imageRole Reversals

Sleuthing for hierarchies does resemble solving crimes. After all, hierarchies are stealing our happiness, peace, and hope, while also killing our safety, contentment, and security.

Role reversals are effective tools for uncovering elusive hierarchies that go undetected behind our assumptions about what's normal and natural.

Role Reversals are Magic

Entertain and enlighten yourself with a juicy role reversal! Stubborn, sneaky, elusive hierarchies reveal themselves in an instant - just like magic!

The technique is simple.
The higher group takes on the role of the lower, while the lower group plays the part usually played by the higher. We imagine the same scene played over again, however this time with roles switched.

If a hierarchy is present, the role reversal will appear to create an unfair disadvantage for the new lower group (formerly the higher group). The new lower group will have fewer advantages than we expect them to have.

Here's example #1
Those of us who use wheelchairs to get around are ranked higher in our new hierarchy than those of us who walk.


In our places of business we have ceilings with a maximum height of six feet. Ambulatory people complain that they cannot work in the buildings because they are inaccessible. Most ambulatory people have to stoop to walk, being especially careful to duck around light fixtures and vents. They must bend over to obtain documents from a three-foot high filing cabinet. They say they feel like they are working in an underground coal mine.

Each building has only one set of stairs. Ambulatory employees complain that the steps are inconveniently located. New ambulatory employees and visitors who walk must search for the stairs, which are not well marked. Even though each building has several elevators, they are reserved for use by people who have wheelchairs.

The wheelchair riders sympathize, but only see the bottom line. "Gosh! Do you know how much money it would cost to raise the ceilings? Do you know how much floor space a stairwell takes? We'd have to make our twelve-story building sixty feet taller and remove four offices on each floor. Our stockholders wouldn't consider the outlay of millions of dollars for those changes cost effective. Your request is not a reasonable accommodation."

The company has a large campus with several internal streets. At the intersections, the signs that indicate it is safe to cross either say roll or illuminate a picture of a wheelchair rider in motion. The walkers ask for the signs to be changed to say cross so all will be included. The management finds the suggestion ridiculous.

Continue Sleuthing

Sleuthing for hierarchies? Other techniques:
Who's benefiting?

Six More Examples

2. The United States government funds elite colleges called Peace Academies. United States citizens want their taxes to go toward training leaders to promote worldwide peace. Students study collaboration, compromise, negotiation, listening to the perspectives of others, world community building, and ways for people to save face no matter the outcome. We hear frequent recruiting advertisements on television and radio that proclaim, "Go Peace Force," "The Peace Force is looking for a few good people," and "Be all you can be in the Peace Force. "

image3. Men shorter than five feet six inches tall
are considered the most powerful, capable, and sexy men. A father checks the projected height charts hoping his son will not grow tall.

4. In December, towns and cities celebrate the season of Hanukkah with festive decorations on light poles and in department store windows. Menorahs light up most business offices.


5. The world's lone "superpower," with military forces far exceeding those of any other country, invades and occupies Mexico. While pumping out Mexico's oil reserves, the superpower begins threatening to invade the United States if it fails to act as the superpower dictates. Alarm prevails all over the United States, as people fear that Texas will be next.


6. A department store features a section for men whose bodies can't wear "regular" clothing. This men's MINUS SECTION is for "empty-figured" males. Here men find products that help them feel more attractive and accepted: "tallerizing" stacked shoes; "muscularizing" food additives and padding to make them appear twenty pounds stronger; expensive cosmetics that promise to make their faces look fuller.

7. The three major professional spectator sports in the United States make national celebrities out of female athletes. Field hockey, women's basketball, and fast pitch softball draw millions of diehard fans year after year.

imagePeople know the fine points of the games of field hockey and fast pitch softball, but the general public does not know the first thing about football or baseball — these are sports for men, and therefore not popular in the mainstream.

During the two weeks surrounding New Year's, people all over the country stay glued to field hockey bowls on television. Every fall, the country follows the Fast Pitch Softball World Series, featuring the winners of the American and National Fast Pitch Softball Leagues.

At least 95 percent of the sports broadcast on television are women's sports. The sports sections of major and small newspapers give primary coverage to women's sports. Many newspapers relegate men's athletics to small articles on back pages — if they are covered at all.

Women who excel in their sports expect to become multi-millionaires upon leaving college. Cities use tax dollars to build multimillion-dollar stadiums to attract women to play. If men want to play professional team sports, they need to land second jobs during the off-season in order to support themselves.

Women are recruited to coach and referee for any athletic team, male or female. Women occupy a large majority of the coaching positions in athletics, essentially coaching all the women's teams and most of the men's teams. Men rarely coach women, and seldom do men referee women's games.



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