I think this post warrants review. April 27, 2005 2:52 PM   Subscribe

I think this post warrants review.
posted by Crushinator to Etiquette/Policy at 2:52 PM (102 comments total)

Where do we even start?
posted by naxosaxur at 2:58 PM on April 27, 2005


OK, I reviewed it. ;-P
posted by mischief at 2:59 PM on April 27, 2005


done!
posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:04 PM on April 27, 2005


Agreed.
posted by puddinghead at 3:04 PM on April 27, 2005


Thanks, Matt.
posted by puddinghead at 3:04 PM on April 27, 2005


IOW, someone from a particular ethnic background is not allowed to examine the problems inherent to his or her culture.
posted by mischief at 3:06 PM on April 27, 2005


Thank you.
posted by Crushinator at 3:09 PM on April 27, 2005


And i was just about to post something uber-snarky...crap foiled again...
posted by schyler523 at 3:13 PM on April 27, 2005


mischief: glad to see someone here gets me.
so my first FPP promptly gets bounced. i genuinely thought it was an interesting look at things from a perspective that i thought was a qualified one.
so how to post something like that without getting bounced? I think it says more about the general membership/readership of MeFi that the post got bounced (reason: "a mess") than it does about me.
finally, isn't MeFi supposed to be an open exchange and/or dialogue? Not a flame war or series of personal attacks? I'm a thick-skinned person, I'm not upset or offended by any of the comments on there. I've noticed that a large majority of membership of MeFi fit the "liberal" mold - meaning they voted for Kerry, are pro-choice, buy fair-labor-practice coffee, etc. I myself fit that mold for the most part. But when it comes to a person's right of self-expression, they seem to draw the line. My post was hardly as racist and horrible as most commenters made it out to be. Some people managed to inject some humor in their comments. fine. but it wasn't as tho i posted a FPP consisting of the n-word, over and over again. People on here should really attempt to open their minds rather than be content in a world-view that is just as narrow as those they attempt to crucify with their commentary.
so i am reaching out to the MeFi membership: how do I post on a sensitive topic without the commenting getting crazy and my post getting bounced? In the alternative, is that even possible?
posted by LilBucner at 3:13 PM on April 27, 2005


The real problem is the way that Zoroastrian women are never interested in anything other than pegging.
posted by COBRA! at 2:48 PM PST on April 27 [!]


COBRA! wins!
posted by matildaben at 3:13 PM on April 27, 2005


how do I post on a sensitive topic without the commenting getting crazy and my post getting bounced?

Try not linking to your friend's dumbshit blog, for one.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:14 PM on April 27, 2005


You could have just linked to the articles. Instead you linked to your friend's blog and made a stupid insensitive anti-semitic argument. Live and learn.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:17 PM on April 27, 2005


With aid of powerful magnification I was able to find some questions amidst the self-righteousness in LB's last comment.

Is it possible to frame a post about how Jewish women all fit your stereotype of Jewish women in such a way that it doesn't turn into a flamewar? No.
posted by gurple at 3:19 PM on April 27, 2005


But when it comes to a person's right of self-expression, they seem to draw the line.

Since when is metafilter about free-expression, something which isn't even a right?. You made an FPP about how the stereotype of "Jewish American Princess" is often true, and then offer as proof two articles by women who don't seem to fit that mold. Basically what it amounts to at that point is your own opinion. And a lone opinion makes for a crappy FPP.

If you had found some more evidence (beyond that of two sisters) of a rising generational trend that Jewish women don't want to date Jewish men, then THAT would have been an interesting post.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:23 PM on April 27, 2005


Try not putting your opinion in your FPP. Metafilter's for linking to interesting things on the web, not getting on a soapbox.

That said, your definition of open-minded is ridiculous. You actually think a comment like "jewish women still want to be pampered little princesses" is open-minded? Are you for fucking real? I've met women of all races and religions who want to be pampered. I've also met women of all races and religions (including Jews) who would kick your fucking ass if you tried to pamper them.

