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Chinoy Culture and the Stigma Against Left-Handedness

People would usually react with surprise when they find out you’re left-handed, and more often than not, they would proceed to tell you about how their friend or aunt is also left-handed, as if you’re all supposed to know each other somehow. It’s true that being left-handed is a little uncommon, as data shows that only 10% of the human population are lefties, but they aren’t rare to the point where you would only encounter one in your whole lifetime. There are probably more lefties than you think, but when you’re a Chinoy, there’s a high chance that you know people who were supposed to be lefties but have been trained to use their right-hand.

 

I was one of those people, although I’m still left-handed today because I stubbornly refused to re-learn something from scratch. When I was a child, I remember my grandmother’s disapproval when she saw me drawing with my left-hand. She kept telling me that “it’s bad” or “it doesn’t look good” with a hope that it would eventually guilt-trip me enough to start writing with my right hand, but I never did because no one ever explained why it’s bad in the first place. 

 

There have always been a lot of negative connotations surrounding being left-handed. I remember my religion teacher telling us not to use our left hands to do the sign of the cross because the left hand is evil, and apparently this is a common belief. TIME pointed out that the Devil himself is believed to be left-handed, and that all evil spells were always conjured with the left hand. This is why simply being left-handed back then could easily land you in the Salem Witch Trials. 

 

Chinese culture does not explicitly state that the left hand is evil, but its stigma against lefties is for practical reasons. For one, Chinese culture values conformity rather than individuality, and since the majority of the population is right-handed, it’s generally frowned upon to deviate and write with your left hand. Even the Chinese word for left (左) has a negative connotation, as it means unorthodox or wrong. In addition, some experts claim that Chinese characters are designed to be written with the right hand, even though the strokes remain the same regardless of which hand you use. Many teachers ran with this idea and convinced parents that left-handed children are more likely to fall behind in class because the words they write would be improper and smudged. That’s not true of course, speaking from experience. The words I write undoubtable resemble Chinese characters, and I’ve never had a problem with smudging unless I was using a particularly inky gel pen. Besides, I actually think the Chinese way of writing (e.g. from right to left) is actually better suited for lefties because that way, they’re not dragging their hand across the whole page.

 

This proves that there really isn’t a reason to force left-handed people to become right-handed. It’s not natural, and the process of training children to switch their dominant hands can often be abusive. It may also leave lasting effects on children, such as bad handwriting, bad memory, and poor concentration among other things. Being left-handed doesn’t mean you’re evil or bad or incapable because it’s only a matter of genetics and environmental influences.

 

Actually, there are a few bad things about being a leftie, and they’re all results of the world being built for right-handed people. I don’t know how many times I had to grapple with scissors and can openers, or how many classrooms I’ve walked into that had only right-handed armchairs. There’s also the matter of trying my best not to elbow people while writing and having to use my right hand to zip up clothes or open doors. All these sound like minor inconveniences, but they tend to add up over time, so this International Lefthanders Day, please take the opportunity to appreciate the lefties and their ability to put up with everyday nuisances. 

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