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Stereotype; noun; a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person.
I used to be a big fan of the stereotype. I saw it as a way of making more complex social conventions simple. I used to think it was good to play up to a stereotype. How wrong I was.
The past month has seen some dramatic and traumatic events in the media. Woolwich the most poignant, which has now mothballed into a cataclysm of other events. All for one reason, stereotypes.
There are so many, it’s virtually impossible to even start contemplating them. Everybody uses them. Stereotypes have become such a part of social convention, that they virtually go hand in hand with daily life. Sadly, almost too much so. I have learnt first hand that not fitting into a convention can be your downfall, being not what people expect can throw them, forcing social balances out of kilter.
The gay world is so ram-packed with them. Bears, twinks, cubs – name the person, they can be categorised. It’s sad really that we have become so reliant on labelling people into boxes to help us decode their other almost impenetrable social make-up.
The realm of the stereotype goes well beyond the gay world, though. I have had the pleasure of living with a gent (I use the phrase in jest) for the past year, who seeks every opportunity to defame and categorise women into his predefined boxes. Needless to say, much to my dismay. Girls are either slags, whores, or an object that he would like to… with. Despite this bigotry, and the obvious lack of sense between his ears, he isn’t the only person to use this kind of language.
Nights out in my home city of Leeds are filled with this kind of language. Granted, it is only words. Granted, it is something made up by humans, to offend humans. Regardless, it still forces people into limiting boxes out of no fault of their own.
When I was growing up, in the rural idyll of the Lakes, my life was very different to how it is now. I remember someone once describing me as a “square peg, in a round hole” – oh please, spare me the innuendo. Basically, what they were getting at was that I didn’t fit in, but fit in with what? A stereotype. The majority of my formative years were spent running away from the traditional high school bullies, and despite the fact it has made me a pretty tough skinned person, it all came down to one reason. Stereotypes.
So, what would a world without the social confusion of the stereotype? All I can say is that the world would be a very different place.
Wars are waged on what people think of others. Apparently, according to some, at least, everyone east of Istanbul hates everyone west of Berlin. Which is the biggest load of crap ever, excuse my language. When people generalise, people get the wrong idea. And then it spreads. Freedom from such chains would make our global community such a nicer place to live. Live and let live wouldn’t harm us.
Like I said, I used to be a fan of the stereotype. But having seen, in the news, over the past few weeks the damage they can do, I have become sceptical. Never again will I act up to a stereotype, being your own person is, undeniably, the way forward.