View Full Version : Stereotyping
10-28-2007, 10:35 AM
Something I've been thinking about lately is whether or not one should accept certain "signs" that supposedly indicate that someone is gay. For instance, a few months ago my parents and I went to an art gallery which was at the artists' home.
Other than the artwork, one of the first things I noticed upon walking into the house was a shelf that had Tye bears, each a different color, arranged in a rainbow. It was also clear from talking to the artist that he lived with another male artist. From this data, I suspected that this man was gay and I was wondering if my intuition was good or bad. I mentioned it on the way home and my dad mentioned that the guy was wearing an earring in his left ear, which he said was also a sign that gay men use to distinguish themselves.
But, is it really a good thing to determine that someone is gay based on the presence of a rainbow display in their house, the fact that he wears an earring and lives with someone of the same sex? I mean, people do share rent/housing with their friends sometimes, and from what I've seen, wearing an earring does not mean that someone is gay. And, like I've said, rainbows have aesthetic and cultural significance beyond their current association with the LGBT community. For example, if I had a rainbow display in my house, I wouldn't want a cute guy that I was interested in to think that I was gay. I wonder about this because it goes to stereotyping. What do you guys think?
10-28-2007, 03:25 PM
The big question:
Why does it matter? This seems like I'm dismissing your concerns (and, in a way, I suppose I might be), but really it's a sincere question. Your intentions for wanting to know the information are completely relevant to whether or not it's "Ok" to go with stereotypes or cultural "signs". If it's just knowing to know, my answer is that if this person thinks its any of your business, they'll tell you. In the meantime, if the roommate was introduced as a roommate, then, yes, I personally might make some assumptions in that situation but I'm not going to start referring to this gentleman's "partner" or anything, because that's just rude.
If you're wondering because you want to know what pronouns to use if romantic interests do come up, my answer is that that's just the problem: straight until proven gay. If you want to be sensitive in that manner, the appropriate action would be to change your default pronouns to be a little more neutral. That is, instead of assuming someone's straight and using opposite gendered pronouns until they tell you otherwise, don't assume anything and try to use nuetral gendered pronouns (it is admittedly a couple syllables longer, but if you're truly worried about being sensitive to such things, that's the route to take).
Now that I've written an excessively long post, I'm interested if I've actually touched on anything relevant to you, or if the intent behind your curiousity was something completely different.
Also, just for the record, the earring thing hasn't been true since like the 80's. Piercings in general are a lot more acceptable (if you've noticed ;)), and with that, a male earring is significantly more common in men of all orientations.
In my experience, I'm a gay male. So if I'm going to relate to someone differently at all because they are gay, that's a little different from a straight person relating to someone differently because they are gay; the reason that I might not just assume EVERYONE is possibly gay is mostly fear. So I might take some things, including things that fall within the realm of stereotype, as a sign that it's literally a "safe" assumption to make, even if it's not an accurate one. The way I see it, if someone has enough stereotypical things going on with them, then even if they're heterosexual, they're probably used to "mixups", and probably know how to deal with it without being all scary and grr, and possibly without even being too awkward.
10-28-2007, 03:34 PM
but then, this phrase keeps rolling through my mind: "When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck."
10-28-2007, 05:43 PM
See, but then I think about all the stories about kids raised by wolves and ducks raised by kittens and other such cuteness, and you see that some critter may very well walk more or less like a duck, swim more or less like a duck, and indeed even quack more or less like a duck, but still be a different critter altogether.
10-28-2007, 07:28 PM
I have a friend that is a local teacher. I graduated from high school with her. She is often labeled as gay, she looks gay and lives with a woman. She says she is not gay. I don't know or care, either way she is my friend.
Here is my point, most of the time when someone points and says gay they are doing it in a demeaning way. When I am asked about her I always say the same thing. She has never done anything around me or told me anything that gives me this indication.
Now I would also ask if it would matter.
Whether she is or isn't, the question is almost always demeaning.
I have been guilty of assuming things about others because of stereotype. Not just about the gay question but in general. This can be hurtful on many levels.
