Assumptions, stereotypes and connotations

By Vivian Nowka-Keane, Co-Editor-in-Chief

I was intimidated to write this column in fear of offending people or being thought of as a “feminazi.” That in itself is a huge problem within society. No one should hide their thoughts in fear of judgment or because they’re scared of being called a derogatory term that misrepresents their beliefs.

This reflection led me to the conclusion that I need to write about this as it’s something people should be aware of.

It’s not as though I’m living in a place where women are very oppressed and have few freedoms, so I don’t intend to riot or burn a pile of bras.

But something about hearing “woman” with the same inflection I’ve heard many times when a person says “b****” or even racial slurs, rubs me the wrong way. It sounds as if it’s an insult or the woman’s  idea or behavior is dismissed as idiotic.

While it may have started in a comedic way with uses in popular films like The Incredibles, when “Frozone” said, “You tell me where my suit is, woman,” demanding his wife find his superhero suit, I’ve personally seen it carried into new contexts.

What’s more vexing is that I continue to hear generalizations of genders.  Traditional gender roles seem to have expanded from what duties a person has to how they behave on a day to day basis and what they believe. I’ve heard teachers categorize behaviors such as making noise as something “boys do,” and even prompt their class to agree. While none of it is done with malice, I think it’s keeping people from acknowledging the fallacy of stereotypes. While it may be a tool used in literature for characters, stereotypes shouldn’t be used to assume a person’s beliefs, intelligence, actions or behavior.

Furthermore if someone identifies themselves with a certain ideology or belief, it should be known that there are many nuances and different approaches to these beliefs so people shouldn’t be stereotyped by these associations either.

I’ve noticed through social media that when people naturally adhere to stereotypical characteristics, they sometimes fall victim to criticism, as if stereotypical behaviors are unsavory and should be avoided.

Part of the disconnect, I believe, lies within what is okay as a joke or lightheartedly versus what’s okay in more serious or even negative context. I’m not going to tell anyone to stop making potentially offensive jokes, because I see that as unrealistic. What I do ask is that people make an effort to be more thoughtful about what they say, how they’re saying it and what meanings it may hold.