As I considered this, I began to make connections between childfreedom and left-handedness. Lefties comprise only about 10% of the population too. We struggle to navigate a world built for right-handers (ladles with spouts on only one side, salad bars/buffets designed for people to hold a plate in the left hand while serving up food with the right, machinery levers positioned so as to be grasped with the right hand, scissors, right-handed desks in classrooms and lecture halls, etc.). In fact, a 1991 study at the UBC in Vancouver found that right-handers tend to outlive left-handers, likely due in part to the dangers lefties may encounter while trying to use right-handed equipment/facilities.
We are a curiosity to many. “It’s fascinating to watch you write!” “Look at how she holds a pencil!” “How can you do that with your left hand?!” Even in the recent past, people have tried to force us into being right-handed. Acquaintances only one or two generations before me have told of being sharply wrapped on the knuckles with a wooden ruler by angry teachers as punishment for writing with their left hand. Parents have insisted on taking crayons out of their children’s left hands and pressing them into the right. Historically, we have been considered untrustworthy or evil, sinister (which also means “on the left side”). In some parts of the world, it is considered offensive to extend your left hand to someone, as the left hand used to be reserved for… er… bathroom hygiene.
In the meantime, right-handedness is the gold standard. You want to be the “right-hand man.” At dinner, the guest of honor traditionally sat at the right-hand of the host. Christ is seated at the right-hand of the throne of God.
But we lefties do have a certain degree of acceptance these days. At least now people don’t usually try to beat the left-handedness out of us; most serving ladles have spouts on both sides; classrooms have the occasional left-handed desk (though they are often relegated to the back of the lecture hall…). We even have a few champions from history:
- The judge Ehud became a hero of Israel when he assassinated the corrupt king Eglon. Because Ehud was left-handed, he was able to affix a sword to his right thigh and smuggle it past the palace guards, who would be looking for weapons on a right-handed man’s left side.
- Leonardo da Vinci’s left-handedness is sometimes at least loosely credited for his creativity and ingenuity. (oh, and he was childfree too)
- Four of the last five U.S. presidents: Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, Obama.