"This one makes me cry" I said to a random guy as we stood together in front of this piece of art at the "Casi Invisible" (Almost Invisible) exhibition on the 2nd floor of Costa Rican's Museum of Gold.
When he asked why, I struggled to verbalize how the image of the woman in front of the stereotypical feminine floral background perfectly captured many of my life experiences.
"Sometimes, when you're a woman" I said, "people can't see you. They can't see who you are as a human being. Instead, when they look at you, all they see is a stereotype."
And I remembered the Valentines Day when my boyfriend gave me a box of
chocolates and a teddy bear. After six months of dating, he hadn't
noticed that I couldn't eat any carbohydrates, let alone candy, without
getting sick within 5 minutes, even though we'd discussed this condition
each time we chose a restaurant. My gift to him was a subscription to
"The Economist"; I'd paid attention to the fact that he often read it at
the library as he prepared for the foreign service exam. We'd
discussed world affairs and various intellectual topics...never had we
talked about cuddly animals or children's toys or anything that would
have led him to believe I was a fan of teddy bears, so his gift felt
infantilizing, just like the occasional times when he would talk to me
in a baby voice. So, although I knew he meant well by giving me a stereotypical Valentines gift, instead of feeling
loved, I felt invisible.
And I remembered the
time when I told a man at the cafeteria of the LDS Church office
building where I worked that I was a software developer. "Do you mean
you do data entry?" he queried, asking in several different ways,
needing quite a bit of convincing to believe that a woman could do the work I did.
And although the art is about being invisible, it
reminded me of my experiences of being unheard, like the ones that
motivated me to no longer be a member of the LDS Church.
random guy and I stood in front of the art, we were joined by one of my
spanish-school classmates, a young woman who is just finishing her
medical school residency. And as we discussed the art, I could see that
her experiences have been different than mine. The art did not
resonate as strongly with her as it did with me. Which gives me hope. I
like to believe humankind is advancing and improving. Hopefully we are
closer to the day when we see each other as individuals, and
have no invisible among us.