Thursday, 19 November 2009

Stereotypes

So when I first saw this pic of Princess Jasmine at War from Part VI of Dina Goldstein’s Fallen Princesses series, on Desert Demon’s blog (Geez, I hope it was her site because I can’t remember which blog it was now), I thought wow, here’s the warrior version of me…at the front lines, always ready to battle the demons life throws at me. Then I happened to stumble across a critique of this picture, citing the negative stereotypical connotation that all Asian people are terrorists (or something of the sort) and it got me thinking.

I generally like stereotypes, especially when they’re funny and entertaining. But I draw the line when they become offensive. Like for example: One of my bestest friends, Lyn, and her family have been living in Chicago USA for the past 12 years. Lyn was born in Durban and bred in Johannesburg and her ancestors, like many here, are from some or other part of India. But Lyn isn’t a Muslim, she’s a Christian, Presbyterian in fact and her father is a Pastor in their church. But did this fact prevent the onslaught of racism and Islamaphobia they faced after the 9/11 terrorist attacks? No. Why? Because to most ignorant people, all brown people are Islamic fascists and terrorists and it’s just too bad for the millions of brown Hindu’s and Christians that have to suffer under that banner too.

I recently did an impromptu social study on Facebook, where I gave away ‘awards’ to most of the people I know or interact with on a daily basis. It was a lot of fun for me, especially since it was unpremeditated, unplanned and completely spontaneous. I made up categories laced with certain stereotypical implications, and matched them up with the people I felt fulfilled the requirements of those categories. And while, in my opinion, a lot of the awards went to the most appropriate people, I am aware that the entire process would be falsified as an empirical study for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I didn’t consider or include absolutely EVERYONE I know, just those people who came to mind. And secondly, while I believe that 95% of the individuals chosen fit in their categories to some degree, there were some that I just fabricated, to see what the public reaction would be like. I initially meant for the categories to be much more risqué, outrageous, hilarious and controversial than they were, but I didn’t want to risk a war – I don’t think some people would take too kindly being listed in the “Most likely to have an affair” or “Most likely to pinch a couple of your DVD’s on their way home” or “Most likely to be horribly selfish parents” or “Most likely to pee in the pool when no one’s watching” categories. I also deliberately avoided married men in some of the categories because I’m allergic to married and I feel all fought out this year, and don’t need or want to have to go out and bash a few insecure wives y’know.

Two things became apparent from my little experiment. One of them was that most of the time people want to be stereotyped and they want to fit in. I received dozens of messages after that asking me why I hadn’t chosen him/her or which category I’d put him/her in. But as much as people want to fit in and be stereotyped, they don’t want negative publicity, even if it’s the truth. Of course, I’m guessing that I wouldn’t much like it if I were told that I’m one of the people in the Top 5 of the most aggressive, most impatient, most opinionated, most crude, most likely border-line Obsessive Compulsive, most perfectionistic, most likely to resemble a Zebra-with-the-amount-of-stretchmarks-on-her-ass categories. People don’t mind being stereotyped, as long as it puts them in a positive or neutral light, and as long as it shows the world what they want them to see. Any negative insinuations are unwelcome, even if they are embedded in the truth.

A part of me would like to establish another privatised blog, accessible only by invitation, with all my uncensored ramblings, ruminations and opinions. But then I think, no one really wants to know what goes on in this sick and twisted mind, do they... :)

5 comments:

  1. A very through, uncomfortable truth stated without any fluff or feathers.
    I am awed. :)

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  2. So it's entirely possible that people want to be stereotyped, or alternately that people enjoy having themselves being exposed, being scrutinised because it provides a different frame of reference, i'm not sure, who knows ...

    ps: got your letter :D

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  3. I like your unexplored categories; especially because you could be more spot on than most people. The Nice category is out ruled though. Lol. That is NOT a category. The one's you mention at this list are well worth the social experimentation. And we could up the stakes with stuff like: Most likely to sell their mother; most likely to kill someone. I did say 'stakes'/ there always is something something at stake.

    You should read 'The 48 Laws of Power'. Scary. Spot on. So many things. Almost as good as Desperate Housewives in the character assassination dept. Only better.

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  4. mikimbizi - thank you for your kind words :)

    UJ - I believe that people do want to be exposed, validated, to belong. Can't believe you got my letter so quickly :P

    Shafinaaz - Nice is too a category! :D 'Nice' means different things to different people. By nice, I mean people who are generous with themselves, their souls. For me, that warm fuzzy feeling in their company, that feeling of home, is the epitome of 'Nice'. But nice people also tend to be a little controlling, perfectionists, and want things their way :D (not that you are, because you're perfect :D) But they always have place for everyone at the table ;)

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  5. Pic wasn't on my blog.
    Interesting social experiment - i guess ppl need to feel they belong and so if they're stereo-typed, they get to be herded into the pen with everyone else, instead of being the lonely lost sheep wandering the field. I, on the other hand, am the wolf on the prowl!

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