It’s Not My Responsibility to Disprove Your Stereotypes

Posted: December 6, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I was hanging out with a friend once, and we were driving somewhere in my car with my music playing when a song I like started- Emotional Girl by Terri Clark. It’s a song that came out when I was 9 and I’ve been listening to it ever since then. My friend starts telling me how he can’t believe I would like this song. I’m confused, he’s hear enough of my music he should know by now that I like country music. That’s not it. He explains that this song supposedly represents everything I disagree with because I get upset at sexist stereotypes and this song is saying they are true.

Except not. I’ve listened to this song a lot. No where in the song does she says “women just more emotional than men!” or “women can’t control their emotions!” She sings about herself being emotional, and the artist happens to be a woman (or “girl” in the lyrics of the song). This led to an argument about whether or not it “proves” a stereotype for an individual to meet it, which he claimed it did- I still find interesting considering how many stereotypes he would be “proving” under that logic.

But I’m reminded of this conversation from time to time because while most people would never say they think a single individual displaying a characteristic means that proves a stereotype of all people like them in some way will have that characteristic, people still are inclined to take such things as evidence that their stereotype is accurate.

And this is one of the problems with stereotypes- making people in certain groups feel like everything they do has to be defined by that stereotype by way of disproving it.

You tell me women are just too emotional compared to men, and now I’m apparently under some obligation to never show emotion to prove your stereotype is wrong and show that I am worthy of being treated equally. And suddenly an entire group of people are not allowed varying personalities and characteristics because if even a few fit the stereotype for the whole group that is taken as proof the stereotype is accurate.

I’m writing about this because in a lot of ways it took some work to say “so what if I fit your stereotype?” For a long time I did feel like I had to behave in certain ways so I wouldn’t be considered a stereotype. But the thing is, the problem with stereotypes is the stereotype, not me being whoever I am.

And who I am sometimes fits certain stereotypes and sometimes it doesn’t. I wrote recently about musing about fitting the stereotype of the man-hating, lesbian feminist in combat boots, and the thing about that stereotype is there was a time when I did feel like I had to counter that stereotype personally and would be afraid of fitting it. Of course I still don’t fit the stereotype perfectly- usually the stereotype also includes “hairy legged” and I do shave. But, that’s kind of how individuals work.

Some stereotypes about women don’t fit me at all, some do. Some stereotypes about lesbians fits me, some don’t. Et cetera. And that’s fine.

There is nothing wrong with being an emotional person, so why should I be bothered if I fit that stereotype? There is nothing wrong with being a lesbian or wearing combat boots, so why be bothered if I fit those stereotypes?

Also fitting one part of a stereotype does not mean all the things people think about that are accurate.  See for example: fat lesbians do not prove the stereotype that lesbians are just gay because we are too fat and ugly to get a man. Being a fat lesbian doesn’t even prove that lesbians are as a group always fat (even if most of us are, your stereotype still sucks because it doesn’t ft all lesbians) and it certainly doesn’t prove all the extrapolation beyond that about the supposed meaning of our bodies and sexuality.

The problem is with people who make and operate under stereotypes about whole groups of people, not me for being who  I am instead of always trying to be the exact opposite of every stereotype that could maybe be applied to me.

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Comments
  1. This is an astute observation. There have been times in my life where I felt compelled to prove I was different from whatever stereotype was dogging me that day, but you’re absolutely right – the problem lies with people using stereotypes to form judgments.

  2. Agreed – at this point, if I encounter someone who I feel has made up their mind about me based off of some sort of stereotype, most of the time I disengage and just keep doing whatever I’m doing.

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