I'm going to tell you 3 simple facts:
A) I just read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E.Lockhart
B) Sexism is a heavy theme that riddles the pages.
C) It got me thinking about stereotypes.
I lied somewhere during those last 4 sentences above. It could be anything, but to save you having to play the guessing game I'm going to tell you that my lie was using the world simple. Lets think about it this way; those 3 facts are grossly simplified because:
A) I did not just read The Disreputable History. I stopped every few pages and noted my thoughts down. I tried to make sense of them, working out particularly where I stood and on which side I would want to argue. Then I read more articles before going back to the story, using them to attempt to properly express what I felt. It was a long process, but no good one is ever short.
B) So sexism isn't the only theme, though it is a big one. It's also about the pressures we encounter from society, including the unspoken rules that plague us relentlessly, as well deciding to be the person who refuses to be cajoled into following them.
C) It got me thinking about much more than stereotypes, but for now, that's our topic.
So as we've established, nothing is ever black and white, much less stereotypes. Yet, here's the Oxford Dictionary definition of stereotype:
A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.I don't believe you could have a better definition than this, yet like all dictionary definitions, it has been condensed. Clarified. Simplified. And so my thoughts are that we shouldn't leave it down to a single explanation, because like everything else, stereotypes are most definitely more complicated than that.
Which is what got me thinking. We generally agree that we shouldn't stereotype on the basis that it's wrong, because as we know, we are all different. No one person is the same as another, be it because of genetics or environmental factors. However, I still find myself questioning if we should always perceive stereotypes in the same manner, because like everything else in this world, they aren't simply black and white.
Personally, I feel that stereotypes can cause many different situations. The more harmful ones cause social issues that infect society and cause ignorance along with hate. However, some can be sources of (note: well-founded) amusement, or harmless ideas associated with groups of people. Again the key word here is 'harmless.'
My general thoughts here are that some stereotypes should be fought against. Relentlessly. To give an example that The Disreputable History prompted me to think of that, it's the stereotype that men must be tough, in control and that it's natural for them to partake in power disputes, whilst women are the home makers of nature, there to support others. To come second. These stereotypes are the basis for sexism, and they are why men are called 'assertive' and 'confident' whilst women are called 'bossy' or 'control-freaks'. This is not only damaging to society, but to the people themselves who are limited by such ideas and forced to conform to them. I could write an essay on how this idea of natural order has resulted in the sexism which is integrated into today's society.
Nevertheless, it's also impossible to not look at the -as weird as it sounds- benefits of stereotypes. They can encourage you to act in an appropriate manner towards others, and you cannot deny that they play a huge part in the world of comedy. Furthermore, many people take stereotypes and accept them as part of their identity or as how they describe themselves. For example, many people use stereotypes attributed to their countries to describe themselves, such as the idea that British people adore tea or Portuguese people use their hands to express themselves a lot.
Consequently, what is crucial to notice is that there is a difference between the examples I have given. One paragraph above explains the consequences of harmful stereotypes, whilst the second paragraph describes stereotypes that don't cause offence or discrimination. Yet to go even further than that- because by saying that statement I have to also admit that different people are offended by different things -it would be more accurate to state that one of the main issues is not always the stereotypes themselves but the way they are accepted and used.
The idea I'm expressing here is that (to use my previous example) the fact that the stereotype which says nature results in men and women being instinctively different exists does not by itself damage society. The fact that people use this as an unspoken rule and let it dictate the way our world works does. And that is the problem. When we choose to view the world as simply black and white, we cause more problems than we solve. By choosing to oversimplify the complex but beautiful terrene we inhabit, you allow yourself to be close minded and ignorant. Be that as it may, I am not denying that the fact the stereotype exists in the first place isn't a negative thing, or that they themselves are not damaging. What I am saying is that in the modern and advancing society we have to do, we can choose that a) We will work to prevent the creation of anymore damaging stereotypes that will only be carried on into the future, and b) that we will choose to not let their existence shape our opinions. At the end of the day, we are our own people, and we have a choice.
At the end of the day, this means one valuable thing; we can prevent stereotypes from limiting individuals by simply deciding that we want no part in them. If people can learn that imprisoning ourselves and others with imaginary standards will only drag us down, you can stop the intolerance that is so often show.
Nonetheless, that does not mean we must burn all stereotypes into the ground. It means that we have to use our heads to be able to distinguish when a stereotype is being harmful and when it is not. Sometimes stereotypes are used for social commentary or in comedy to highlight a variety of things. Once again, I stand firm with the belief that we must judge whether each situation is destructive or not, because otherwise we also stand set to lose any benefits the use of stereotypes might have.