Stereotypes Are No Joke

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A while ago, I received this attachment entitled “Dictionary for Women’s Personal Ads”. It was supposed to be funny. It wasn’t, not because my sense of humor was impaired that day. But rather because the email was offensive, plain and simple.Women-Dictionary

To me, this Dictionary perpetuates a patriarchal or even matriarchal view that ridicules, delegitimizes and suppresses a woman’s body in the name of humor, a patriarchal or even matriarchal view that is threatened by a woman’s personality, presence, education, experience and knowledge. So it turns her into an irreverent slut, a pill-popping, drug-using nutcase, an ugly and fat bitch.

By spinning adjectives such as “adventurous = slept with everyone”, “beautiful = pathological liar”, “professional = bitch”, “voluptuous = very fat” and “feminist = hairy”, this Dictionary creates labels, which lead to stereotypes that confine a woman to the body image propagated by consumerist media, that perpetuate prejudices of different kinds of isms such as ageism, look-ism and behaviorism even.

In an article entitled “Yes, Looks Do Matter” which ran in the April 24, 2009 issue of the New York Times, the author explains how snap judgments about people are crucial to the way we function, even when they are wrong, according to experts. Social scientists believe that stereotypes are a necessary mechanism for making sense of information. They are inherent in people’s minds.

With preconceived notions, we put both women and men in simple boxes – how many times have we, as women, reduced a man to nothing more than his penis? Stereotypes will not go away. We cannot root them out because that’s how we work. But we can at least be aware of them. We can at least not fall victims to these prejudices, not even as a joke. Because a joke can be more insulting than entertaining.

Sometime in the first decade of the 21st century, Joelle found queer and feminist activism, which only added to her always being lost – in thought, that is. Joelle likes to wander (or is it ponder?) the world, read books, listen to her – yes, her – music, and mull over her existence, the human condition, and the thoughts zooming through her mind when she’s running or biking in the city and beyond. Queer existentialism anyone?

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