Because you're a law student and a bigot should I assume all law students are bigots?
posted by dobbs at 3:24 PM on April 27, 2005


LilBucner, humor me for a sec, willya?

look:
lol, airline peanuts.
i myself am black. and have been directed my whole life to date (and ultimately marry) only black women.
problem is: black women have an agenda. despite affirmative action and the advances toward equality, black women still refuse to go to work and want to be financially supported, that go from daddy to welfare seamlessly.
i have no desire to buy into that, and never have.
black women that don't fit the mold are few and far between, and were i to find one, i might date her. but that has yet to happen.
posted by BigBucner at 11:30 PM CET on April 27 [!]
see? all that's missing is a watermelon joke, or a comment about fried chicken.
posted by matteo at 3:24 PM on April 27, 2005


hm.
past few comments are the first bunch that have actually been helpful, so thank you all.
i guess my long-time-lurker-first-time-poster enthusiasm got to me. that is all i will say on that.
posted by LilBucner at 3:25 PM on April 27, 2005


I am a Jewish woman and I find your FFP racist, misogynistic, and a personal attack on ME. You're about to graduate from law school (which I bet your nice Jewish family is very proud of) and so I know you're not stupid. I doubt that you're insensitive. You are, I think, deliberately provocative to your audience here, and are not even attempting to engage in intelligent debate. If you have to post something, post it without the inflammatory aside.
posted by puddinghead at 3:25 PM on April 27, 2005


so how to post something like that without getting bounced?
From the FPP text:
1 - "From my good friend Steve's blog"
Your good friend Steve's blog neither adds anything to the 2 articles linked, nor is it the best of the web.
2 - "...that illustrate why I don't date Jewish women"
You're not the best of the web either. In a this FPP is about me way, that is.
posted by mistersix at 3:27 PM on April 27, 2005


I do acknowledge your last post, but I was pissed.
posted by puddinghead at 3:27 PM on April 27, 2005


If you want to discuss stereotypes, link to the articles, then find interesting links about other stereotypes, how they tend to based on truth, culturally based fear, etc, or whatever it is you wanted to discuss.

Instead, you linked to articles that touched on some of what you personally admittedly find hard to swallow about (stereotypically) Jewish women. (And your friend's lame blog.) I don't think anyone's personal opinions are FPP worthy... You got flamed because through your comments, you illustrated how you wholeheartedly buy into the stereotype of Jewish gold-diggers.


I'm sure I just unwittingly made a bad pun about Jewish women and blowjobs there...
posted by Specklet at 3:29 PM on April 27, 2005


Seriously, though, it would be really cool if you never posted again, because both the thread and your comments in it are totally fucking unreadable. You don't have to hit enter after every sentence, but you do have to hit the shift key when you begin one.

Ugh.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:34 PM on April 27, 2005


I was wondering how long it would take for that post to get nuked. Turns out, not so very.

see? all that's missing is a watermelon joke, or a comment about fried chicken.


So what? If you're offended, relax -- everything is OK.
posted by undule at 3:42 PM on April 27, 2005


Does relax mean not say anything? Just wondering.
posted by Specklet at 3:49 PM on April 27, 2005


Bad delete. Would a post, even one that was somewhat mocking, about Moonie relationships have been deleted? No. Indian sexuality? No. (Pseudo-)intellectual personal ads? No. Red-state wing-nuts looking for love without liberalism? No. Relationships among portly, hairy gays guys in leather? No. People who are not traditionally attractive? No. A parody of people who are too attractive? No.

Or stereotypical Arabs looking for "fair-skinned and green-eyed virgin[s]"? No.

Jewish dating habits? Yes.

So to paraphrase the traditional Seder question, "how is this post different than all other posts"?

Sure "stereotypes are based in truth" is a bit baiting, but it's hardly entirely untrue. And how is it any worse than the non-deleted posts that highlight (I'm sure lovingly, not mockingly) Arabs willing to allow their sweeties "to continue working after marriage", rednecks looking for "no tatoos (sic), no body piercings... most importantly NOT LIBERAL", or a schlemiel who is "behind on my rent, emotionally closed, and take[s] medication to treat my depression."?

We should have had more confidence that Mefites could explore this topic, and less of a reaction that I think boils down to, "We can discuss those other people, but it's no longer funny, it hits too close to home, when it's my tribe's ox being gored."

