Unlearning. Or: Everything I didn’t learn in kindergarten.

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This is not me. Photo by Binyamin Mellish on Pexels.com

After a not-so-discreet hint from a friend, I returned to the gym. And I remembered one of the reasons I like working out: it helps me to think through problems and different strategies to solve them. Exercise allows me to redefine what I believe about random subjects.

I realized that I need to have really long workouts. How else to categorize and work through all the random thoughts that plague me? As a dynamic person – mother, consultant, activist, feminist, single woman – I have quite a bit to think about.

So, while I was huffing and puffing on the treadmill, I came up with some random solutions to some random problems, and random thoughts on random subjects. I’ll start with these.

My new mantra is:

Unlearning. We have been taught certain values, morals, opinions, and attitudes. We have been taught how to speak, think, and react. We need to unlearn these habits.

Guess what? Many of our learned behaviors are simply wrong, irrelevant today. Inappropriate in modern society. Unacceptable to a growing number of people. Today’s world is very different from that of our parents and grandparents. Yet some of us continue to hold on to outdated traditions, perhaps out of fear. 


I believe we need to “unlearn” things and redefine our morality, ethics, and values. We need to redefine our language and re-think how we speak and behave, both alone and in groups.

And if you’re bi-cultural, you’re even more likely to need to unlearn. By bi-cultural, I don’t mean if your ancestors were English and French. Ask anyone who hails from the Middle East, especially women who are 50+, if there are things we need to unlearn…

…speaking of women, please consider this concept:

  • Feminism. All of us – men, women, children – are the products of a patriarchal system that has flourished for thousands of years. Our attitudes about gender and gender roles are pre-informed by all those years of male-dominated social structures.  Whether we’re being bopped on the head by our hunter-gatherer or intellectually arm-wrestling in the boardroom, we are the product of a male-dominated narrative. It’s time to shed old notions and habits. It’s time to accept women as equals and change the dominant narrative, and…

…speaking of narratives:

  • Language. Our language is geared to support the male-dominated social structures. For example, greeting a group of people with “hi, guys!” seems innocuous enough. But it actually excludes all those who are not guys. Some say that’s an overly sensitive attitude.

OK, think about it. Suppose we switch it up. For a week, try “hey, ladies!” when addressing a group of women and men. See how your male colleagues react. (I just got a mental image of that and laughed out loud.) See if the men feel excluded, or if they feel their masculinity is somehow compromised. You see where I’m going with this.

I find that usually when I call someone out for being chauvinistic or downright misogynistic, they tell me I’m “oversensitive.”

Well, ladies (guys), let’s put the shoe on the other foot.

And speaking of sensitivity…

  • Sensitivity: Again, not the world of your forefathers (foremothers?). Sometimes it seems that people really are overly sensitive to words, actions, situations, and the realities of life. When I start to think this way, I have to stop myself. A quick check and a reminder: the people who I think are overly sensitive (mostly men) are living a different reality than mine. Who am I to judge? Why am I imposing my insensitivity on them? Am I contradicting myself?

By the end of my workout, I had come to the conclusion that unlearning is the way forward for me. By unlearning, I will try to shed some of my preconceived notions, longstanding beliefs, and attitudes towards others. Through unlearning, I will hopefully become more conscious of how I speak, and try to use more gender-neutral terms. In unlearning, I will try to consider the impact of my words on others before I blurt them out.

Let me know what you think.


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Thinker of thoughts and writer of words. American by birth. Syrian by blood. International by choice. I moved to #Malaga to preserve my sanity.