Stereotypes and the Disservice we do Ourselves

By: Donna Lynn Matthews, June 1999

I'm androphobic. Don't bother to look this one up. I tried and found no entry for it. I am willing to bet that you know what it means though. It's easy to come up with new words - take a Greek or Latin prefix, slap it onto some other Greek or Latin root and you got yourself a new word. Cool...

A little analysis:

I'll use entry 2 for -phobic, defining this term as "Lacking an affinity for male human beings."

In short: I'm afraid (not really afraid, but you get the idea) of guys and I tend to avoid them.

This is not on the order of a true phobia, but I tend to avoid guys in favor of girls. The reasoning behind this is pretty simple: I don't feel I fit in with them. Too often I feel out of place in a group of guys, especially if they start to flex some of that male ego that seems to be so important to them. I don't like to play the one-upmanship game that is so popular with most guys - each trying to outshine the other over the stupidest things sometimes. In short, most of the time who they are is not who I am and it's been this way all of my life.

So, I gravitate towards women, feeling more in tune with them. I like the chit-chat and non-competitive interaction that is the usually norm for them. I am much more relaxed and myself in these situations. Don't misunderstand me, I have friends who are guys and we get along well, but quite often I feel removed from situations where there are a large number of guys and only guys.

You may be thinking "So what? What's the big deal?" Well, it's not really a big deal. I know women who prefer hanging out with the guys. It's not really anything all that odd. Given that, why would I label myself as I have?

I recently had reason to reflect on this and the conclusion I reached lead me to realize that I have probably doing myself a disservice for a while now.

What prompted this? I'm glad you asked.

I was recently at a wedding for a family member. We were at the bride's house and my wife and daughter went inside to get ready. The baby was asleep outside in her stroller and I was keeping an eye on her. The bride's brother-in-law was sitting outside: he's a Marine. The thought running through my head? "Well, this will be awkward." As it is I'm not comfortable around people I don't know, but I figure that he is probably the antithesis of who I am. Suffice to say I was not thrilled.

He, on the other hand, had no such apprehension, standing up and introducing himself to me. We sat outside talking for about a half an hour about a variety of things, basically hitting it off pretty well I thought. I found him to be a nice guy, one with whom it was easy to get along.

The rest of the day was busy with the wedding and reception. On our way out, I went over to say goodbye to him and his wife. She gave he a hug and kiss and said it was nice to see us (my wife and I) again. He and I shook handss, with him telling me is was nice to meet me. Then he gives me a hug. Nothing mushy or anything, but a hug none the less.

I'm not making this anything more that what it was, but it did give me reason to reflect. I had this preconceived notion of what type of person he would be. Enough that he seemed to be the stereotypical guy, but also being a Marine carried with it an host of other assumptions. I immediately felt that there would be nothing that someone like him and I would have in common. Like I said above, I expected it to be awkward at best. Had he not initiated the conversation, I doubt I would have said anything.

It's hard to not be swayed by stereotypes. After all, stereotypes exist because there is some truth to them. However, as gross generalizations, they paint with too broad a brush the individuals which they supposedly represent. I allowed myself to be swayed by the stereotypes of which I felt this person was a representative. Luckily for me, he was more than I had assumed.

Still, I can't help but wonder if I've done myself a disservice all this time simply because I've taken a stereotype too literally. How many other times have I missed the opportunity to meet someone interesting simply because I had pre-judged who they might be based upon a stereotype.

I wonder how many others do themselves the same disservice, accepting at face value the stereotypes of society as fact as opposed to getting to know the actual person themselves.

Just something to think about...

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