There has, for as long as records go back, been a bias against left-handed people, even in modern day it can be seen with many implements and tools being inherently designed for right handed people. In a lot of schools there are often right handed desks which simply can’t be used by left handed people, there are power tools which are designed to be used more comfortably (and by extension, safer) by right handed people.
All in all, there is a bias against left-handed people from a pure utilitarian standpoint just simply due to the fact that roughly 90% of the population are right handed so the demand for right handed products is higher.
There is also a lot of stigma built in to the language we use every day, with a lot of languages in the western world having their words for “left” to also convey notions of awkwardness, wrongness, stupidity and dishonesty. As a matter of fact, it was only in the 20th century that a lot of the stigma in the western world started to dissipate, with other countries still possessing the same level of skepticism around children born left handed.
Where does the stigma come from?
There are a variety of different areas where the stigma around the left hand came from, from religion, to culture to hygiene purposes.
Let’s explore a few areas where the left handed stigma came from:
There are a lot of places in religion, especially Christianity where the left hand side is seen as worse or even sometimes “evil” in comparison to its right counterpart.
As the prime example of this, in the fabled tale of Adam and Eve, Eve comes from Adam’s left side which immediately associated the left side with femininity and inferiority due to Eve being the one to get them kicked out of Eden by eating from the sacred tree.
On top of this you also have a direct quote from the Book of Matthew, writing:
“He shall separate all nations one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left…then shall the king say unto them on his right hand, come, ye blessed of my father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Sheep in this case being referred to as positive and thus put on the right side, with goats being a representation of inferiority and wickedness and as a result being put on the right side to be cast into everlasting fire.
You also have Jewish symbolism with the old testament stating that humans have two impulses “Yetzer tov” and “Yetzer ra” – “Yetzer tov” appears on the right hand side and represents human beings natural inclination towards good deeds, where “Yetzer ra” appears on the left as a representation of the evil in the hearts of all men.
This condemning of the left hand was a huge deal back in the day, during the salem witch trials as an example, women who were seen to use their left hand could be burned at the stake as it was associated with witchcraft.
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Well, there certainly was a lot of hate for left handed people when it comes to religion with a lot of symbolism associating from the early days left handed people with evil.
However, surely, with science at our side and the fundamental laws of the universe to back us up, there has to have been a lot less discourse around the topic of left handers in the scientific community… right?
Well, to the shock of no-one, there was… A lot, turns out no matter what your system of belief, hating people who use their left hand is naturally ingrained into a lot of us.
Turns out this gentleman right here (Cesare Lambroso) was a scientist of sorts and didn’t really like our type… I mean he went to some really extreme lengths to prove that left handers were in someway evil.
Let’s explore a quote of his shall we?
“as man advances in civilization and culture, he shows an always greater right-sidedness as compared to…women and savage races, [who] even when they are not properly left-handed have certain gestures and movements which are a species of left-handedness.”
…So there is a lot to unpack here, obviously with the gaze of the modern eye we can discern that Cesare was a racist, misogynist bigot but back then he really thought he was onto something with this handedness thing.
It’s clear throughout his writing he doesn’t ascribe left handedness to supernatural entities like demons and devils but instead to an inherent biological wrongness deep within any left handed person.
To be honest, it is a lot like plenty of other bigoted views from back in the day, they make a lot of noise but don’t really say anything, other than some vague assertions about how women are more often left handed so of course it is bad you don’t really get any kind of real evidence here.
The idea that Lambroso as the “Father of criminology” touted oh so regally was that criminals and “savage races” tended to think moreso with the left side of the brain than with the right, ergo, left = bad.
Now, whilst this was reduced to nothing other than quack science later on down the line, it does make you wonder what exactly were his motives against left handed people. Or rather, was he using a notion people were already familiar with (left = bad) and assigning it to minority races and women tied up with some mumbo jumbo about the brain.
There are still a lot of doubts when it comes to left handed people in the modern era, whilst it is nice to think we are past it all, people cling to the past like a stain on a blanket.
In fact it was shown in a survey that 60% of left handed students in Taiwan were forced to switch to right handed, this is happening all around the world today.
The interesting part is where some people want to be left handed, associating it with a creative mind and free spirit, being left handed means to go against the norm, think outside the box and become a better version of yourself.
This is just as much a load of rubbish as the negative spin, whilst there have been studies around the topic, there are far too few left handed people to directly compare to right handed, if the odds were 50/50 and there were demonstrable differences then maybe you would have a point but this isn’t the case.
Left handed people are, ultimately, people, they aren’t super genius creative inventors, nor are they evil, wicked tricksters, they are people living in a world disadvantaged to them with hundreds of different narratives pushed onto them.
All in all, there is a lot of hate for left handed people out there in both the scientific and religious communities, whilst it has certainly died down, there are still a lot of countries out there who look down on lefties.
All we can do is hope and pray that the next generation is more tolerant of us lefties… Maybe one day.