In a classroom full of students hunched over their desks, the sound of scribbling pencils permeates the room. There is the smell of rubber shavings, binder paper and maybe a little bit of sweat. Test-taker Kelly goes for her eraser to scratch out her Scantron and accidentally bumps elbows with her neighbor.
If she were right-handed, this would be the end of the scene. Test-taker Kelly would be able to continue taking her test without a care in the world.
Instead, test-taker Kelly gets a dirty look from her neighbor because in her attempt to change her answer from “B” to “D” just now, she elbow-checked her desk partner for the fifth time this period.
The first thing I say to anybody who happens to be unfortunate enough to sit on my left side is, “I’m left-handed.” Forget introducing myself — my name is not what matters here. I tell them straight-up that their elbow will be meeting my elbow if we continue sitting in this configuration.
When teachers ask if there’s anything they should know about me to help me learn, I try to remember to tell them that, yes, I write with my left hand, so please keep that in mind when making your seating charts because it’s not that I don’t like the elbow space rule — it’s that the elbow space rule doesn’t like me.
And it’s not alone. In the 1600s, using your left hand was a considered a sign of witchcraft; many lefties were burned at the stake because of a careless raised hand.
Even though society is no longer roasting human leftie marshmallows, I’m pretty sure it’s not just my paranoia speaking when I say that the world is still out to get lefties. There is a bias towards right-handed people that fails to account for the comfort and accessibility of left-handed people and it’s time for the rest of the world to realize it and adjust accordingly.
If you look carefully (or if you are left-handed and just can’t help noticing), it becomes hard to ignore the abundance of everyday objects clearly created specifically for the use of right-handed people. Either that, or inventors just assumed everybody on Earth was right-handed and didn’t even realize that they were excluding what Curtis Hardyck and Lewis F. Petrinovich’s study “Left-handedness” reports to be a whopping 10 percent of the population.
Everybody has one of those cheap holiday mugs where the image is only printed on one side. That same mug foils my plans to simultaneously look at Santa’s peeling plastic face and have my mug handle facing left for my hand to grab.
I’ve grown up using my right hand to cut with scissors and click with a computer mouse because, for my parents, hunting down left-handed tools for their five-year-old wasn’t really a top concern — and rightly so.
People shouldn’t have to pay a visit to Lefty’s the Left-Hand Store to find alternatives to whatever object the right-hand bias is ruining. At this point, I’m convinced that left-handed desks with arm supports on the left side are as common as watches with the time adjustment knobs to the left of the face — that is, practically non-existent.
Even the newly announced Apple Watch, at first glance, has its digital crown placed on the right side of the timepiece. It’s only after a wild Google chase that CNET, a third-party website, is found with a report that Apple’s new watch is leftie-friendly. By changing a setting in the interface, lefties can program the watch’s display to flip vertically. They can then wear the watch upside down on their right hand so that the digital crown is on the left side of the clockface.
So lefties everywhere are appeased for now, but what Apple has done here is hardly revolutionary. The fact that the giant tech company had to add that its latest “innovation” would also work for lefties as an afterthought shows the little consideration given to our tenth of the population.
I am not asking for a public apology from all the corporations in the world that have thus far mainly produced right-handed objects (which, to my knowledge, would be all companies except Lefty’s the Left-Hand Store). All I’d like is for cheap holiday mug manufacturers to begin printing Santa’s rotund figure on both sides of their cups. I’d like for the Apple website to at least mention on their website that its new product is accessible to all the lefties who are resigning themselves to a life of telling time by smartphone and I want scissors, arm supports, watches and countless other products for the left hand to be as readily available as their rightie counterparts. I would really appreciate it if the world acknowledged that I use my left hand.
By no means is the right-hand bias the most outstanding injustice that the world has to offer; that award remains to be won by racism, misogyny, homophobia and other similar plagues in our society. But the bias is yet another case of the majority overlooking the needs of the minority and I’m tired of adjusting myself to give them elbow space.