I'm using my husband and myself as examples of what today's topic is about so I don't offend anyone else...I feel comfortable using him as a punching bag because it happens on a regular basis in reality anyway.
He uses chopsticks. I don't have a soul. He eats cats. I'm Irish. He can do anything & everything with a computer. I get to be kicked on Kick a Ginger Day. He only eats rice.
These are stereotypes. They have no legitimate basis, yet are general assumptions we make about others based on their skin color, heritage, nationality, height, weight, religion, job, background, and other factors; traits that automatically mean you "must" belong in this certain group or "must" act this way since everyone else like you does.
You probably fall under the category of stereotype victims. You may even be guilty of using them yourself; I know I am. I often make fun of my husband because of his nationality and appearance; I claim he is a computer genius, that he doesn't need a calculator for any math problem, that I never leave him alone with the dogs. In actuality, he isn't even considered Asian [he is Pacific Islander], likes computers but isn't a whiz, is great at math but better at writing, and would never EVER hurt our dogs. They're just funny little jokes that make both of us laugh, and since he isn't offended by them, they're okay...right?
Part Two: Words Hurt
I'm never offended by anyone calling me a ginger, but I have been irritated by general stereotypes based on my height. "Wow, you're short...you must be a gymnast." No, actually, I suck at gymnastics. I also don't use a phone book to see over the steering wheel, don't wear heels all the time to make me feel taller, don't wish I had more height, and am not a dwarf or midget. Thanks for asking.
Stereotypes can be made in fun and be honest jokes, not intended to offend or anger someone. But despite the childhood rhyme of "sticks and stones," words can hurt. Are all black people drug dealers? Highly unlikely. Are all Muslims terrorists hellbent on destroying Western civilization? I doubt it. Does every single Mexican living in the United States work as a landscaper? Um, no. Yet these are the automatic terms we associate with certain groups of people, and even make the mistake of being surprised when some of these men and women reveal themselves as perfectly un-stereotypical human beings. Who can blame them for being offended?
You may be wondering what brought this discussion up. I have been following a Facebook page called Overly Sensitive Military Wives, and laughing hysterically at the stereotypes given to military dependents. Are they true? Sometimes. Every stereotype applies to some people, just not all of them. While giggling at the pictures and stories posted on OSMW, I also browse through comments, and noticed that there are a lot of women riled up about the generalities pasted on the page. It hit me then that these stereotypes, while hilarious to me, really upset some people because of how demeaning and overstated they are. These jokes, these casually tossed insults, are highly offensive to some groups of people somewhere in the world. Just because the majority takes it lightly doesn't mean it isn't mean.
What do you think? Are some stereotypes okay to use? Could the use of stereotypes be considered a form of bullying?
I honestly don't think I'll ever stop making small remarks based on my husband's nationality just because he makes the same jokes himself. I also don't think I'll ever stop making fun of myself for being a short freckled red head. I doubt I'll stop reading the OSMW page, or laugh when I see pictures like that of the Wicked Wok Chinese Restaurant above. But I will definitely start making sure that those stereotypes are never used around anyone outside of my husband and I so that make sure I am not unduly offending anyone. What is your take on the entire issue?