Stereotypically me?


I was walking across town last night on my way to a friend’s house. Suddenly there’s a shout of ‘Hey you’ and a transit van pulls up next to me.

It turns out the driver is a lady from away. She’s going to start work at 5:30am tomorrow for one of the big building contractors and wisely has decided to try and find the site now. Anyway I wasn’t sure exactly where her site was but I knew where the main gates were for the company that the contractors were working for, so I tried to direct her to them.

After five minutes I gave up, got in the van to act as navigator, took her there and recommenced my walk to my friend’s house by a different route.

Now when you stop and look at this you can immediately see the gender stereotypes at work. Women cannot read maps but do at least ask for directions. In the reality she had a satnav, and whoever had given her the postcode got it wrong so her map got her to Barrow but no further. As for asking directions, she did that. I’ve done it in the past, but being male you only have to see the nervousness in the eyes of a woman you stop at random to become far more selective about whom you ask.

But what is it about stereotypes. Obviously we have gender stereotypes, but there’s a lot more out there. What are they for, why do we use them?

Some of it, at a crude level, is a ‘power’ thing. The stereotype is used to belittle, dehumanise and marginalise the group stereotyped; normally to the advantage of the group doing the stereotyping.

You know the sort of thing, “Men are all rapists.” “Women are all tarts.” “Brexit voters are all stupid.” “Trump voters are all billionaires or retards.”

It puts the speaker in the position of power, allows them to crush their enemies, to see them driven before them, and to hear the lamentations of their women. Actually it’s quite a popular technique at the moment. Admittedly a chap did suggest that you “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you.” But sheesh why do that when the current method of stereotyping them is working so well?


So who uses stereotyping? Well obviously the advertisers. They aren’t actually bothered about putting people in boxes, they’re merely interested in shifting however many fizzball combat monkeys as possible. So they’ll pull whatever levers are available and if the lever works then they’ll pull it. They don’t make the lever.

As an aside, putting some toys in pink or blue packaging is similar to the way publishers give different covers to romance, fantasy and thriller novels. It makes it easy for people looking for stuff to find it. They’ve effectively put their stereotypical view of their readers to work.

On the other hand there are others who use stereotyping. Those who want to retain influence over the group they regard as their client state. If you can stereotype a group as victims, then it makes your virtue signalling so much easier as you wade in heroically to defend them.

Rather more worrying you can use it to try and control the group. Create a stereotype which makes the group you seek to control fearful, and then they might listen to you more. “Fear the Jews, they’re taking our jobs.” This technique has the advantage of being easy on facts, in that you don’t need any. So it’s possible to stereotype young women as the victims of assaults, when actually young men of the same age are far more likely to be assaulted. (Have you seen what those young men wear? Dressed like that with that they’re just asking for it.)


So what can we do about it? Social engineering doesn’t seem particularly successful, sometimes because the would-be engineers are trapped by the stereotypes. A quote attributed to a number of people is, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.” So a lot of the ‘engineers’ try and get to the children. Yet frankly, in the UK at least, most children up until the age of seven are exposed mainly to the influence of their mothers with fathers less of a presence, and in infant and junior schools, male teachers are rare. So if this social engineering works, we have the men a previous generation of women have given us.
The other way to look at it is that stereotyping is just pigeonholing people. You come across a large group of people, you don’t want to have to spend the time dealing with them as individuals so you just lump them all together for ease of contemptuously ignoring. Stereotyping can just be a way of saving yourself the effort of having to think. Even better it reduces the chances that you might be wrong and have to change your opinion. Stereotyping is ‘safe.’

So what do we do about it? Well as a man who never touched a motorbike between 14 and 56 (when work meant I spend a bit of time on a quad) I’ve got two daughters with motorbikes. I could care less about sport, but only by making an effort. So if I’m going somewhere where I might be asked, I always ask my lady wife first for details of Barrow’s latest games etc. Not only that but she’s the one who’s keen on railways. So when dealing with real people I’ve never taken stereotypes seriously. Perhaps the first step in overcoming them is realising that they’re all real people? One thing I’ve learned over the years is that there are no ordinary people.

Anyway what do I know, I’m just some guy who started a blog to try and sell books. Shows you what I know doesn’t it?

