Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Oversimplified Conceptions

noun (plural ster·e·o·types)
Definition: oversimplified conception: an oversimplified standardized image of a person or group

I was thinking about my post from yesterday and why I felt the need to vent. Then I was thinking about my Defense of Motherhood post and why I get so irritated about things I read or watch when it is just someone's opinion or perception. I don't want to seem like one of those people who is protesting too much about things so that it comes across as me trying to convince myself of something. I think the real reason it gets to me is that I dislike when something is based on a stereotype of a group to which I belong. Base something on a stereotype of any of the following and you will probably piss me off -- Female, wife, mother, Christian, friend, working mom, white, middle-class, college-graduate, coffee-addict, meat-eater, book-worm, blogger, tattooed mom, wine drinker, beer drinker, shoe addict, sushi lover, coupon clipper, country girl, pretend poet. (Yes, I know some of those wouldn't really qualify as a typical groups that are stereotyped, but it's my blog so deal with it.)

I think I mentioned a while ago that I was working on a post about labels, but it's not really labels that bother me. To some extent labels can be positive because they can create groups we can recognize and with which we identify. It's actually stereotypes I have a real problem with. I hate being stereotyped and I hate when I see it happening to others. Just because a label fits a person, doesn't mean the stereotype for that label fits them.

I haven't always been aware of stereotypes. When I was growing up, I thought it was okay to think I knew what a person was like based on how they looked or to what group they belonged. For example, when I was growing up, I didn't know any atheists. Surprisingly there were none who attended our church or belonged to our conservative homeschooling group. I may not have known any atheists, but I knew about them. Atheists were the angry people in the pictures in the 'Christian' news magazines who spent their time getting abortions, picketing schools where the ten commandments were displayed, and trying to infiltrate the government to remove the word 'God' from our money and our pledge. They were also trying to take away the rights of parents to homeschool, to discipline their children, or to take their kids to church. Atheists were busy, angry people who hated God and Christians.

And that is the problem with stereotypes. The atheists I know now are nothing like that. Well, maybe they don't really want the ten commandments or prayer or religious teaching in public schools. Maybe they are pro-abortion. Maybe they don't like it that our currency or pledge say say 'God'. But does that make them all terrible, angry, christian-hating people? (Oh, and atheists don't hate God. They don't believe he exists.) I mean, even I don't really think the ten commandments should be displayed in public schools, nor do I believe that students should be forced to pray before they start class. I don't really care either way if the word 'God' is on our money or if it is part of the pledge of allegiance. I fail to see how any of those things will help kids learn or make people behave better or whatever those things are supposed to accomplish. And I think it just comes across as arrogant and narrow-minded to push one's beliefs on other people.

I'm sure that to some extent I still stereotype people, but I really try not to. I try to treat each person I meet on their own merit regardless of what I may think of what 'groups' into which they could be categorized. I really need to work on not letting it bother me so much when I feel that someone is using a stereotype to misrepresent something I am or believe. Getting upset isn't going to help people see that stereotypes rarely apply to an entire group. Something else I need to work on, although I can't guarantee that I will never post another rant about something I care for being stereotyped.

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