(And for the record, Jewish girls are the hawtness. Especially the really highly educated ones with the big masses of long curly hair. Email in profile, hint, hint.)
posted by orthogonality at 3:52 PM on April 27, 2005


Metafilter's for linking to interesting things on the web, not getting on a soapbox.

While true in theory, I have to respectfully disagree that this is what actually happens. There are some known users who post a lot of political threads to further their own interest on either side of the spectrum and contually get away with it. No, people use the FPP for a soapbox a lot (just look at FPPs around election time)- it just so happens that the links can still be considered best of the web (or not worst of the web in some instances).
posted by jmd82 at 3:53 PM on April 27, 2005


but it's hardly entirely untrue

so you agree that Jews are gold-diggers? that blacks like to stay on welfare? because once upon a time stereotypes used to be considered just hurtful, racist slander.
glad to hear that they're the truth instead
posted by matteo at 3:58 PM on April 27, 2005


Does relax mean not say anything? Just wondering.

I think it would mean "No big deal, take a pass on the indignance."
posted by undule at 4:01 PM on April 27, 2005


Orthogonality nails it!
posted by undule at 4:02 PM on April 27, 2005


I agree with Orthogonality (especially the hawtness part.)
posted by schyler523 at 4:08 PM on April 27, 2005


I would never date a jewish porn star. Never.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 4:10 PM on April 27, 2005


Ortho asks: how is this post different than all other posts?

Well, for starters they don't express ignorant opinions that aren't quotes from the site(s) being linked to. For entrees, not a one of them is a soapbox post.

Ortho, are you honestly suggesting that the post was deleted and the poster flamed because people objected to the content of the Nerve articles?
posted by dobbs at 4:11 PM on April 27, 2005


"We can discuss those other people, but it's no longer funny, it hits too close to home, when it's my tribe's ox being gored."

Not everyone who objects to this is Jewish (me, for example)
Its not about the topic which is not taboo, but about the lame way in which it was presented. For reference, read the posts above yours.
posted by vacapinta at 4:13 PM on April 27, 2005


Orth, it's a bad post because it stems from his chunky friend's dumb blog; in addition, 99.9% of us don't give a fuck about hearing what racial or ethnic background isn't primo mate material for a charmless, arrogant twit like LilBucner.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:22 PM on April 27, 2005


matteo writes "so you agree that Jews are gold-diggers? that blacks like to stay on welfare? because once upon a time stereotypes used to be considered just hurtful, racist slander. glad to hear that they're the truth instead"

No, and let's not waste your time or mine on strawmen.

Do I believe Jews probably hoard money? I dunno, but if my ancestors had been persecuted and run out of countries for two millennia, if my parents had escaped Hitler's Europe with souvenir wrist tattoos, I'd sure as fuck want to have some ready cash or hard currency or convertible jewelry physically on hand, just in case.

Are lots of Jews money-lenders and bankers? Surely, and no doubt that's to dome degree rooted in European sumptuary and usury laws that restricted Jews from most professions but restricted Christians from lending money at interest.

Are blacks lazy? I dunno, but if I'd grown up during Jim Crow, I'd have found ways to get out of doing work when I knew my work paid cents on the dollar and profited The Man and paid for Whitey's police and police dogs and jails and chain gangs and the rope that helped to keep me down or hanging from a tree. And damn right if after three-hundred years of treating me like an animal, if Whitey was handing out free money, I'd damn well take what I could get.

Do blacks drive fine big old fancy-ass Cadillacs in the ghetto? Damn right! Because for years thanks to restrictive covenants blacks couldn't buy houses outside the ghetto -- about the only way a working man could make a purchase with any equity at all was to buy a big fancy car.

Half of the comedy in Hollywood makes gentle fun of Jewish stereotypes -- and much of that is written by Members of the Tribe. Much of the rest is people of some sub-culture, be it black, Hispanic, female, Catholic, or whatever, poking fun at the foibles of their own.

Of course the stereotypes have some basis in reality. Our goal should not be to stick our fingers in our ears and pretend that no stereotype had any real basis, but to see what the evidence is and what the real basis might be, and what that tells us about humanity.
posted by orthogonality at 4:23 PM on April 27, 2005


I could really go for some KFC
posted by angry modem at 4:28 PM on April 27, 2005


dobbs writes "Well, for starters they don't express ignorant opinions that aren't quotes from the site(s) being linked to. For entrees, not a one of them is a soapbox post."

vacapinta writes "Its not about the topic which is not taboo, but about the lame way in which it was presented"

Those would be a fair points, if the some of other posts I pointed out hadn't so clearly been meant to mock. Yes, it's slightly less disagreeable if the mockery is taken from the linked articles, and no, I don't myself agree with the poster's opinions.

But as always, the best antidote to bad speech is its refutation. By deleting the post, we don't get that refutation, and we lose any discussion of the articles themselves.
posted by orthogonality at 4:34 PM on April 27, 2005


orthogonality, out of curiousity, how do you rationalize money-hoarding goys, whites who drive Caddies, etc etc?
posted by dobbs at 4:35 PM on April 27, 2005


dobbs writes "orthogonality, out of curiousity (sic), how do you rationalize money-hoarding goys, whites who drive Caddies, etc etc?"

Those aren't really stereotypes, are they? But the black conception of "Whitey" or the "ofay" being stuck-up and speaking in a British or Southern accent is pretty obvious, no?

The dour and tight-fisted Scotsman, or the dour and tight-fisted Dutchman, on the other hand, I leave to you. (Hint: both Scots and to a greater degree, the Dutch, competed with the English in trade and business in the 17th and 18th centuries. America was settled, mainly by the English, in the 17th and 18th centuries. )
posted by orthogonality at 4:43 PM on April 27, 2005


dobbs, he's just trying to ironically reinforce the stereotype of the crude, insensitive American.

or, if he's not kidding, if only orthogonality knew that I'm Italian but I don't look one bit like Tony Soprano, I don't slick back my hair and I don't even like The Godfather that much (it's not even Coppola's best film imo) his stereotype-filled head would just explode, shooting confetti everywhere
posted by matteo at 4:48 PM on April 27, 2005


Those aren't really stereotypes, are they?

That's my point. Whites can drive all the Caddies they want (and I'd wager they drive considerably more Caddies than blacks), but that's okay--they probably just like Caddies. Goys can hoard money all they want--they earned it; they're entitled to it.

But a black man in a Caddie? The fucker didn't have a choice. The man put him down and that's why he bought the Caddy. He doesn't even like them! And the Jew with money... cheap fuckin' bastard, right? It's in his goddamn DNA!

You know who the cheapest person I know is? My anti-semitic goy mother.

dobbs, he's just trying to ironically reinforce the stereotype of the crude, insensitive American.

He's doing a bang-up job. I think I'll group all the other Americans I know in with him just to be safe.
posted by dobbs at 4:54 PM on April 27, 2005 [1 favorite]


and, oh, matteo, The Conversation, right?
posted by dobbs at 5:01 PM on April 27, 2005


Anybody up for some lox with a shmear?
posted by fixedgear at 5:02 PM on April 27, 2005


yes!
posted by matteo at 5:02 PM on April 27, 2005


yes to The Conversation, I don't really like lox sorry. good Italian as I am, I'll take a pastrami sandwich instead
posted by matteo at 5:03 PM on April 27, 2005


Ortho make good points. And this is the discussion that we should have had.

There's a reason why some women feel unworthy of making their own way in the world. There's a reason why some men think that having a woman like that makes them a better man. I've never figured it out, myself, but I think that the genders take equal blame for it. I do think that a lot of it has to do with how we're hard- wired to be attracted to that which perpetuates our species- the strong provider. The fertile woman.

In the case of Jewish women in particular, and taking orthogonality's points into account, if your people had periodically been almost wiped out and your culture almost destroyed, then I think it becomes almost instinctive to want to perpetuate what you can. Have children. Provide for them well. Pass on what you know. The stereotype follows from the necessity.

