That is, in one particular point that's, however, crucial to me. (And it's this reason why I write here.) I always feel unwell when meeting an attitude I'd call "let's bring equality to the earth". Reading this passage in your reply to Yserenhart makes me feel uneasy, somewhat afraid even:
The effects are always mediated by perceptions of the target's perceived gender (and age, and race, and class, and national origin, etc.). Thus the causes are never either-or, they're always both-and. It's a combination of heterosexism and sexism and ageism and racism and classism that causes an individual to see two men of the same race and class but different ages together and assume a blood relationship rather than a romantic one...(Which is why I recommend an approach than involves making as few assumptions about the parties involved as possible.)
Leaving out the original point of your words now, I focus on how easily perception of age might be considered ageism, perception of race racism and so on ... as few assumptions as possible ... for me this is a vision of a very cruel and cold world, a world in which crossing a road without having checked for Roma presence makes you an insensitive beast, so nobody allows not to check.
I find your interpretation of my words frankly pretty bizarre. How you get from "don't leap to conclusions" to "a very cruel and cold world" is beyond me. Moreover, this discussion is now taking place at a high level of abstraction which muddies what "making as few assumptions...as possible" really means in practice. Let me give you another concrete example which I hope illustrates this:
When I visit my sister, we sometimes go out in public together with her children. She and I look a great deal alike, but I'm a little older. Her husband looks similar to me, too, as do their children. When we're out together, I imagine a lot of people look at me and my sister and see a married couple with their offspring. But they're wrong; I'm not a straight married man, I'm a gay
married man. I'm not their father; I'm their uncle. They're not being malicious by making these assumptions. And statistics are in their favour. (The vast majority of the time, the man with them is
their father.) But the result is still to "erase" my gayness and perceive me as something more in line with their own societal prejudices.
Of course, I do the same thing. I see a woman with children who resemble her physically and I assume they're her children. Often they are. But maybe she's an aunt or a friend or a neighbour who's just taking them for the day. Maybe she's a nanny or some other childcare worker. Maybe the kids aren't even all related to each other. Society does so much to reinforce the image of a heterosexual nuclear family that it causes us to see it even when it isn't there.
Having realised this, though, I began consciously trying not to project my own prejudices onto strangers. What do I see? I see a woman with young children, that's it. No reason to assume more than that without positive evidence (such as one of the children calling her "Mommy"). I used to begin anecdotes with, "I saw this woman and her son today and the son said..." Now I say, "I saw this woman with a child today and the child said...". Why leap to conclusions about their relationship based on nothing more than superficial factors like age and sex? If the person I'm speaking to wants to extrapolate a relationship from that, that's on them.
Remaining neutral in this way doesn't mean I'll be surprised to find out that they are
mother and child. It doesn't mean I can't still start from the working assumption that this woman is responsible for this child (and we're not dealing with something like a kidnapping situation--not that these aren't mostly carried out by natural parents anyway). If it's really necessary for me to have more information in order to interact with them, I can ask for it. I'm still free to speculate in describing them to others, e.g. "I think she was his mother." I just need to be clear--in my own mind and with others--that these are layers of interpretation I'm adding to the bare facts which I witnessed.
Why is that so hard? How does it lead to a "cruel and cold world"? It's just rational thinking, logical positivism applied to daily experience. What's to fear from more of that?
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons