There's No Such Thing as a Good Stereotype
Happy Martin Luther King Day everyone!
I briefly talked about stereotyping before in "How Interracial Couples Sometimes Perpetuate Stereotypes." But I feel like I didn't really get to sink my teeth into the topic.
What is stereotyping?
Stereotyping is defined as, "a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing." I like the word oversimplified because it makes me think of a caricature. When you think about caricatures, what do you see?
A cartoony depiction of someone.
Not an actual representation of them.
The artist takes one angle, one view of a person, and that's it.
In that way, stereotypes are a reflection of how someone felt about another person at one point in time. That feeling may be based on truth, but nonetheless it doesn't provide an accurate, generalizable reflection of an entire group.
Stereotypes can be applied to any group of people— white people and men included. It's something that can be unfairly given to everyone. So let's think about groups: women, millennials, LGBTQIA members, Latinx people, asians, disabled people, mentally ill people. These are diverse, multifaceted groups of people that are kindly bestowed with an oversimplified idea.
What are some examples?
I don't really want to give publicity to these kinds of problematic thoughts, but for arguments sake here are some examples that can be (and have been!) applied to me.
Woman= Prude-Slut Dynamic/ Bad driver
Feminist= ugly/ angry/ "bitch".... mostly true though. (just kidding)
Milennial= whiny/ "special snowflake"
So, hi I'm Skye! I'm an anorexic, dangerous prudish, angry, judgmental special snowflake! Nice to meet you!
Stereotyping is built into our human nature. It's a matter of categorizing people as in-group or out-group, which in some instances (I learned in my psychology class) is helpful for survival. However, the problem occurs when we allow stereotypes to alter the way we treat and think about people. It's all about our thought processes and correcting a cycle of problematic thinking, because otherwise it will eventually reflect in your actions.
What about the good kind?
Spoiler alert: there is no good kind. You're just problematic. If you think that there's nothing wrong with calling someone a "strong black woman" or a "smart asian," you're wrong. I'll soon include this book in Mixed Media resources, but for now I'll just quote it. In Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness: What It Means to Be Black Now, Touré writes, "If there are forty million black people, there are forty million ways to be black." This concept, when applied pan culturally, reveals a very special fact: Everyone is different. Any idea that you apply to a group of people is purposefully ignorant of the diverse experiences of the people within that group. I say purposefully because if you've even MET a person from the group you're stereotyping, you'll know that the stereotype doesn't hold water
Positive stereotypes are just as harmful as negative ones because they don't represent a larger group of people.
So I'll conclude with some cliches:
Don't judge a book by its cover.
Mess with the bull, get the horns.
My door is always open.