My problem with the post wasn't the post itself- see, after all, it did start a good thread. My problem, like vacapinta's, was the tone of the person who wrote it. For that reason alone it deserved to be deleted.
posted by puddinghead at 5:12 PM on April 27, 2005


or, if he's not kidding, if only orthogonality knew that I'm Italian but I don't look one bit like Tony Soprano, I don't slick back my hair and I don't even like The Godfather that much (it's not even Coppola's best film imo) his stereotype-filled head would just explode, shooting confetti everywhere

You really just dealt a lethal admixture of logic and wit to not just counter his argument but blow it completely from its water.

orthogonality wins.
posted by xmutex at 5:29 PM on April 27, 2005


Er, dobbs and matteo, I know you guys are smart and I respect you, but you do see that you're misreading orthogonality pretty severely, right?
posted by kenko at 5:48 PM on April 27, 2005


kenko, "severely"? No, I don't see that.

But hold on, I'll re-read...

Okay, I'm back. Regarding the initial post of his I commented on (that the other posts he linked to are similar but weren't deleted because they weren't about Jews)... No, I don't see how I misread that. I checked out all the links in the post and didn't find any of them to be comparable to the thread this thread is about. I understand what he's saying, but it's a stretch. I think the FPP was deleted because of the opinions stated within it and I think Ortho conveniently ignored that point as it wouldn't have enabled him to spout off. (In addition, his implication that other, equally poorly worded threads about non-Jews have not been deleted in the past is silly. If they've been deleted, he wouldn't have found them in his search.)

Regarding this post, I disagree that anyone's plugging their ears.

Do I think that all stereotypes are based on "fact" or "reality"... that's a game of semantics. Saying that the stereotype that Jews are cheap stems from the fact that some Jews are cheap (because they were persecuted into poverty) completely ingnores the fact that lots of non-Jews are cheap. So, to me, the stereotype doesn't exist because it's rooted in truth, but because it's rooted in hate.

By saying the African American desires nice things he can't afford (he lives in the ghetto, afterall) because of slavery strips the man of his basic right (as a human being) to desire whatever the hell he chooses--a right that is not being stripped of anyone else who drives a caddy desires.

I'm not arguing that there is not logic, historically, for the behavior exhibited by certain people of certain races. I'm not disputing that. I'm arguing that A does not necessarily lead to B and that suggesting that it does merely reinforces B needessly.

Yes, Jews and Blacks have been persecuted. But my 6 year old black neighbor doesn't want a shiny new bike because his great granddad was a slave. He wants it because he's a six year old kid! ie. the same reason I wanted a shiny new bike when I was 6. (Note: my great granddad wasn't a slave.)

Do you not follow how Ortho's rationalizations perpetuate derision, hatred, and condemnation? (No, I don't think that's his intention, though, and am not suggesting that.)

I grew up in a house with a mother who would go to the market and haggle with the Jewish store keeper and then bitch when she got home that she couldn't whittle him down any further because he was "a Jew bastard. That's what they're like." She was completely oblivious to the fact that she was "cheaper" than he was!

I was 13 before I learned that Jew was NOT a synonym for cheap. (I learned it by getting the snot kicked out of me when I called a Jew a Jew when he was being cheap.) As a result, after that, I went out of my way to meet as many people of different races as I could. I've dated black, white, Pakistani, east and west Indian, Romanian, Persian, Polish, Russian, Irish, Scottish, British, and lots of Jewish chicks. I've yet to find a universally consistent trait among any race of people that wasn' present in equal measure in any other race.

What's implicit in sentences like this:

Of course the stereotypes have some basis in reality.

is that the quality of the stereotype (for instance, cheap) is not present in other peoples otherwise there'd be no reason for it to be a stereotype.

Of course, if you don't agree that that's implied, I can completley understand how you think I "severely" misunderstood Orthognonality's posts. Me, I think it's obvious.
posted by dobbs at 6:52 PM on April 27, 2005 [1 favorite]


I don't think that orthogonality is saying that black people want Cadillacs because their ancestors are slaves; I think he's trying to say that the stereotypes themselves exist because of the historical conditions he listed in his first post. I don't think he's saying "Jewish people are cheap because their ancestors lent money", I think he's saying that "the stereotype of the usurous Jew exists because a long time ago there were usury laws that restricted Jewish people from most professions but restricted Christians from lending money at interest."

Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but it seems to me like he's speaking about the reasons that stereotypes exist, rather than justifying their present-day use or truthfulness. Just because there's a reason we have a stereotype doesn't make it true, and just because stereotypes are invariably inaccurate doesn't mean there is no reason for their coming into existence.

