I know, it’s a very negative sounding title, but nonetheless it’s what I’ve found myself reflecting on over the last few days.  It’s funny how random, off-the-cuff remarks can get you going.  Or get me going anyway.

I’m not a fan of stereotyping, although I’m sure I’m probably as guilty of it as the next person despite my best efforts not to be.  Here’s a few examples of the kind of comments I’ve been hearing recently:

  • “typical man”  (followed closely by “if they’d asked a woman then this would never have happened”).
  • a variety of comments from Edinburghers which are derogatory to Glaswegians, so many and so scattergunned into conversation that I don’t really want to pick any out as remarkable.  This one is so endemic it has reached the status of polite comedy in general conversation.
  • “Scumdee”-type comments from people who are not from Dundee – I particularly hate this one as I studied in Dundee and absolutely love the place.
  • Ginger haired = fiery tempered, carrot topped outcast with no discernable eyebrows.  I’m not quite a ginge, but definitely have auburn hair and feel very protective of the global clan of red-heads.  I haven’t got a fiery temper and haven’t actually met a redhead who does, although I’m sure there are some out there.
  • Art student/waster paradigm.  Hey, I was an art student and I know how much work I had to put in to even manage to be a not particularly remarkable one.  In fact I feel confident in saying that this is such a misplaced stereotype that I suspect students or former students of many other disciplines would receive a rude awakening should they ever actually enrol on a degree course in any of Scotland’s eminent art schools.  Elsewhere on my blog I’ve mentioned that I once enrolled very unwisely on another kind of degree altogether.  (I attended but briefly, so unwise was the move but…) The timetable I received on enrolling on that course involved something like 3 or 4 one hour lectures a week plus a couple of tutorials.  I was most surprised to discover that this seemed to be fairly representative of courses (in the faculty I was in anyway).  By contrast my art degree was a 9-5 timetable with evenings often taken up with project work.  I know that many science students and medics will not find that remotely extraordinary, but I would like to set the record straight anyway on behalf of art students everywhere!  (And if you are skiving your way through an art degree, please buck up your act, you’re giving us all a bad name!).

Why does lazy stereotyping bug me so much?  When I studied community education as a post grad, looking at our own values, identities and prejudices was both explicit and implicit to our studies.  As the years since then have rolled by I’ve been involved in teaching adults in both formal and informal courses in my workplace.  Anti-discriminatory practice has long featured in the formal teaching subjects I cover, as an underpinning value to the fields of work my students are involved in.  So I’ve continued to have it fairly prominently in my radar, and have always been faintly surprised that so many of my students, working in so-called inclusive fields, harbour deep-seated prejudice, unthought-out positions on whole people groups and willingness to perpetuate damaging stereotypes by laughingly including them in conversation.  Of course I shouldn’t be surprised at all, they are just human, and actually are happy to examine their beliefs, shift their positions and move on.  Well, most are.

It bothers me when people who I share a faith with echo those same prejudices and stereotypes however.  Equality under God seems to me to be fairly well established, so why are we always so busy trying to diminish others’ worth when God has so firmly stated His views on that score?  I guess the answer’s the same as for the above paragraph.  Even Christians are only human.  We’re all past masters at getting it wrong, messing up and generally making God slap His forehead with frustration.

I feel a bit self-righteous typing this, as I’m all too aware of my own failings.  But a while back I said I’d try to be honest.  So this is what has been swimming round my head. 

What do you think?  Am I way off here?

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