Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Clean sweep

A good woman friend used to point out my habit of making sweeping general-isations about all sorts of people - men, women, politicians, right-wingers, religious believers, landlords, you name it. It was totally unfair, she told me, to all those people who didn't fit the description and were being grossly maligned.

We're all very different, she said, and very few people actually conform to the tired old stereotypes we love to fling around so recklessly.

She was right of course and now I'm careful not to generalise but always to qualify anything I say about a specific group of people. And preferably not to make any general statement at all but stick to those individuals I know personally.

I used to be scathing about men, thinking only of those men who hate women and treat them appallingly. I would forget all those decent, considerate men who treat women with respect and are horrified by the rapists and misogynists.

I used to be over-polite about women, assuming they were always kind and caring, when as we all know women can be just as bitchy and competitive and aggressive as men when it suits them.

And so on and so on.

After all, I don't like it when people generalise about me. I resent the tedious stereotypes about public sector workers, vegetarians, socialists, home-owners, non-parents and thin people.

I may be a public sector worker, but I don't have a fat salary. I don't have a pension (let alone a fat one), I don't hand people 40 page application forms, and I don't go on sick leave every other day. I do my job for a fairly meagre salary and I haven't gone off sick since I started the job over five years ago. So as far as I'm concerned, you can screw up the stereotype and chuck it in the rubbish bin.

So, yeah, I'm super-sensitive to sweeping statements now, I can sniff them a mile off and I studiously avoid them. Please feel free to alert me if you see me thoughtlessly uttering one. I didn't mean to, honest. It was the mouse's fault.

17 comments:

tammy j said...

i have been in the past and still am on occasion... guilty of this.
well. for one recent example ... that post on the blizzard conditions that i did about all the people stranded on the highway in their cars... some with children in them ... and how i moaned about it and criticized them for not just staying HOME the way the weather forecasters and people in authority had asked them to.
then you gently reminded me that some of them probably didn't get paid unless they went to work and they felt they had no choice.
just that little sentence put it all into perspective.
what if they desperately needed that day's pay?
i don't know. it was a little wake up call to me. not to judge in a swooping manner! its so easy to do. and there are ALWAYS extenuating circumstances. and it's a habit that one gets into without realizing it.
great post! once again.

Nick said...

Tammy: I know, it's so easy to slip into these bogus generalisations. Especially when the media is positively awash with them, as it's a quick way of sensationalising some banal story. For every stereotype, there are always loads of people it totally misrepresents.

Ursula said...

Dear Nick, a most insightful post. There is hope for you yet. And I am glad of it - for you.

U

John Gray said...

I take as I find.....women men, they can get a tongue lashing is they are dick heads

kylie said...

when you write a post that is at least neutral about Christians, praises a politician, says something positive about your father and has something good to say for men, THEN i will believe you

CheerfulMonk said...

I try not to stereotype and try to stop myself when I catch myself doing it. I do love the quote by Tami Hoag:

"We never know the quality of someone else’s life, though we seldom resist the temptation to assume and pass judgement."

Nick said...

John: I'm not good at tongue-lashings, but there are certainly plenty of dickheads of either sex.

Kylie: Ooh, that's what I call a telling-off. Let me see. I can't be neutral about Christians, they've caused me and friends of mine a lot of grief one way or the other. There are many politicians I admire, like Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Jess Phillips, and Caroline Lucas, to name but a few. And Julia Gillard, in your own homeland. I have little positive to say about my father. He was a bad-tempered tyrant who caused me endless emotional distress. He did have a great sense of humour though. I'm all in favour of decent, considerate men, as I said, but I read endlessly of all the men who rape and harass and exploit women, and I'm sick of it.

Nick said...

Jean: That's a great quote. As she says, we casually pass judgment on people we know absolutely nothing about, especially all the daily pressures that make them behave the way they do.

Bijoux said...

Well, it's good to know public sector employees are disliked around the world! LOL, I'm just kidding, Nick.

Yes, sweeping generalizations are annoying. But it does tend to bond people over a common cause, so there's that.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Public sector workers get a very bad press - except for the emergency services like police, fire service, and NHS. The Tory government actively encourages everyone to hate the public sector, as their ultimate aim is to privatise everything. And I mean EVERYTHING.

Yes, generalisations create a common cause, but often with destructive results. They all too often lead to hatred and violence. Like the endless condemnation of migrants and the resulting burnt-out houses, burnt-out cars, physical attacks etc.

kylie said...

it was at least partly tongue in cheek, Nick. What made your father like he was?

kylie said...

sorry nick, i posted a link in the wrong place

Nick said...

Kylie: What made my father like he was? Very hard to say. I guess in some way he felt very frustrated and unfulfilled and he took that out on the rest of the family. He could probably have been a writer (he wrote a very good book about the Sidney Street Siege in London in 1911) but he spent most of his life working for small publishers and trade magazines. With a family and a mortgage to pay for, I suppose that was a more realistic option than writing.

Wisewebwoman said...

Interesting derail to your father Nick, have you "worked" on this as these entanglements and dysfunction in families can be understood with some work. At least after years of rage and emotional destruction for me.

As to stereotyping I've to work really hard at not judging catholics and lumping them into the "dim bulbs" category.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: I probably should have done some intensive therapy years ago, but somehow never got round to it or couldn't spare the cash. Intensive self-examination is my poor man's substitute.

Believers come in 57 different varieties like all the rest of us. Some are charming and others are hard-hearted and intolerant. Unfortunately I've had more than my fair share of the latter.

kylie said...

therapy is worth it, just depends if you prefer to spend on other things. self examination means one is blinded by one's own blinkers. therapy takes them off

Nick said...

Kylie: You're probably right. I should have a serious think about whether I could spare the money for a long-term course of therapy.