareness of the disadvantages of being left-handed. And there are many disadvantages.
I am lucky that I wasn’t schooled in those days when students who tried to write with their left hand were hit. Yes, hit. Many had their hand tied behind their back. Seriously? The reason for not using your left hand? Possessed by the Devil? User of Black Magic? Unclean? The left hand is used in some cultures for wiping oneself when you’re right-handed, and therefore not the hand in which you should touch someone.
Even though most cultures, in the Free World at the very least allow us left-handed people to use our left hands for writing and other things, we are still, in the year of 2014 discriminated against in many ways.
I just spent the last week at an exhibition that promotes woodwork machinery for the joinery and wood trade industries. From the hand-held power tools such as circular saws to the large table saws and band-saws, these items are only manufactured for right handed users. What’s the difference you might ask? Well, the way they are designed is that the power tool will send the sawdust out away from a right-handed user whilst a lefty will have the saw dust sent all over them. Also, on/off switches are often facing away from a left-handed user.
The same problem occurs when using many rifles. The rifles are designed to send the spent cartridge or shell away from the face of a right-handed user whilst the lefties are forced to live with getting the shell pop up in their face. (Although, maybe it’s a good way to stop left-handed people from using rifles, because, you know, being possessed by the Devil and all, we’d more likely go on more shooting sprees).
From scissors to knives, computer mouses to cameras, school desks to pencil sharpeners, there are so many things in this world that are designed for the comfort of and ease of use by right-handed people, but us lefties are left right out. (All puns intended).
In a post I wrote last year talking about minority groups (I included us lefties in that for hyperbole), I mentioned this;
Musical instruments like guitars are made for us, but in a shop in Sydney that hold over 200 guitars on their shop floor, there were only 2 for me to try. That’s right, 198 different types of guitars for right-handed guitarists, and only 2 for us southpaws.
Generally when it comes to things like guitars or kitchen utensils, you can definitely get a left-handed version, but with many of these products you can expect to pay somewhere between 10% and 50% more. I have even seen products for us that are twice the price.
I wish there was more of us. I look forward to a time when we are 50% of the world’s population (although this may never truly happen). But why do I want more people to be left-handed? Well, of course I would like more choice in products and the prices to go down (something that happens when demand goes up of course).
I have often thought (in jest) about starting a campaign to rid the English speaking world of using the word “right” to mean correct. Did you know that when the word was originally created it wasn’t used to mean correct, but it was merely used to describe the right side of an object or person or moving in the direction away from the left? Yes, that’s
right correct. And then thanks to the cultural influences of the right hand being the “correct” hand, the word evolved to mean correct.
When you think about that, it’s akin to using the word “gay” to mean a derogative slang expression for effeminacy or a derogative slang expression with a general meaning of pathetic or inferior. Much in the same way using the term “like a girl” is also a derogative slang expression with a general meaning pathetic or inferior. It’s akin to using any pejorative racial term to infer that something is inferior or of lesser quality or value.
I mentioned the English speaking world, but in Sanskrit, most Slavic languages, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Irish, Scottish, Finnish, Swedish, Hungarian, Polish, Estonian, Chinese, Korean, and Hebrew languages there are references, alternative meanings, or phrases which are connected to “right” meaning correct, almighty, or good, whilst “left” is associated with evilness, clumsiness, wrong doing, or the opposite of being correct.
And sadly in some of those non-Western countries, the children are still forced to use their right hand to write with and even to eat with. I remember when I was growing up my mum told me that if I had visited certain countries and used my left hand to eat with, it would be seen as rude. There were even places at the time that punished people for using their left hand in ways that were more severe than just caning them as school children were back before the abolition of corporal punishment.
There are derogatory terms for lefties, some that we’ve adopted and embraced as our own, but many that are still used in the pejorative sense and often used with the intention of offending.
There are many benefits in modern society to being left-handed when you consider certain sports such as table tennis, badminton, cricket, and tennis have an over-representation of left-handedness, and elite players at that, so there is possibly an advantage being a lefty in those games. And whilst the sport of golf allows left-handers to play the game comfortably using left-handed golf clubs, there can be a bias against us with many courses being designed so that right handed player face away from water traps and trees.
Still, at least we get to play that sport. In field hockey you cannot play as a left-hander as a major rule involved in that sport judges on the face of the stick being used in a correct manner. and holding the stick and hitting the ball as a left-hander would is specifically against the rules. I wonder if that’s the same in ice hockey?
Now I am forever adding to my blog posts something along the lines of “trying to make this world a better place for my kids.” Seeing that Master 5 is a lefty, this applies to him. Where he is lucky is that if he chooses to be a guitarist like me then he’ll have a plethora of guitars to play when he’s older. Of course, seeing that Master 3 is showing signs of being right-handed, he won’t have the same luck. Looks like we’ll be spending more money on him if he chooses to be a guitarist. If not, I guess that I will be discriminating against him.
And I hate when minorities do that…
Are you a lefty? How does it impact on your life?