Often on Twitter, I see someone preface a series of tweets with the following: “I’m not an X, but here are my thoughts on X’s problems.” Sometimes, X stands for the opposite gender of the tweeter. “I’m not a woman, but here’s my take on gender equality in tech.” The premise is that a non-X can’t comprehend what’s it like to be an X. It’s a sound premise, but I think that we underestimate its scope. It’s not just that a majority can’t comprehend what it’s like to be a minority, that a man can’t comprehend what’s it like to be a woman, that a have can’t comprehend what it’s like to be a have-not. Oh no.
Unless someone invents a veritable experience machine, we cannot know what it is like to be someone else. Empathy itself is a response to the fact that we never get to be anyone but ourselves. So rather than only select commentaries having an explicit qualifier of “I’m not an X”, I think it would be worthwhile to stuff that qualifier in front of every deconstruction of human behaviour, as both consumers and creators.