Here’s a theory: Women in male-dominated cultures usually know more about guy stuff than guys know about women’s lives. Non-Christians in Christian countries generally know more about Christianity than Christians know about other faiths. People of color in white-dominated places often know more about white ways of life than whites know about P.O.C. cultures. Gays tend to know more about the hetero world than heteros know about gay life.
More broadly: People on the lower rungs of society — P.O.C.s in white-majority places, women in a man’s world, gays in a straight society, non-Christians in Christian countries — tend to know more about the culture of the more dominant group than people in the dominant group know about the culture of less dominant groups.
It’s unavoidable, because the dominant culture tends to, well, dominate. Its influence pervades the entire populace. Unless your group isolates itself completely from the rest of society, you can’t help but hear about how Christians celebrate Christmas, how heteros date and marry, how men run businesses and governments, and how white people do just about everything.
And if you want to thrive, prosper, and succeed in a society where your group isn’t in charge, knowing how the dominant group does things isn’t just unavoidable. It’s necessary.
But the people in the leading group don’t usually have to know so much about the people less dominant.
And when dominant-group people do try to learn about other groups, they have to work hard at it, because the less dominant culture gets less time on the airwaves, less space in print, and so on. Besides, people in subordinate groups don’t always trust someone from the dominant culture poking his nose in and looking around.
So if you’re in any strong group and you’re ever tempted to think that people in a minority or other less-powerful group seem ignorant or uneducated, consider how much or how little you know about their culture.
And then maybe think about how people on the lower ends of any group don’t always love the people on top.