Discrimination against Left-Handed People? Really?

by Donnell Ann Bell

An article on the History of Left-handed People caught my eye yesterday and after reading it, I felt so strongly about it I decided to include it in today’s Stiletto Gang blog. The article states myriad ways left-handed people have been discriminated against, particularly before the 20th century. I’m right-handed and never realized (all right, paid attention) that a bias exists. One of the women I play pickleball with is lefthanded. Not only is she a darn good player she’s a brilliant seamstress. Before moving to Las Cruces, she owned an exercise studio. Her talents are many and varied.

Still, I couldn’t help wondering . . . Really? Discriminate against someone who is left-handed? What is it with human nature that makes society fear someone different? I could elaborate ad nauseam on this subject, but let’s stick to lefties for the time being. According to the article, ninety percent of the world is right-handed.

At one time teachers tried to re-train left-handed students to use their right hands. Incidentally, the article also said that left-handers had far more success in switching hands than right-handers. (As someone who broke her arm in 1979 and was forced to do everything with my left hand, I can attest this is a true statement).  Experts also said that in some cases, children forced to vie away from using their dominant hand suffered learning disabilities, including dyslexia, stuttering, and other speech impediments.

Superstition abounds regarding people born left-handed. Everything from lower IQs, bad luck, cleanliness, to the belief that right-handed people are stronger and live longer than left-handed people. Many left-handed people become ambidextrous to offset a right-handed world where products (think scissors, computer input devices, video game controllers, knives, cameras, musical instruments, weapons, the list goes on.) In sports, a left-handed player is known as a Southpaw.

Of all the things we’ve discriminated against, I found discriminating against left-handed people the most absurd. And yet we did.

Yesterday, August 13, was International Left-hander’s Day.  https://www.lefthandersday.com   The website is designed to raise awareness of everyday issues that lefties face in a world designed for right-handers.

Here’s another link I found fascinating. International Left-Handers Day 2023: Check Here What’s Make Left-Handers Unique (msn.com)





18 replies
  1. Lois Winston
    Lois Winston says:

    Donnell, as someone married to a left-hander, I’ve been aware of this for decades. However, as he will often tell me, many geniuses and quite a few famous artists were left-handed.

  2. Gay Yellen
    Gay Yellen says:

    My mother was born left-handed, but she was forced to learn to write with her right hand in school. This resulted in her growing up ambidextrous, which I believe was a great aid to her creativity. My father was a Southpaw pitcher in high school and for his local YMCA team (I have a news clipping from there with the headline “‘Ace’ Yellen pitches another winner!”). My brother is also a lefty. Yet somehow, I am right-handed. Fun post, Donnell!

  3. T.K. Thorne
    T.K. Thorne says:

    I remember being shocked when I learned the Latin word for left was “sinister.” Fear and/or distain for the “other” is deeply rooted in our culture and perhaps even our biology.

    • Donnell Ann Bell
      Donnell Ann Bell says:

      T.K. Sometimes bias and prejudice know no bounds. I read that too and deliberately left it out. Yes, people accused left handed people of being from the devil. In ancient times, too, Jewish people were accused of witchcraft. That we cannot understand we attack.

  4. Kathryn Lane
    Kathryn Lane says:

    Very interesting blog, Donnell. I used both hands when I was a kid. By fourth grade, my teacher insisted I write with my right hand only. I still use my left hand for a lot of activities that right-handed people would only use their right hand. I never felt any discrimination over using my left hand, except for my teacher insisting I use my right hand for writing. My brother, who is extremely intelligent, is left-handed and has experienced those issues discussed in your post. And yes, a lot of geniuses have been left-handed.

  5. Saralyn
    Saralyn says:

    My family is full of left-handers. My mother was forced to switch, and she could do almost anything with either hand. I’m a lefty, but when I couldn’t use my left hand for several months, I wrote right-handed without much trouble. Here’s a fun fact–the fine arts department at a school where I worked had 17 teachers, and 13 were left-handed!

  6. Donnell Ann Bell
    Donnell Ann Bell says:

    Debra, you never think about what many of us take for granted. The idea that left handers have to special order gloves, golf clubs, and tools. I found this an education. Thank you!

  7. Bruce Most
    Bruce Most says:

    My childhood friend is left handed. He’s done very well for himself. I’ve never understood the discrimination against lefties, other than we have a difficult time in this country and the world with people who are “different” from the majority.

  8. Barbara Eikmeier
    Barbara Eikmeier says:

    I have a left handed husband and a left handed son. When my son went to college he called me after his first class to say, “What I like best about college is left handed desks.”

      • Marianne Shields
        Marianne Shields says:

        So many activities we learn as children are shown to us by right-handed parents. Using scissors, ironing, crocheting, tossing a ball and so on. As a left-hander you learn to navigate writing in a spiral with the coil beneath your hand. Ouch. In the 60’s, our college desks were very right-handed, so lefties took notes on clipboards. Bowling is a sport that is fantastic for us. While the righties are wearing out that side of the lane, we have a wonderful, freshly oiled lane for rolling those strikes! Hug a lefty today, just don’t take her bowling.

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