As a kid I took for granted the fact that popping out of the womb as a male beat the hell out of the alternative. Any girl with half a brain, if given the choice, would obviously opt for checking “male” on the census form.
In fact, so clear was this bit of wisdom, and so desperately did young males my age need it to be true that we used “woman” as a slur: Sissy. Fem. Girly-man.
One time I called my little brother a woman in front of my mom. She said, “You know, woman isn’t a dirty word. There’s no shame in being a woman.”
I said, “Sorry, Mom.” But deep inside I knew she was wrong. Everybody did. The reality of male superiority was woven into the fabric of the universe.
But it wasn’t only women. I also took it as read that being gay made you somehow defective. We used sexual orientation as an epithet, too. You know the ones. I don’t need to repeat them.
We just knew these things, as surely as we knew the earth revolved around the sun, or that the sum of the interior angles of a triangle is 180º, or that Michael Jordan is the best basketball player of all time.
We didn’t argue that men were superior to women or that gay people had made some shoddy lifestyle choices any more than we argued about gravity or the law of the conservation of matter or entropy. Because, why would you?
That’s what taking something for granted means: You don’t have to argue about it anymore. It’s the way the world is. It’s not even conventional wisdom, because conventional wisdom implies that there might be another side to the story. This stuff is just eye-rollingly obvious.
But then one day that stuff about women and gay people didn’t seem nearly so obvious anymore. I realized that I knew women who were smarter and funnier and more successful than me. I spent time with LGBT folks who seemed much more together, much more empathic, much more generous than I am. Now, a lot of that stuff I once took for granted seems not only laughably false, but something that I should be actively attempting to stand athwart.
We need to take a look at this whole “taken-for-grantedness” thing. We need to update common sense.