I consider myself lucky that in addition to the rest of my character flaws I am not burdened by political correctness or a constant need to be seen as tolerant. Once in a while I get an occasional “jerk” thrown at me, but for the most part no one cares, which is the way it should be. I am not in a position where my prejudices and stereotypes may affect other people and what I think to myself is pretty much irrelevant to anyone else.
A recent encounter made me think about the stereotypes, why do we feed them and what comes first – a stereotypical behaviour or a position/group this behaviour is associated with. For example, does a young woman who adheres to a fashion style of a senior citizen both in her clothing choices and appearance discoveres that this look feels at home in a journalism school crowd or does she enter the j-school first and then adopts this style to fit in?
I’ll give you three guesses who on this photo from the show Hung is an aspiring poet.
Why do many bikers grow beards and long hair? Does the look come with buying a bike or do they think “I got this here beard, it will keep my face warm if I get a motorcycle so I might as well get one”?
Why do people who like country music but don’t ever leave the city wear cowboy hats and boots? These items may be practical on a farm, but look out of place in an air-conditioned office. And why don’t they ever wear overalls – another useful article of farm attire?
Why the people on COPS are always half-naked or wearing wife-beater shirts? Do they think “I might get arrested tonight and I don’t want to wrinkle my expensive suit and tie” or does not wearing a top somehow makes them feel like committing domestic crimes?
Why do people who live in trailer parks dress up similarly? Would they dress the same if they lived in a house or an apartment? (Wait, I know the answer to this one). It’s not a matter of income – there are cheap clothes besides spandex and tank-tops but these people insist on dressing up in almost uniform-style fashion. Those who decide to spice it up a little end up on the People of Walmart.
Why do lesbians like Subaru’s (top 4 car brand purchased by lesbians)? Is it because Subaru is seen as gay-friendly or somehow fitting for a lesbian? Because their friends drive them? Or does buying a Subaru cast a stereotype on a person and they want to explore it?
Of course, one might say that stereotyping is wrong, but that’s probably a stereotype in itself. Not every lesbian owns a Subaru and not every woman who shops at the same place as your grandmother is an aspiring writer, but there is enough of this behaviour going on to keep the stereotypes alive.
As a friend of mine noticed it’s a sort of “chicken and the egg” argument (which coincidentally was just recently finally resolved).
I realize that I fit into plenty of stereotypes myself and that’s perfectly fine with me. During the course of my life I encountered people who didn’t (or did) like me based on a group they assigned me to: Jewish, Russian, fat, smart, slow, etc., and I never had a problem with that or felt a need to explain why they shouldn’t feel that way.
Life would be boring without stupidity.
Are you being stereotyped as something you are not? Do you feel like you are keeping one of the stereotypes going? Why?