Maximizing a Valuable Social Tool
What a fascinating piece. I, too, am interested in stereotypes.
I am from the American South, a Gen Xer. MTV was such an essential part of my childhood that I will never be able to separate from it. It was a love affair, now part of my DNA.
When down, The Smiths or The Violent Femmes or The Talking Heads can get me right again.
I was sent to boarding school at 15 and a half because my parents did not like my gothness and my f-you attitude towards authority. And I liked to smoke weed. In any case, there were so many drugs at my Virginia boarding school that I was like Tony Montana. My pal would have her 60 year old boyfriend overnight us stuff, and the prefects would deliver it too our rooms. I was young and alone and pissed off...so the hippy girls I met at BS felt like coming home. They did cool things like 4-H club. I did ballroom dancing at a social club. It sucked and I have PTSD from it. The boys picked us and I never got picked.
Later I refused to have a "coming out" thing because I found it all too repulsive. The thought of being put up on an auction block so my pedigree could be discerned by a bunch of freaks did not turn me on.
Then off to Massachusetts for college and on to grad school.
I am my stereotypes: white southern woman, failed Catholic, boarding school bitch, goth chick, privileged Irish American, spoiled brat.
Because of my demographic I got things that other people did not get. My people were concerned about appearances and unconcerned about reality. They got "seeming" and "being" confused. [If you seem rich, attractive, happy and successful, then you are those things]. If you want to watch some good films about that particular dumpster fire, watch Traffic (with Benicio del Toro) or Six Degrees of Seperation (with Will Smith).
Sometimes I make fun of rednecks. Something about the overwhelming love of ATVs, rebel flags worn as clothing, and replacement theory makes feel superior. Now I get that this is classist, snobby, and mean, but I do it anyway. This does not make me the nicest of people. But loving my whole self means incorporating my shadow.
I kind of know how people like that think. Country music reinforces many racist stereotypes - my Pabst Blue Ribbon and my cheatin' woman and my achy breaky heart and all that. It is fair to say that country music is for brain-dead haters? Who knows. The likelihood of me abandoning stereotypes is pretty slim.
I tried to break out of my past and my programming. Education helped. But education is ridiculously expensive and far more accessible to "rich people."
So even me having an education puts me back in my stereotype.
I am more grateful for my education than any trip or dress or perk that I could ever have. It freed my mind. It's funny when conservatives educate their kids and then they turn out to loathe conservatives. That is one that will keep me laughing a long time.
Stereotyping is used in business marketing (a particularly American invention). Find out what white-girl Southern tweens like and you can make millions. Without stereotyping, no one would be able to sell anything. Remember the American Girl doll hysteria? They were given names like Aslan and Sloane and McCall. One had a lacrosse outfit and braces. To this day, I haven't the slightest idea what an American Girl is. They should invent one with a nose job, a BMW, an attitude problem, and an eating disorder. At least that would reflect reality. Being loaded down with unearned VIP treatment has done us no favors. It made us schizoid and depressed and obsessed with being thin and addicted to Adderall. And mean.
Thank you for a thoughtful article.
Nice one. I'm sure you noticed this, Michael, but this is a close cousin of the "Helpful Heuristics" piece I did much later. Great minds!