For example, the "reason", maybe, for the stereotype that "black people are lazy" would probably be that slaveowners believed it and perpetuated it throughout American culture for many years. By telling everybody to just stop talking about these issues whenever they come up (not when some yahoo proclaims it as his opinion, but when someone like ortho tries to examine the origins) because it might be insulting to the targeted people is itself harmful - it lends the stereotype far more credibility than it ever should have had in the first place.

As a kid, I always wondered about stereotypes - I was taught that they were wrong, but they had to come from somewhere, right? Well, because no one really told me where that "somewhere" was in most cases, I thought for a while that the "stereotypes are wrong" rule was a lot like the "just be nice to people" rule, when in fact it's anything but - it's a matter of truth, and stereotypes are simply untrue. It took me way too long to figure that out on my own, and I wish it had been presented to me that way instead of the politically correct way, which made it sound like we should be overlooking stereotypes as a kindness to others (which at least to a child implies that there is some truth to the stereotype, otherwise it wouldn't be "kind" to overlook it).

Maybe if we were able to examine the roots of these stereotypes, rather than simply silencing them, we would be better off for it. I think that's all orthogonality was trying to say. Or maybe that's all I'm trying to say.
posted by pikachulolita at 7:44 PM on April 27, 2005 [1 favorite]


i myself am black. and have been directed my whole life to date (and ultimately marry) only black women.
problem is: black women have an agenda. despite affirmative action and the advances toward equality, black women still refuse to go to work and want to be financially supported, that go from daddy to welfare seamlessly.


i have bad news: you yourself are a dick.
posted by quonsar at 7:55 PM on April 27, 2005


i have bad news: you yourself are a dick.

PAY ATTENTION QUONSAR. I HAVE BAD NEWS: YOU YOURSELF ARE A DICK.

we now return to our regularly scheduled snarking
posted by quonsar at 8:02 PM on April 27, 2005


Those of you that argue that 'stereotypes have some basis in reality' are accepting the racist fantasy. They do not.

Poles have never come out against Jews "because they are Jews" but because Jews are dirty, greedy, mendacious, because they wear ear-locks, speak jargon, do not want to assimilate, and also because they do assimilate, cease using their jargon, are nattily dressed, and want to be regarded as Poles. Because they lack culture and because they are overly cultured. Because they are superstitious, backward and ignorant, and because they are damnably capable, progressive, and ambitious. Because they have long, hooked noses, and because it is sometimes difficult to distinguish them from "pure Poles." Because they crucified Christ and practice ritual murder and pore over the Talmud, and because they disdain their own religion and are atheists. Because they look wretched and sickly, and because they are tough and have their own fighting units and are full of Khutspah. Because they are bankers and capitalists and because they are Communists and agitators. But in no case because they are Jews. -Konstantyn Jelenski, Kultura (Paris, May 1968)

You make stereotypes fit out of a psychological need to classify; it is when you begin to see these associations as anything other than fleeting thoughts, that the classification becomes pathological.

For a better understanding of how this works, I recommend reading Sander Gilman, Werner Sollors, and Slavoj Zizek.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:12 PM on April 27, 2005 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: you yourself are a dick.
posted by LilBucner at 8:12 PM on April 27, 2005


"Those of you that argue that 'stereotypes have some basis in reality' are accepting the racist fantasy."

Oh well, I guess I'll just have to learn to live with myself. ;-P
posted by mischief at 8:25 PM on April 27, 2005


Let's face it, there are some subjects on which discussion will just not be allowed merely because of the potential of it turning into a mess. This is a private web site, not the Agora.
posted by clevershark at 8:32 PM on April 27, 2005


Metafilter's for linking to interesting things on the web, not getting on a soapbox.

I really don't think this can be said often enough.
posted by Cyrano at 9:09 PM on April 27, 2005


Maybe if we were able to examine the roots of these stereotypes, rather than simply silencing them, we would be better off for it.

The comfort one derives from believing that stereotypes "must exist because they have basis in fact" is a false one that further perpetuates the myth that stereotypes can be useful. The belief that stereotypes can be useful allows one to shed any responsibility in accepting for oneself that stereotypes exist for one reason: to condemn, belittle, and classify for the purpose of exclusion.

