Ditch The Caricatures.

I have so many things I want to write about this morning. I wanted to write about the tragedy in Las Vegas and the weird version of grief we all experience as a society when we see a tragedy of this scope, but I haven’t been able to completely wrap my head around what I’m trying to say yet. I wanted to write about how wearing lipstick and mascara every day has changed my life, but that felt really mundane to post when Puerto Rico is dying without clean water or electricity. I wanted to tell you all about how E came over for dinner and laundry last night and it was just SO WONDERFUL but then I didn’t want to write about him two days in a row because he’s 22 years old and would seriously rather NOT be the subject of every entry on my Mommyblog.

So I’ve decided to write about something not-too-trivial, not-too-jovial, that I’ve been mulling over for awhile. How sometimes I want to ask people, “Do you actually know anyone like who you are bitching about? Or are you just repeating something you saw somewhere else?”

Let’s start with something a little mundane: Millenials. I see people post crap about Millenials on a daily basis and sometimes it’s people I know who know the same wonderful Millenials I know and I want to say, “Who are you talking about? Because you and I know the same people and they’re great.” Sometimes I think we absorb media representations of groups of people and then we form opinions without actually stopping to think: Is this an accurate viewpoint to have in my own personal life? I mean, we see stupid memes and ranting newscasters about how entitled and self-absorbed Millenials are, but none of the ones I know in real life are like that and I know a lot of them because I gave birth to one and I know all of his peers.

But I also think about this when I see the Right-Leaning people I know post about terrible Liberals and I want to ask, Who do you know personally who is like this weird stereotype/caricature of what you’re describing? Or what about when I hear people say negative things about anyone in the LGBTQ community who “pushes their sexuality in the faces of everyone around them” and I want to ask, “Really? Do you know anyone who does that? Because I know a lot of people in that community and NONE of them do that.”

I just think we like to absorb these models and stereotypes and caricatures of groups of people we disagree with and use those as our ammunition to keep hating them. I think it’s important to really try to learn about the communities you disagree with, so your arguments could actually be based in some sort of truth instead of inflammatory rhetoric.

I know a lot of racists personally and I find it has changed the language I use when I write about race because I know specific angles I’m trying to appeal to directly. I’m not thinking about the Nazi-flag carrying racists, I don’t know any of them personally. I’m thinking about the “white moderates” that MLK wrote about in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. It’s way more effective if you want to voice your dissent against a community, to actually know people in that community so you’re not dealing in caricatures. Everyone looks at a caricatures and says, “Nope – that’s totally not me. My nose is not that big,” and they tune out what you’re saying.

But if you are me and you want to address homophobes or transphobes or racists – then using the same language they use, instead of the language the media SAYS they use, is important. Or if you’re sick of the way liberals respond to certain issues, maybe stay away from calling them “snowflakes” unless you actually know some you can point to. I personally know way more conservatives who have fragile egos than liberals, so the “snowflake” accusation is something that falls on deaf ears in my world. If you call me a snowflake I’m not going to listen to anything else you say because you are not actually talking about me.

I just think we need to be careful about media stereotypes of groups of people. And if we’re going to form opinions against those groups, and then voice those opinions on our Facebook page, we might want to try to keep in mind real-life examples of the people in the groups we’re targeting to keep our focus realistic and therefore more effective.

Unless you just like to fan the flames of division and hate, then by all means keep using media caricatures to frame your mindset towards large groups of people.

5 thoughts on “Ditch The Caricatures.

  1. Very well said. I will gladly be a snowflake. Snowflakes are beautiful. Snowflakes are unique. Snowflakes can turn into hailstones in a nanosecond and can pelt you with their beauty too. The liberals that I know are hardly snowflakes. They are intelligent, politically active individuals of all ages and races. They don’t drift quietly.If they stick together , they are snowballs, and snowballs can get things rolling.

    • Elaine C. B. says:

      I love your reply, Beth E! I know lots of snowflakes, from all walks of life. I’ve been called one, and I’ve used that term myself (I’m human, and I’m trying to do better). This is great.

  2. Cheryl says:

    I just read an article this weekend about Will & Grace and how that show drastically changed the way a majority of people saw gay people, transforming them from caricatures to “the guy next door”. I’m a firm believer that lots and lots of people don’t like “them” (fill in the blank) until they actually have one of “them” marry into the family, or coach their kid at school or do any one of a million normal things that people do.

    I know it’s tragic, but I just read a local story about a small town community here coming to the defense of one of its citizens who is being deported because he is an undocumented worker. I swear to you, I read the quote, “but he’s not one of the ones that needs to be deported, he has a family and a job and everything.” I just wanted to scream, “well of course he does. so do the VAST majority of undocumented workers.” But now it’s hit home for that one particular person. My hope is that there are lots more people that have that revelation that there is no “them” they’re all just like us.

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