Tackling discrimination of all forms, has quite rightly taken its place at becoming key objectives for many of the world’s leading Nations. Whether that be persons of influence and authority in politics, high profile celebrities, or just the general public as a whole, there does seem to be a concentrated effort to stamp out bigoted and prejudicial behaviour. In addition, the promotion of equality and increased education for everyone to be more accepting of all the many different categories of people who make up our society, does now appear to be gathering pace and taking significantly advanced steps.
The overlooked discrimination
Most of the groups are easily identifiable, with race, age, sex and disability, all receiving deserved focus for their unjust treatment over many decades, even centuries to be more accurate, and hopefully there will be a positive shift in community attitudes, moving forward. There is however, another minority group – approximately 10% of the world’s population to pin it down further – who have been continuously discriminated against for as long as can be remembered. I am able to speak with reasonable authority on this matter, as I am very much one of them, and that is… the left hander!
Admittedly, we don’t have it anywhere as bad as it was back in 18th and 19th centuries, when due to peculiar cultural and social pressures, many left handed children were forced to write with their right hands and were physically punished if they reverted back type and tried to follow their natural instinct. This often led to subsequent problems, such as dyslexia, stuttering and various other learning disorders. Nevertheless, in a world that has an overwhelming right-handed bias, the difficulties we face are still consistently overlooked, or completely dismissed as being insignificant all together. In doing so, there is a failure to recognise that many everyday products, designed and produced for efficient use by a right-hander, are in actual fact not only inconvenient and painful, but in some cases, quite dangerous for a left hander to utilise, or apply.
By the law of averages and with few exceptions, most right handers will have a close association with a “lefty”; be that a family member, close friend, work colleague, school pal, or just a basic acquaintance. Nevertheless, the vast majority are totally oblivious to the obstacles we face on a daily basis. In fairness, this is usually as a result of general ignorance and the fact that they seemingly take their dominance totally for granted. Those that do notice any sort of awkward struggle very often see us as an easy target for an uninformed gag, label us as clumsy, or worst of all, give us an uncomplimentary description; which is at best unflattering, but in one particular case, extremely rude and derogatory.
Language around the world that is aimed towards the left hander, has for centuries been prejudicial. Much of it originating from the Latin word sinister, meaning “on the left side”, but over time this came to represent wickedness and evil, leading to descriptions for the left hander to take on similar dark overtures. In the English versions, terms such as keck-fisted, keggy, and ham-handed, are still in regular use; but one of the most common, is also probably one of the most unpleasant, and that is “cack-handed”. In reality, this is incredibly offensive, because its direct association is with the Latin word cacare, which basically refers, in one form or another, to excrement and defecation!
That can’t be “right”
Never have the right-handers had to strive to adapt to tools and equipment which have been manufactured to be used in a completely different manner. This we accomplish brilliantly, with plenty of smart thinking, and very little fuss. Thankfully, some designers have been inspired to create various products the opposite way around, to accommodate the left-hander; but these items are still few and far between and those in existence need to be purchased from specialist outlets.
I can picture many right-handers scoffing at such nonsense, surely it’s just a simple matter of turning things around? If only it were that straightforward! The following can now be purchased in left handed versions and it would be very interesting to see how well a right hander would be able to adapt to them:
- Scissors – When a left handed person uses right handed scissors, we have to do so in a totally unnatural way to achieve any kind of cut, with neatness and accuracy constantly being an issue, because the top blade will always obscure the cutting line. This inevitably forces us to cut inside the line and is extremely uncomfortable when used over an extended period of time, as the handle’s shape digs into the left thumb. In a left handed version, the blades are reversed with the left blade on top, meaning that there is an unobscured view of the cutting line, so it is possible to achieve a smooth cut. Also, the grips on the handle are moulded in such a way that they fit around the thumb perfectly, allowing for comfort and accurate performance. It’s a reasonable assumption that the right hander wouldn’t feel such a cut above, when attempting to use such a pair!