You make stereotypes fit out of a psychological need to classify;

Thank you, exlotuseater. This is exactly what I meant when I said Ortho was "rationalizing", whether he knew it or not.
posted by dobbs at 9:11 PM on April 27, 2005


clevershark writes "Let's face it, there are some subjects on which discussion will just not be allowed merely because of the potential of it turning into a mess. This is a private web site, not the Agora."

Any time a subject is considered too sacrosanct to be discussed, it's because it's accepted uncritically, like a religious belief; when an opinion is considered too dangerous to utter, it means it's seen as heresy.

Beliefs we are unable to examine critically, blind us to real truth.
posted by orthogonality at 9:15 PM on April 27, 2005


Now hang on just a goldarn second there. I would like to state, definitively and as clearly as humanly possible, that MeFi is most CERTAINLY here for all of us to state just exactly WHY we don't like to date women of particular racial/cultural/religious orientations. That's why it was created. I, for instance, won't date visigoth women. Why? Fucking battleaxes. Look for the fpp.
posted by shmegegge at 9:59 PM on April 27, 2005 [2 favorites]


The comfort one derives from believing that stereotypes "must exist because they have basis in fact" is a false one that further perpetuates the myth that stereotypes can be useful. The belief that stereotypes can be useful allows one to shed any responsibility in accepting for oneself that stereotypes exist for one reason: to condemn, belittle, and classify for the purpose of exclusion

But dobbs, at no point did I say they were "useful" at all; to the contrary, I agree wholeheartedly that stereotypes in the sense we are discussing are based in hatred and a desire to feel superior to someone else. I merely said that presenting the issue of stereotypes as a constant "we can't offend anyone" thing diminishes a person's understanding of stereotypes and why they exist. I didn't mean that the roots of the "black people are lazy" stereotype is because some black people are lazy (as are people of all races), I meant that it has been propagated in our culture from a time when white men expected black men to do all of their work for no pay and expected superhuman work ethics; when the slaves were unable to do this with little food, little rest, etc, they probably called them lazy.

All I was saying was that when we examine the historical roots for these stereotypes and understand where they come from, it becomes painfully apparent just how outdated and stupid they are from a rational point of view, rather than a politically correct point of view. Am I still propagating stereotypes now?
posted by pikachulolita at 10:36 PM on April 27, 2005


You don't need to sit down and figure out the historical origins of a stereotype to realize that it's can't possibly be true for all people of a given race/religion/gender/whatever. That's not political correctness, that's probability. (You can trust me on this, I'm Asian.)
posted by 23skidoo at 11:15 PM on April 27, 2005


pikachulolita, you're right. I shouldn't have taken that last bit of your post out of context. I used it as a shorthand to respond to the numerous posts that suggested stereotypes were grounded, at some point, in fact and that denying this was an attempt to cut off discussion when your post was saying anything but. My apologies.

I do, however, think you're giving Orthogonality the benefit of the doubt, which I find it difficult to do considering the way he phrased most of his posts. ("but it's hardly entirely untrue." ... "Of course the stereotypes have some basis in reality.") Ortho's a pretty articulate fellow (far more so than myself); he doesn't often "try" to say anything. He says it.

23skidoo, thanks for the laugh.
posted by dobbs at 11:19 PM on April 27, 2005


dobbs : "Saying that the stereotype that Jews are cheap stems from the fact that some Jews are cheap (because they were persecuted into poverty) completely ignores the fact that lots of non-Jews are cheap. So, to me, the stereotype doesn't exist because it's rooted in truth, but because it's rooted in hate."

By the same token, then, would saying that the stereotype that Japanese study hard stems from the fact that some Japanese study hard completely ignore the fact that lots of non-Japanese study hard? Does that mean that the stereotype of Japanese studying hard exists not because it's rooted in truth, but because it's rooted in hate?

I'm late to work by about 5 minutes all the damn time. If someone characterizes me as being late to work a lot, is that invalidated because there are some other people who are also late to work all the time?

I'm not saying that ortho's conclusions are correct. But the logic behind your reasons for disagreeing seems pretty darned flawed.

dobbs : "I'm arguing that A does not necessarily lead to B and that suggesting that it does merely reinforces B needessly."

