"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

having fun with stereotypes and prejudice


Q: so what happens when you put a gang of progressive liberal hippies and a gaggle of rich conservative republicans together with their internet access and email capabilities?

A: you get the western listserv.

...

Q: and what happens when you get this already ridiculous situation and you throw into the mix "serious" conversations about stereotypes and prejudice?

A: oh ho ho. a fucking riot.

b/c no one likes to be called a racist. especially not liberal-minded folk or their conservative counterparts who are particularly aware of their own demographic stereotype.

but, as i thoroughly enjoyed pointing out in one of my rare contributions to listserv chatter this week, everyone is just a little bit prejudiced. and yes, everyone uses stereotypes. even liberals. (in fact, especially liberals. studies have shown that those who strongly believe they are NOT prejudiced are actually the ones who are most aware of stereotypes.)

but, that doesn't mean we shouldn't all be aware of what we say, right?

oh indeed. ;-)

what follows is a taste of the recent jabbering on the western listserv (clogging student, faculty, staff and alum inboxes since its inception). what you can't tell is that this used to be a discussion about the upcoming elections in ohio. (as i said, things got/get out of hand). what began as an earnest effort to get people to vote, soon devolved into name-calling, agitation, and good old taking-things-too-seriously.

so enjoy the best of the worst, and read the full discussion on the online archive (click, then follow discussion by clicking 'next in topic.')

love and splendor (and a stereotype-free evening),
stephanie

p.s. i blame this uncharacteristic burst of sarcasm on my film class, in which i am happily learning to take things less seriously, to laugh a little, and to look at things more critically, with an eye for humorous opportunities. oh professor yeck, you've ruined me... ;-)



NOTE: names have been removed to protect the innocent

--- person 2 wrote:

> I remember in CCI learning about stereotypes and how
> harmful and misguiding
> they can be. Does anybody out there want to argue
> and say that stereotypes
> are good? I just don't think it would fly...
>
> In the past WEEK, I have THREE TIMES in the past
> week heard blatant negative
> stereotypes of "rich" people, all by peers I thought
> I respected. In the
> class I take to be a CLA, a fellow student
> characterized the College
> Republicans as "rich, stuck-up, and ignorant". I
> know for a fact that this
> kid went through 10 weeks of training, most of which
> concerned diversity and
> tolerance, and in the last class he says this???
>
> Here, on our very own supposedly diversity-loving,
> liberal-minded, open to
> all people Western Listserv, again rich people are
> assaulted. Since when
> are all politicians "Lizard Rulers"? And why must
> you be rich to be one?
> And how does being rich automatically make you
> eligible to be a lizard ruler
> too??
>
> Believe it or not, there are good rich people. Being
> rich does not make you
> a bad person. Being rich does not make you ignorant
> or uncharitable. Being
> rich does not make you a Lizard ruler or bankrupt of
> moral values. One of
> the biggest stereotypes is that rich people vote for
> Republicans. Yes, 53%
> of adults making over $50,000 a year voted
> Republican in 2000. But 46% of
> that income group voted Democratic in that election;
> in fact, 43% of adults
> making over $100,000 voted for a Democratic
> President in 2000.
>
> I'm puzzled at this: we all know that it is not OK
> to stereotype poor
> people, at least we would never do that over the
> public listserv. You
> wouldn't say "If any of you welfare bums would get
> off your asses, get a
> job, and stop being lazy, then you could have a
> decent life." NO - that is
> not OK. Why? Because we know that not all poor
> people are lazy, or on
> welfare, or unemployed. Indeed many poor people are
> the hardest working most
> ambitious and honest people you would ever meet.
>
> Then why is it OK to stereotype rich people as being
> next-of-kin to the
> "lizards"? Don't call a poor person ignorant or
> immoral, and don't call a
> rich person ignorant or immoral either.
>
> An anonymous quote: "Stereotypes are devices for
> saving a biased person the
> trouble of learning." Saying all politicians are
> rich and corrupt (and thus
> being rich makes you a good candidate to be a
> corrupt politician) is not an
> opinion, but a stereotype, a bias, a prejudice.
>
> -person 2

me:

i agree. we SHOULD put an end to stereotypes. they're
not fun for anyone.

