Morning Wood: UMass discriminates against left-handed students

By Morning Wood Staff

(David Corry/Flickr)

By Delia Gauche

I’m part of a marginalized group in society. We make up about 10 percent of the American population. We used to be seen as unnatural, and forced to conform to what the majority of society deems acceptable, but that attitude has changed over time.

However, we still face many disadvantages, and we are often prevented from living our lives to their fullest potential by those who are seen as “normal.”

I am left-handed. Left-handed people are ostracized from society in many ways, and this alienation is upheld by institutions like the University of Massachusetts.

The majority of desks in UMass classrooms are made for right-handed people. We are lucky if we can find one lefty desk in a classroom, and there are rarely any lefty desks in lecture halls with auditorium-style seating. There are never enough of these desks for the amount of left-handed students in the class. Every day, I walk into a classroom and I am reminded that it was not designed for me, but for the majority.

This discrimination against lefties is also rampant in every computer lab on campus. If you look at a computer mouse, you will see that it is always on the right side of a computer. It is designed to be held by a right hand, and feels wrong when held by a left hand. Even door handles are often placed on the right side of a door, where they are meant to be easily accessible for right-handed people, and refrigerator and microwave handles nearly always are. We live in a world that is made for right-handed people, and most of the time we don’t even realize what we’re missing because we’re so used to things being on the side that is inconvenient for us.

An unwelcoming physical environment is only one barrier to being fully accepted in society. Microaggressions in everyday language are another facet of the discrimination that lefties face. People constantly use the word “right” to mean “correct,” subtly emphasizing that they view right-handedness as moral, and any deviation from it as wrong.

This attitude is also prevalent in the professional world. Have you ever given someone a handshake? Which hand did you use? Your right hand, of course. We don’t have the option of doing this action with our left hand. UMass advisors always tell us to shake hands when we go to a career fair or a networking opportunity, but by doing this, they uphold the social norm that these actions can only be done with the right hand. We have to break down these social constructs telling us that using that shaking someone’s hand using your left hand is unprofessional. This change must start here at UMass.

We can be the first generation to reject the monopoly of right-handedness and fully embrace the possibilities of left-handedness and ambidextrousness. Remember, the opposite of right is not always wrong.

Delia Gauche can be reached by writing a letter (but only with your left hand).