You can't always tell by looking. Sometimes you can,;) but not always.
Being gay or heterosexual is not who we are, it is one small piece of the big picture.
10-29-2007, 12:35 PM
Stereotyping is a very slippery slope. It gets us in trouble from the time that we sense in ourselves that we are susceptible to a stereotype about someone. It doesn't mean that there are not people out there that fit some of the stereotypes we have all been exposed to, including those based on race, religion, sexual orientation, age, gender, etc. However, it doesn't mean that those stereotypes deserve our attention. It is possible that the artist that you speak about may be gay, but to base your possible knowledge of that on the fact that he depicts a rainbow in his home, lives with another man, or that he wears an earring assumes that we can know an important aspect of a person based on appearances.
Appearances are often deceiving. And you know what is said about ASSUMING........
It is a habit, and I call it that intentionally, that I have worked hard on over the years to overcome, stereotyping that is. There are men that live with other men that have rainbows displayed that are gay, and there are probably some that are not. My brother has both of his ears pierced several times, and he is far from gay. We need to check our thinking, create awareness in ourselves, so that we are truly and genuinely embracing the aspects of a person based on what they tell us, not just what we think we see. I am doing an activity in my Freshman seminar class that I teach at my home University this week, called the "Brown paper bag" activity. Each student has been instructed to bring to class 10 items that belong to them, and they all must fit into a paper bag. They will then exchange bags, and review the items from someone else, and try to ascertain facts about that other person based on the objects in the bag. Then, the person to whom the items belong will let them know which assumptions are correct, or not.
It is an activity meant to get at the issue of assumptions, stereotypes, and how what you see is not always what you get.........:love:
10-29-2007, 12:44 PM
This also hinders some potential allies from being allies, because they are afraid that people will assume that they are LGBTQ if they advocate or speak out on our behalf.
We need our ally force desperately, it will send us all in a more positive direction.
That's all! :love::)
10-29-2007, 01:55 PM
I agree with you, Vanessa. That would be my first instinct-not to make assumptions...
10-29-2007, 10:16 PM
I'm not saying this to be mean-spirited, but more just because in general I have a smartass streak. Technically speaking, your first instinct IS to make assumptions. And that's kind of ok because that's how we're wired. (I had a teacher in college who was doing research on how stereotypes work). We're wired to categorize people, and we're wired to make generalizations to help us do so. And we're wired to do this FAR more if we're in some way threatened by whatever category (not saying you are, just trying to remember what the research said). So that "gay people are awesome hairdressers" will not stick nearly as well as "gay people are child molesters". Neither one of these is fair or true, but it would take more first-hand experiences to counter the latter than the former because the latter represents a threat. (If you think about it, this makes sense on an evolutionary level: if something is MAYBE a threat and you avoid it, that's better for your chances of survival than always giving a benefit of a doubt).
That, if I recall correctly, was in the background research: her study focused on how stereotypes are re-affirmed. She found that five things happen once you've only just <i>heard</i> a stereotype once:
1)You notice (immediately) more things that support it.
2)You notice less things that contradict it.
3)You remember (later) more of those things that you noticed that support it.
4) You remember (later) less of those things that you noticed to contradict it.
5) Sometimes, one's behavior will directly influence the other person's behavior in order to elicit the expected response.
I'm a psych major geek, so I apologize if this is all utterly boring, but I thought it was really interesting. We also talked about certain conditions that make people more likely to stereotype (or, less likely to correct themselves more accurately) and which conditions make people more likely to let that escalate to the point of violence. It was basically everything you'd attribute to some college students' lifestyle (high stress, no sleep, alcohol etc).
10-29-2007, 10:22 PM
Actually, Alecto, I find that info fascinating. It makes sense, and it also, I think, allows us to have empathy for those who might stereotype us unintentionally.
10-29-2007, 11:01 PM
Empathy, but also the power to inform and actually fix the situation. Because, yes, we're wired to initially stereotype, but we can consciously think about why we think a certain way, make certain assumptions, and fix our thought patterns appropriately. It is a conscious choice and process. :)
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