- Kitchen Utensils – The kitchen is a minefield for the left hander. For example: basic saucepans require the left hander to pour its contents backwards! Swapping the lip to the right of the handle corrects this. Knives usually have their serrations on the left hand side of the blade, to counter the twisting action of the hand, which occurs naturally when cutting. However, when we use one, it invariably leads to a curved cut. If they are serrated the opposite way around, this is avoided. Peelers are a real source of dread, because to achieve the best results the peeler should be drawn towards the body, but for us left handers this is not possible, as the cutting edge faces the wrong direction. Many use a technique that drags the peeler away and as a consequence, usually leaves their knuckles lacerated! Reversing the blade on a left handed version totally alleviates this problem.
- Writing Implements – Left handers are used to being ridiculed by our right handed “friends” for the way that we hold a pen and write with it. This is largely due to a lack of appreciation towards the difficulties, that even this simple task entails. Being able to actually observe what is being written and avoiding the frustration of smudging, are the two constant factors that “lefties” struggle with. This is why any writing implement is held at an awkward angle and very often the paper is also positioned with a peculiar slant too. Fortunately, pens and pencils are now available, featuring a hooked neck, an off centre tip and with indentations positioned to encourage a more relaxed and comfortable grip. They permit a clearer field of vision, improve posture, which in turn reduces writing strain.
- Entertaining in the Home – It is normal practice when entertaining in the home, to open a bottle of some kind, but for the left hander this is not always as straightforward as their right handed counterparts might actually think. Corkscrews are designed to be turned clockwise, which is easier said than done for the “lefty”, as there is insufficient leverage from the thumb to push it around, so it invariably turns into an awkward operation, which can sometimes see us actually rotate the bottle rather than the corkscrew! The left handed version reverses the screws so that they turn anti-clockwise. At many gatherings a pack of playing cards often makes an appearance. Have you ever noticed that left handers frequently seem uncomfortable with their hand? This is because the cards in most “normal” decks, only have the numbers on two diagonal corners, namely top left and bottom right. If a left hander tries to fan them in their right hand then they are unable to see what they are holding, which puts them at a bit of a disadvantage, to say the least! There are now decks designed the opposite way around, with numbers in the top right and bottom left, enabling a left hander to hold their cards in their right hand, then fan and play with their left. I can hear the expletives from the right handers trying to use the left handed versions, already!
- General Stationery – Left handers suffer great difficulty with the basic ruler, struggling to see the measurements because our own hand conceals them when we are attempting to draw a straight line. The alternative version scales the numbers from right to left, which is the natural and obvious direction for the left hander and as a consequence, allows a clear view of whatever measurement is required. Another cause of great frustration is the pencil sharpener, which leaves a left hander with a lap full of shavings, due to us having to turn the pencil towards ourselves. The “lefty” will do what “lefties” always do and that is find a workable solution, but the creation of an option that allows for an anti-clockwise motion is another step in the right direction!
- DIY Essentials – DIY can be troublesome at the best of times, but trying to undertake a project with tools that have been designed to operate the opposite way around to how you need them, can be positively soul destroying. This is the handicap a left hander has to put up with for the majority of tasks we attempt. The extendable tape measure is vital for precision and it is possible now to buy a unit that has markings set from right to left, meaning we can fix it at one end and pull away to the desired length, with their favoured left hand. The craft knife can strike fear in to the left hander, but now a variation is available with the thumb control of the blade on the opposite side, giving greater safety and comfort.
So at long last we are getting some assistance, although simple economics will dictate that a high percentage of commodities will continue to be built specifically for the right hander; but it would be interesting and highly amusing to see them trying to use an alternate design, with a left hand bias!
Left handed day
Every year us lefties are able to celebrate our uniqueness on “International Left-Handed Day”, which falls on August 13th, when we are able to feel a sense of pride and solidarity around the globe for our individuality.
Lifetime of adapting
Essentially, left to our own devices, we left handers are every bit as proficient as our right handed counterparts, but with proven adaptability. We’d just like appreciation and respect for our struggles and the many discriminatory actions – often delivered unintentionally, but delivered all the same – be acknowledged in society, in the same way other minority groups are now being supported.
It is re-assuring to know that some of history’s most important, influential and successful people such as: Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Marie Curie and Albert Einstein were all left-handed. Although it is worth noting that Einstein had problems in almost every subject in school and was frequently labelled as being “backwards!” Then again, those tutors of his would almost certainly have been right handed!… Just saying!