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?