I just realized how little we take advantage of one another’s stupidity when it comes to typecasting each other. Take for example the case of the invisible women, e.g., those over the age of 50. An article in The Atlantic magazine was all about why women of a certain age are invisible. My first thought was, how can I turn their weakness — thinking I’m invisible — into my advantage? When we were little kids I know many of us fantasized about being invisible and what we could do with that talent. Who doesn’t want Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak? I could commit all sorts of crimes and no one would suspect me. Of course, I’d never hurt anyone, but just think of the possibilities. We older gals would actually be really good spies (full disclosure, I’m writing a spy novel right now, but the protagonist is a lovely young thing in her twenties…I’m age-ist too!). But nobody uses us, what with our double chins (well, me) and Mom jeans and comfortable shoes. We’re a wasted resource that could finally help the CIA or those other spy folk really get on top of things. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for the call from Jason Bourne’s boss.
Hey, remember when people found out that the woman who wrote Fifty Shades of Grey wasn’t a model-thin, twenty-something hot babe just dripping sex, the fantasy of all men? That was awesome. Not to say that E. L. James is not an attractive woman. But it is to say that people expect a hot book to have been written by a hot babe. I absolutely love that E. L. wrote this, and so well, and broke a few fantasies and stereotypes of women. Well, I hope so, but I guess I shouldn’t get greedy.
Young people can also be underestimated. Adults like to think they set the bar for intellect, so if they learned how to read at age seven, their offspring would not be expected to exceed that. Average expectations are set, and if exceeded, the child is clever but still underestimated and opportunities to excel are limited. Those little kids could probably be lawyers and start businesses and nonprofits — and some of them do that and more. Kids in their teens are inventing processes and machinery that helps us tackle the major issues of today, from cancer to climate change. Let’s just get out of their way!
Athletes are also underestimated sometimes, in the intelligence area, with the stereotype being that they all get degrees in General Studies or other toothless degree, and spend 24/7 on their team sports degree. But that is very much not the case. The assumption is that big and muscular in a guy means you then must be dumb. And there’s those cheerleaders and beauty queens who we also want to think of as all ditzes but most of them are intelligent, high achievers. I was a judge once at the Miss Teen Massachusetts competition and it made me realize what a deadbeat I had been in my youth. These women were smart, confident, excellent speakers, creative and quick on their feet, they volunteered in their communities and played sports, besides their academic abilities.
I could go on for hours and years about how Black people in our country have taken so much shit, had their lives ruined, been murdered, lost jobs, went to jail, face daily microaggressions, had Karens and Kens make up shit about them, etc., etc., etc., christ, the examples of racists stereotyping would circle the earth a trillion times.
So, boys, girls and other persons, here’s today assignment: next time you see someone and fall to the weakness of categorizing them and assuming who and what they are based on age or other factor, create a new fantasy in your head. The older woman still has mad sex with her husband of 73. The football player recites Shakespearean sonnets to his teammates. The beauty queen is a neuroscientist who will save your life in twenty years. The Black person, or Brown, or Asian, is everything you are and better. They are all due your respect, your pledge to be anti-racist, and to speak up when you see bullshit happening. Do your anti-racist deep work, white people. You can’t put it off, like you do your laundry or paying your taxes. It’s a now thing.
Your homework is due next week, with extensions for good behavior. Feel like telling the world about it? Leave a comment below.
From Lady Proverbs, somewhere on the Oregon Coast.