It was one of those “so stupid it’s funny someone would even do it” things. We were in the computer lab and Jack B. started typing on two different keyboards, one per hand.
Jack: Eh? Eh?
Me: *groan … into laughter*
That was in college, years and years ago. Still, though, whenever someone says the word “stereotyping,” that’s the image I get.
People like to deal in stereotypes – it helps them have some sort of handle on whoever they’re dealing with: “I know this person and everything about him because he’s very obviously a biker.” We compartmentalize and assume, based largely on appearance or actions. It works in reverse, too. If I say “socialite” or “skateboarder,” you immediately form a picture in your mind and have an idea of what that kind of person fits in that group.
Some of us even try to fit into a particular sterotypical box. You see this a lot in teenager groups (goths, jocks, nerds, etc.). I myself have gone to great lengths to put forth the image that I’m a “geek,” the game playing, the pasty white skin from avoiding the outdoors, the love of computers, the pile of worthless trivia, and all the rest.
Thing is, just like typing on two different keyboards at the same time, stereotyping people is ultimately pointless. Rarely does anyone fit the complete stereotype, so the stereotype doesn’t paint a complete picture – it’s more like a caricature, emphasizing some parts and diminishing others. The label doesn’t allow for change or growth. Since I don’t like to go outside, any idea that I might do so at some point in the future is laughable. Since I don’t like to drive, the idea that I might take a weekend trip should be looked at skeptically.
It’s my own fault. I’ve worked hard at fitting the stereotype, so it shouldn’t surprise me that people look at me through that lens. But what about others who’ve been assigned a label, maybe even one they don’t want? There’s not a whole lot a person can do except live outside the stereotype.
Do it long enough and people might eventually figure it out.