There are an awful lot of stereotypes out there, and I’m sure anyone reading this could think of at least five right off the top of their head. There are plenty that have to do with a person’s race, religion, or sexual preference. Then there are ones like geeks, nerds, and dorks (or are those one in the same?). I would be willing to bet that at least half the jokes people tell have something to do with a stereotype because there are so many. I suppose that would be one good thing about stereotypes…they can make us laugh. But there are definitely some downsides.
Many people don’t realize that not everyone who fits a particular category has all or even any of the characteristics that are associated with that stereotype. Or they think just because you have one of the characteristics, that you must be whatever the stereotype is. An easy example is that not all blondes are ditzy. Many are quite intelligent. Too often people get boxed in to a particular stereotype and are judged based on the associated characteristics instead of who they really are. That can be very dangerous, offensive, and disrespectful, depending on the person and the stereotype.
Part of the problem is that people don’t take the time to understand fully about certain issues or groups of people, but they poke fun or make comments based on the stereotypes, which can offend others and make themselves appear ignorant at the same time. One particular example that is close to home for me is OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I think OCD is very misunderstood, and I hear people say things like, “She went all OCD on me,” meaning the person was being super organized and on top of all the details. I think too many people believe having OCD just means being a neat freak, a perfectionist, and/or a germaphobe, which has become the understood stereotypical behavior. Those can be symptoms of OCD, but you can have OCD and have neither of those symptoms. You could be a hoarder instead and have stuff everywhere that appears to have no sense of organization whatsoever to anyone else, but it makes sense to you. And you can be neither a hoarder nor a neat freak, or you can be both. You can also be very organized and/or be conscious about germs without having OCD. It is basically an anxiety disorder where phobias lead to compulsions and other behaviors, and the phobias and compulsions and other symptoms can be very different from person to person. Many people don’t understand the anxiety part of it.
Another stereotype that really bothers me is the notion that any man who likes the color pink, is good at coordinating his clothes, is interested in interior design, or likes to do anything that is considered typically more of a female interest or skill must be gay. I feel bad for men who feel they can’t admit they like to bake, sew, plant flowers, or that they like pink because they are afraid people will think they are gay. The phrase, “That’s so gay” is so overused and definitely shows ignorance. The fact that is considered to be something negative is a whole separate topic, which I will not address here. The flip side to all of this would be girls who enjoy playing sports or engaging in other activities typically considered something boys would do and who don’t show much interest in having tea parties and playing with dolls are called tomboys. Fortunately, for girls, I don’t believe that’s as much of an issue as boys who like to play with dolls or play dress-up and who are feared to be gay.
People should be allowed to be who they are and do what they like to do without the fear of being given a label or made to feel that they are somehow inferior or doing something wrong. My hope is that someday people won’t be so quick to put people into categories and give them labels, especially ones that they may not even understand.
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