Rosie Dawson-Hewes: We're not so different after all

By Rosie Dawson-Hewes

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We're not that far removed from extraordinary people like Albert Einstein.
We're not that far removed from extraordinary people like Albert Einstein.

As humans, we're all unique. We're all different and it's a wonderful thing.

Each of us brings unique qualities to the world - we each have our own views and way of seeing things, which then inform how we interact with the world around us.

I'm one of those people who loves a good debate. I absolutely love when I find someone with a different opinion to me and we can have a really good discussion about why our views are so differing. I love to hear why someone's beliefs are different to mine. And it's not about getting them to agree with me, or vice versa. I believe there's a lot to be learned from spending time with people who disagree with you on life's big issues - politics, religion, sexual orientation, you name it.

When we listen to someone else's views and try to see the world through their eyes, it makes us more compassionate human beings. It helps us understand why they might make different decisions to us.

We might not agree with their decision still, but we may be able to better see why they made it.

That said, there are some things I believe are just not up for debate. And treating everyone with the same level of respect is one of them. Just last week I had a couple of very sexist interactions with someone. There's nothing quite like having a 65-year-old guy literally turn his back on you and insist on talking to the male in the room, after telling you to "get out the vacuum cleaner and do your bit" on an earlier occasion, to remind you how different our world views can be.

The fact I think I should be treated the same as my husband makes me a feminist, a label I proudly wear. It always makes me sad that people associate that term with so many negative connotations. Because, really, being a feminist just means I think everyone deserves equal treatment.

Because here's the thing - while we're all wonderfully, unique flowers, and so very different, scientifically speaking we really are not that different at all. In fact, we're a lot more similar than you'd imagine.

Earlier this week I saw a great TED talk by Riccardo Sabatini, an Italian scientist whose work focuses on computational genomics. He explained that if you print the human genome out in its entirety, it would fill 175 books. That's 262,000 pages that contain every single piece of coded information that we are made of. Everything from your hair and skin colour to what shape your nose is to whether you're susceptible to, or suffering from, particular genetic disorders.

Now while that in itself is fascinating, the bit that really struck me was the amount of code that differentiates me from you. Of those 262,000 pages, a mere 500 pages of code make up the differences between each of us as humans. That's just 2 per cent. Which is kind of scary given that means we're all 98 per cent the same as Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian, but also kind of awesome because that means we're also 98 per cent the same as David Bowie. Or Albert Einstein.

And maybe that's the key. If there's only 2 per cent of each of us that makes us different, perhaps the answer to so many of the world's problems is in looking at the other 98 per cent. For me, that's the essence of what feminism is about. It's not about women being more powerful or running the world. It's simply that everyone deserves the same start in life, the same opportunities, the same respect. We're all human, after all. We all have the same basic needs. So we are also all entitled to the same basic human rights.

When you look at history, so many disastrous events rise from conflicts over our differences. If we remembered that 98 per cent more often, it should never come down to them or us. It should be about what we are going to do together. There would be no fear of refugees or migrants. No judging one by their skin colour or gender or sexual orientation.

All those things that people are so passionate about, all those things that cause so much discord in our world would no longer exist. We could still have a great debate about it, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, we all have the same needs and meeting them becomes priority over and above everything else.

As the brilliant American scientist Bill Nye so eloquently puts it - humans are all one people, the colour of our ancestors' skin and ultimately my skin and your skin is a consequence of ultra-violet light, of latitude and climate.

"Each of us is much more alike than we are different. We all came from Africa. We're all made of the same star dust. We're all going to live and die on the same planet - a pale blue dot in the vastness of space. We have to work together."

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