Why do we love stereotypes? So we can settle on them being the truth (easy answers for relationships)?

ORIGINALLY POSTED 11/13/07 at 10:22am.

Over-inflated by Jessica Hagy

I was teaching my anthropology students about gender and one of the groups in the class came up with this YouTube video in Italian & English about stereotypes. I showed it to two sections of my course and in both cases I was amazed at how often students said “It’s true!” Like seeing a video of stereotypes sets life aright. AHHH. There! It’s gonna be alright.

But what of the exceptions among the 6.7 billion men and women on the planet? What of tomboys and men who love fashion (gay or straight)? Are they doomed to be wrong because they are not true to ‘form’ in the land of stereotyping? So much of what we relate to in relationships is based on stereotypical expectations about the opposite sex.

For clarity’s sake, let me say that though I am a heterosexual, my interests in the opposite sex are bigger than romance and sex. Men and women have to deal with a world of interactions that come up when dealing with the opposite sex no matter what your sexual orientation (lesbian, gay, hetero, bi- or trans-) or gender identity expression (i.e., drag queens and pants-wearin’ female bosses).

What would life be like if we really gave up our notions of, of better yet, we gave up why and how we use stereotypes? We use them for agreement about what we think about our self image relative to others. We use them to not rock the boat, to conform to social norms. How else?

Is there ever a time when stereotyping works? Or is good? Can it be beneficial?? Don’t let you knee jerk first reaction get you. I am asking you to really consider these questions newly. Like never before from a beginner’s mindset.

Here’s some data also to get the ball rolling:

Stats from The World Bank Group’s Gender Stats (2004):
– The U.S. population is 293.7 million; 50.8% are female
– Male life expectancy at birth is 75; Female life expectancy at birth is 80
– Total in U.S. Labor Force: 154 million; 46% are female

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