Below is the second part of Scarlet's discussion on Nationality and Stereotypes. Coincidentally enough, since the first part was about the term 'nationality,' this next article deals with stereotyping the American population. Specifically with the stereotype of the "fat, lazy American." Please leave a comment below with your thoughts about either of these topics.
My official responses will be later in the week. I'd like to thank Scarlet for being a guest blogger this week! Make sure to subscribe to Lakefront Pagan Voice on podbean or through iTunes!
Love and Lyte,
Shew, that was a long way to get here, but the initial reason Firelyte challenged me to defend myself was that I commented on being annoyed when people throw around the term “fat American,” usually in a context of complaint and often paired with “lazy” and generally attempting to refer to a majority of Americans as though “fat” and “lazy” were not just common, but actually defining characteristics of our culture.
My defense for my irritation is pretty simple. I don’t like stereotypes and generalizations that much. Sure, it makes it easier to talk about certain things if you generalize a little bit, but a lot of times, it also expresses a certain egotism… in this case, the speaker is usually American him or herself and is setting themselves above other Americans which they deem to be “fat and lazy,” and as special or elite because they are the minority who rejects this implied cultural norm of fatness and laziness. I don’t see the point and it’s also my own people you are talking about.
Is it weird of me to be annoyed when a negative stereotype is thrown my way? Especially considering the pain I’ve seen caused by assumptions and stereotyping?
“Americans are fat,” “Bisexuals are promiscuous,” “Women are bad drivers,” “Pagans have no morals,” I could go on and on… So, as an athletic, monogamous, upstanding, bisexual, pagan woman with a good driving record, is it not understandable and fair for me to be irked when someone repeats one of the aforementioned stereotypes or implications? Even if you turn those phrases around so it’s not exactly an all-encompassing generalization… “Fat Americans,” “Promiscuous bisexuals,” “bad women drivers,” and “shameless pagans” still refer to a stereotype and a situation that the speaker is usually insinuating as generally applied, unless he or she is being specific about WHICH fat American or promiscuous bisexual etc.
Why does nationality mean something in relation to the fatness? Why does sexual orientation have anything to do with the promiscuity? How does “woman” modify the meaning of “bad driver”? How does religious identity enrich the description of the moral lack? Why is “American” or “Bisexual” more useful a term, in such descriptions, then the word “person”? Only in that it provides a clichéd backdrop of a particular understood stereotype which stems from a generalization and is used to create a vivid picture… a negative one… of a person or group and the identifiers that go along with them. It’s going with the obvious joke, the cheap shot, the uncreative meme and reinforcing that stereotype.
I’m not saying I hate the terms or that they should never be used, but I can still find them hurtful or irksome when they’re used unthinkingly. Of course, there are worse things in the world then annoying Scarlet who occasionally is easily annoyed. Does that make me neurotic?