Thursday, July 24, 2008

they're all that way

A thought occurred to me about generalizations. We hate the few that are a "certain way" and make them the majority of that group. Woman talk too much. Men are pigs. Kids are a pain in the . . . neck. Blacks, whites, red, yellow, green and purple people are whatever people say about them. Why do we do that? Why do we accept generalizations as the way of the entire group?

10 comments:

XI Summit said...

Generalizations are always stupid.

Desmond Jones said...

XI - Good one! ;)

I think that such generalizations are often useful as substitutes for thought; rather than do the hard mental work, it's easier to grab a convenient stereotype. . .

But, having said that, it's also true that, by and large, stereotypes don't materialize out of thin air, but out of a certain 'preponderance of experience'. They might be 'generally' accurate enough to be useful, to a certain extent, but in specific cases, they tell us virtually nothing at all. . .

I recall a writer (a black man) once posing the question - you're walking alone on a poorly-lit street late at night; you see ahead of you a young black man, walking toward you. Do you cross the street, or not?

And the truly sad part of it is that the question even makes sense in the first place. . .

Phyllis Renée said...

XI - Yes, I generally agree.

Desmond - I suppose it is easier to just go along with what we've heard or base it on past experiences. But our interactions with people are usually so quick (bank teller, grocery store cashier, those that speed by us in their car or poke along in front of us on the highway) that, based on their gender or race, we form opinions about a whole group instead of just relating them to that one particular person.

Digger Jones said...

Generalizing is kind of an important skill, which most people don't ever appreciate until you meet someone who simply can't do it like people with autism. In some ways it's nice that everyone is an individual. But there are cultural and gender and age differences that can and should be taken into account sometimes. Generalizations allow us to recognize broader relationships beyond just one individual and recognize people as part of larger communities.

While each woman is different, you all do share some common bonds through your femininity. Christians share certain bonds through their shared faith and belief.

It has its place, but the problem comes when we condemn and judge others based on these relationships.
D.

Desmond Jones said...

Right; I understand what you're saying. And in individual, one-on-one situations, it makes perfect sense, it's the right thing, to deal with the individual in question, rather than the stereotype. Absolutely. My only point was that there are reasons that people resort to stereotypes, when they have to take a certain course of action with insufficient information about the individual.

I've had people say to me, "I know all about PEOPLE LIKE YOU", and I always say, you don't know anything about me. If you want to tell me what I'm 'like', take the trouble to know who it is you're talking about. . .

And you understand that my 'substitute for thought' comment was meant to be sarcastic, right?

Phyllis Renée said...

Digger - First, welcome! I think this is the first time you've commented on my blog. Second, that was my point, that we judge and condemn people according to some generalization. That's what I don't unerstand. I mean, why is it such a struggle NOT to do that?

Desmond - Oh, yes, I recognized the sarcasm. But, sadly, it's true. And to be really honest, after I heard you live in a . . . what's it called? I thought all kinds of weird things. Please forgive me, because I have since gotten over if, though I still don't really understand it.

Desmond Jones said...

Well, see, we've just got to get you up here for a visit. . . ;)

If you have questions, btw, feel free to email me. . .

FTN said...

Desmond lives with 500 other dirty, naked, bearded hippies in a social commune. Seriously, I've seen it.

As Digger pointed out, generalities and stereotypes have their place -- some of them exist for a reason, and some of them are true in an aggregate manner. Women, as a whole, are more emotional and less logical. Engineers are good at math. People that exercise often are in good shape and will live longer. And bloggers, of course, are all amazingly intelligent, witty, and beautiful.

You have to know how to use that information, and that includes not using it on a micro level -- there's a pretty good chance one individual may not conform to that generalization.

Desmond Jones said...

And don't forget that the 500 (actually only about half that many) dirty, naked, bearded (even the women; the 'hair fetish', dontcha know) hippies are all religious fanatics, too. . .

Cocotte said...

A topic that really gets my goat. Whenever I hear women make mean generalizations about men, I like to pipe up and say, "well, my husband NEVER does that!" It usually makes them shut up right away. I probably get on people's nerves........