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17 thoughts on “Stereotypically me?

  1. Sue Vincent February 2, 2017 at 12:42 pm Reply

    I read this, nodding in agreement… then saw your post on ‘White Van Man’ come up as a related post. Now, having been a white van ‘man’ myself, and as polite as you can be on the roads, it just shows how easily we allow ourselves to be shoved into our own pigeonholes without even noticing sometimes 😉

    • jwebster2 February 2, 2017 at 1:34 pm Reply

      I’m left pondering how on earth it came up as a related post! But yes, pigeonholes are so popular because they’re so useful 🙂

      • Sue Vincent February 2, 2017 at 1:36 pm

        I wondered that myself, unless it was the mention of vehicles. 😉
        I’d rather see people as people… a vast ocean of individuals, good, bad and probably mostly in between.

      • jwebster2 February 2, 2017 at 2:02 pm

        yes there are no ordinary people

      • Sue Vincent February 2, 2017 at 2:15 pm


  2. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt February 2, 2017 at 3:14 pm Reply

    You said it well: ‘realising that they’re all real people.’ Even the ones who dump rubbish in your quiet country lanes? And who don’t have the sense God gave chickens?

    Stereotypes! Aargh! I really hate it when people stereotype me – my least favorite was ‘elderly primagravida’ when I had my first child at 36. So insensitive that it still rankles.

    Now I warn women not to let their doctors give them ‘old lady medicine,’ which basically means that the doctor gives up before even getting started – you’re old, you should expect to have aches and pains, don’t bother me or waste my precious time.

    For quickly sorting people into ‘probably okay’ vs. ‘might take a knife to me,’ stereotypes may be useful. But, I believe serial killers learn to use that to their advantage.

    If I recall correctly, though, nobles in the middle ages left their boys with the mothers UNTIL the age of 7, at which point they were taken away, and given to the men of a neighboring castle to turn into MEN.

    • jwebster2 February 2, 2017 at 4:15 pm Reply

      I think the idea was that by the time they were seven they would probably live and were worth the investment. In an age of considerable child mortality I suspect people planned differently

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt February 2, 2017 at 5:17 pm

        Yes, but they also got them away from the women, and put them from spoiled little princes into the lowest category of warrior – we’d call it hazing – and let them fight it out.

        Different times.

      • jwebster2 February 2, 2017 at 5:44 pm

        boys are like puppies, they have to be domesticated 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt February 2, 2017 at 7:36 pm

        So do girls, but they are allowed to stay with their mothers. I grew up in an all-girl household, and my mother did her job well. She was International Commissioner of the Girl Guides of Mexico, for example – so we would all have the Guides in our lives.

        Illness keeps me from living up to her standards – but I am proud of my beautiful accomplished sisters and their homes and families.

      • jwebster2 February 2, 2017 at 9:15 pm

        My lady wife was a guide leader and oldest daughter is a scout leader 🙂
        Remember that when you look back to the medieval period, women were often the ones in charge of logistics etc. They were the ones with the management skills and they had to be passed on.
        So no real change there then 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt February 2, 2017 at 9:22 pm

        Kids are kids – I don’t hold with stereotyping education for either. Not all boys are sports fanatics, not all girls aren’t.

        In my family of 5, the youngest daughter and I are the ones with the intrinsic map sense. My two older ones didn’t have it. Husband used to, but he now dependson GPS, where I go to online maps before I leave for a new place, and print out what I may need when I get close (which saved our bacon last summer when we went to a picnic in the wilds of Pennslyvania – with no GPS signal!).

      • jwebster2 February 2, 2017 at 9:36 pm

        both me and other half are map people. We have a fair proportion of the UK in inch to a mile 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt February 2, 2017 at 9:22 pm

        All five of us were Girl Guides in Mexico, and I was a leader for a while.

      • jwebster2 February 2, 2017 at 9:36 pm

        All daughters were, I never got involved in scout movement, farming life was more interesting 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt February 2, 2017 at 11:16 pm

        My dad did – where necessary, as when he supervised getting water back for the National Camp when it fails (he was an engineer).

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt February 2, 2017 at 11:19 pm

        Sons and their father were Boy Scouts; daughter a Girl Scout.

        It was good – lots of stuff to do.

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