November 2017
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racial stereotypes are prejudice & gender (sex stereotypes) is prejudice


Like race, gender is "a human invention whose criteria for differentiation are neither universal nor fixed but have always been used to manage difference." (Katya Mevorach)

When prejudice is based on race/ethnicity (or apparent race/ethnicity), here's what it can look like:

people who look like Caucasians are good business people (subtext: others are less so)
people who look like Africans are good athletes (subtext: others are less so)
people who look like Jews are good with money (subtext: others are less so)
people who look like Asians are good at chess (subtext: others are less so)
people who look like Native Americans are very spiritually aware (subtext: others are less so)

I specified "people who look like" because these beliefs are not based on looking at someone's pedigree or typing their DNA, but rather simply by looking at them; it's not about the blood but just about the look. (and what 'looks like' each one is determined by the looker) I chose the positive prejudices because they are less likely to be recognized as racism (since people think racism is always about hate), yet they are indeed beliefs that race/ethnicity accounts for differences in human character/ability/preferences. Even if such patterns exist, if a person chooses to believe that those trends speak about the individual's innate character/ability (rather than the path which society has created for them), that person is prejudiced. And if that person treats people differently based on these appearance-determined categories, that person is racist.

When prejudice is based on sex (or apparent sex), here's what it can look like:

people who look like men are aggressive and thus good leaders (subtext: others are less so)
people who look like women are submissive and thus good followers (subtext: others are less so)
people who look like men are strong (subtext: others are less so)
people who look like women are sensitive (subtext: others are less so)
people who look like men are good with money (subtext: others are less so)
people who look like women are good with communication (subtext: others are less so)

I specified "people who look like" because these beliefs are not based on looking at someone's genitals or testing their hormone levels, but rather simply by looking at them; it's not about the blood but just about the look. Female humans who wear very short hair, 'masculine' clothing, and no makeup are perceived to be aggressive/strong/practical. Male humans who wear long hair, 'feminine' clothing, and makeup are perceived to be submissive/dainty/communicative. I chose the positive prejudices because they are less likely to be recognized as sexism (since people think sexism is always about hate), yet they are indeed beliefs that sex accounts for differences in human character/ability/preferences. Even if such patterns exist, if a person chooses to believe that those trends speak about the individual's innate character/ability (rather than the path which society has created for them), that person is prejudiced. And if that person treats people differently based on these appearance-determined categories, that person is sexist.

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Comments
chillychilly22 ══╣╠══
A very thoughtful post. :)

The best way to combat the stereotypes of gender is to SHOW the world that it's just not true.

Being both minority and a woman, I know there are people out there that think less of me. No amount of well written studies will convince them that their prejudiced thinking is off. At least the hard-nosed ones set in their ways.

I feel people change their set ways/attitudes when they EXPERIENCE something rather than read about the facts. Example, through my actions at work, I hope I help crumble the walls prejudiced ways of thinking. I try to set the example, set the tone, so that they will see me as an equal team member, and not just some minority girl who needs a job, thank you!
belenen ══╣honesty╠══
yes indeed! I agree that the best way to tear down these ideas is to live in defiance of them. And also, if we can, to speak up when someone says something that is racist/sexist/prejudiced. That seems easier when you're a part of the privileged group -- I know that I find it much easier to call out racism than to call out sexism. Maybe it's because with sexism, I'm afraid people will take me for being 'too sensitive' because it affects me personally, but since I am not a victim of racism, I know people won't assume that I'm 'overreacting' because of my own history. (a ridiculous assumption -- the privileged ones get to decide how damaging oppression is! the irony, it burns!)

Speaking up is still a struggle for me because part of me wants to just react angrily, but I know that won't help, so I try to speak up in a calm way to cause the least offense possible. When people get offended they just don't listen... but then, if I speak too gently, they might not get the message. Balancing that out is hard! But I guess with practice I'll get better at it. And thank goodness for my LJ because otherwise my rants would explode out of me at really inconvenient times ;-)
petite_mewsette ══╣transformation╠══
Can you explain to me how we should live in defiance of gender roles? A feminine girl who dresses in a more masculine way, is she denying gender roles or just reinforcing them? Is surprising people's presuppositions a way to fight gender stereotypes?

Really curious about how you think we should go about this! :) You always have such thought-provoking entries.
belenen ══╣iconoclast╠══
Well, to me living in defiance of gender roles means separating actions/attitudes/behaviors/hobbies/clothing/jobs from sex. So, not going out of one's way to be the opposite of what one is expected to be, but carefully considering one's habits to see if a particular thing is truly one's individual preference, or just an absorbed societal preference.

For instance, some people may truly enjoy the action of shaving their legs, but until one truly examines WHY one shaves one's legs (perhaps by refraining from shaving for a while and seeing how it affects one's life), one cannot know whether or not one is shaving out of true enjoyment or out of a response to what one thinks is proper gendered behavior. One way that I examine this is by asking myself if I would still do something if I were not the sex I am. If I wouldn't shave if I were male, then shaving as a female cannot be only about the feel of shaven legs.

For myself, one action which I do which is considered very gendered is wearing skirts (usually longer than knee-length). I do believe that if I were male I would still wear skirts, because I like them for their comfort and their swishiness, not for what they represent to others. It bothers me a little that people may misinterpret my clothing, but ultimately I believe that the way to tear down gender is by each person being their truest self. My truest self prefers skirts, so I wear them!
petite_mewsette ══╣╠══
Hmm. Well... What if I (hypothetically!) prefer skirts because I like to be perceived as feminine? In your view, is my preference is no longer a legitimate one because it depends on other people's gender stereotypes?

Then again, 'feminine' is a loaded word. It may be that I (hypothetically!) want to be seen as soft, gentle, innocent, attractive, well-groomed, well-mannered or vintage. None of these are particularly gendered qualities, they're just a part of what consistutes "being perceived as feminine" in my worldview...


Really, this could apply to a lot of things. I like my menstrual cycle not because it makes me feel "womanly", but because it makes me feel natural, mature, lunar-patterned, and none of these are inherentyl female qualities.

*hugs* This is a good thing to consider! Thanks for your thoughtful reply.
belenen ══╣iconoclast╠══
If a person enjoys being perceived as 'feminine' then I would consider them to be enjoying gender stereotypes. Like everything else, stereotypes have their appeal -- for instance, one is often treated with more respect when one conforms to gender stereotypes, and one often enjoys a sense of belonging. I don't think it is a question of legitimacy, but rather a question of priority. Most people don't stop to think about their priorities when it comes to gender, but among those who do think about it, I think some people may feel that the stereotypes are more beneficial to them personally then they are harmful to the world at large. And of course, only they can know that. For me, stereotypes are harmful both personally (as I feel they create roles and walls between myself and others) and in the grand scheme, so there isn't a struggle for me.

If a person enjoys being seen as soft, gentle, innocent, attractive, well-groomed, well-mannered or vintage, that's a personal preference -- it only becomes a stereotype when one calls those things 'feminine' or seeks to appear that way in order to be 'feminine.' And of course no one looking on from outside can tell if the person is acting out of personal preference or societal training -- it's all about how one questions oneself.

Thank you for your thought-provoking questions! Responding helped me to gain more clarity on my own thoughts. ;-)
xenopsi ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣oneness╠══
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on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.