while we're pointing out ones we don't agree with, i'd
just like to add that i was frustrated by the lizard
stereotype. why are lizards getting such a bad rap,
hm?

i'm upset to see all this unjustified implicit
prejudice against the lizard population. just as we
wouldn't assume a poor person is lazy/ irresponsible,
or that a rich politician is arrogant/ selfish/
ignorant/etc., we should not assume that all lizards
are bad. i mean sure, they might be cold-blooded, but
they can also be quite loving animals, and make
excellent companions. i don't know for sure myself,
but i'm sure this is true since the lizardous pet
industry is just burgeoning these days.

so why the comparisons to politicians? i'd say corrupt
politicians have done more harm than lizards (the No
Child Left Behind debate last night is excellent
evidence of this). and what's so good about human
beings anyway that we can assume superiority over
lizards? that's not only specious, it's specist.

so before we continue this discussion, let's just
pause and consider our own stereotypes and opt to take
more care and consideration in what we say.

love,
stephanie

4 comments:

brian said...

Morning Steph,

I have yet to meet anybody who doesn't label people. That's how we all live together in our tribes, each band marking it's territory by clothing, speech and any number of mannerisms.

But we are all humans first and foremost. Most people don't get that far.

Adam Ford said...

Interesting. I agree with the spirit of what you say. But 'labelling' is essential to being human. As babies, we label certain things automatically. It's only when an exception tests the rule that we re-examine them.

Personally, I think some labelling saves time. Yes, it's wrong to label people based on their gender or ethnicity or sexual preference etc. But amongst my radical friends, two thirds are vegetarian. Do you have to be radical to be veggie? Of course not. Do you have to be veggie to be radical? The idea is preposterous! But will I offer a meat dish if I have a radical friend over? No. Rather than ask, I'll do a veggie meal.

And the best way of stereotyping someone is by their social class. Capitalists have different interests from workers. They want us to work harder for less money, and whether they vote Republicrat or Democan is just the best way for them to achieve that.

Lizards definitely have a bad press, as do cold blooded animals generally. The temperature of your body doesn't make you 'evil'! It's all down to that David Icke's.

stephan!e lee said...

yes i agree, we all stereotype, we are all prejudiced to some degree.

it's our silly primitive minds that use these cognitive shortcuts to save us time and cognitive energy so we can do other things rather than spend forever thinking about how a liberal may or may not be a vegetarian, a conservative a snob, etc.

it's what keeps us alive in the wilderness of humankind. as we would assume to stay away from a panther in the jungle, b/c if it's coming at you it might bite.

though i will say that PCness is still a good faith measure. and stereotyping does suck. we must not try to deny we have stereotypes, but be wary of how far we allow them to shape our thoughts.

and of course, not to discriminate on those bases.

Tram said...

"I'm puzzled at this: we all know that it is not OK
> to stereotype poor
> people, at least we would never do that over the
> public listserv. You
> wouldn't say "If any of you welfare bums would get
> off your asses, get a
> job, and stop being lazy, then you could have a
> decent life." NO - that is
> not OK. Why? Because we know that not all poor
> people are lazy, or on
> welfare, or unemployed. Indeed many poor people are
> the hardest working most
> ambitious and honest people you would ever meet."

Poor people on welfare get stereotyped way more often than rich people.

Just go on the Facebook. Search for all those "welfare queens" groups. I'm pretty offended that these people, who don't know what it's like to be poor, think they have the right to criticise desperate people like mother.

btw, white collar crimes (i.e. business frauds and the ilk) are the most underreported crimes in the media.