Well, good thing, because neither is ortho. "A led to B" is not the same as "A necessarily leads to B".

dobbs : " Of course, if you don't agree that that's implied, I can completley understand how you think I 'severely' misunderstood Orthognonality's posts. Me, I think it's obvious."

It looks like that is indeed the crux of the disagreement: I find it obvious that it isn't implied.

exlotuseater : "Those of you that argue that 'stereotypes have some basis in reality' are accepting the racist fantasy."

Those of you who argue that stereotypes are ipso facto completely divorced from reality are scared to look reality in the eye and accept that everything is case by case, and that reality doesn't conform to big sweeping generalizations.

First generation Asian immigrants to Houston generally do well in school. That's a stereotype. You believe that it has no basis in reality. Unfortunately, reality is that while my high school was perhaps 10% Asian, the top 10% of the class was roughly half Asian. It's reality. And the stereotype shows some obvious basis in reality.

Japanese women are shorter than white guys. That's a stereotype. You believe it has no basis in reality. Unfortunately, living in Japan, I can vouch for the fact that the majority of Japanese females I know are shorter than the majority of white guys I know.

"Stereotypes are always wrong" is a very comforting phrase if you don't like thinking. It absolves you of the annoying responsibility of considering every case individually. It also insulates you from attack. Say "some stereotypes have some basis in reality", and next thing you know people are accusing you of thinking blacks sit around all day eating watermelon and going to jail, or that jewish folks sit around deciding how to screw whitey out of a few more cents. By decrying all stereotypes, you've put up the invisible shield of protection, and, by default, people who don't put up the shield are ideal fodder for Godwinization.

But, unfortunately, life is complicated. Saying "all stereotypes are ipso facto completely false and groundless and hateful" is living your life on a "faith-based" level, not a "reality-based" level.

23skidoo : "You don't need to sit down and figure out the historical origins of a stereotype to realize that it's can't possibly be true for all people of a given race/religion/gender/whatever. That's not political correctness, that's probability. (You can trust me on this, I'm Asian.)"

This is pretty key, and I suspect that it's a cause of dobbs and matteo being unable to grok what ortho is saying: I suspect ortho is approaching the term "stereotype" as "statistically high incidence", not "100% probability". Depending on how you interpret the word stereotype, the same statement could or could not be true.

For example: "Men are taller than women"
Possibly-ortho-interpretation: True
Possibly-dobbs-interpretation: False

And, again, this is not to imply that this difference makes all stereotypes more or less true. I'm not trying to say "no, not all blacks are lazy, but there is a statistically greater-than-50% likelihood of laziness" at all. I'm just pointing out that some of the more outlandish statements ("ALL stereotypes are false") are probably due to a different interpretation of what the word "stereotype" means.
posted by Bugbread at 11:31 PM on April 27, 2005


I think there's been some misdirection in focus here. These are the elements that made the post bad:
  • Stereotypes are often based in truth. Misrepresentation; the linked material had nothing to do with this assertion. I was expecting a scientific or academic article.
  • My good friend Steve's blog. Gratuitous and opportunistic, though a short "(via nameofblog)" at the end would be okay.
  • why I don't date Jewish women. Self-indulgent and narcissistic; nobody cares about the poster's dating preferences.
Wrapped differently, the articles would have been fine links for MeFi, and probably would have kicked off an interesting conversation.

Don't give up, LilBucner, but please try to leave yourself and your friends out of your posts. (You can comment more personally inside the thread, but don't abuse this either.)
posted by taz at 12:26 AM on April 28, 2005


taz: thanks for the advice.
orthogonality: you've managed to more eloquently and at more length defend the underlying principle of what i was trying to discuss. and for that i thank you. good to see there are a few people here that are not completely closed minded.

Refer to my previous comments in this thread; that said, I'm done with this for the time being. Anyone who offered constructive criticism and/or advice, I will take to heart.
posted by LilBucner at 1:42 AM on April 28, 2005


This deserves to be repeated.

bugbread writes " 'Stereotypes are always wrong' is a very comforting phrase if you don't like thinking. It absolves you of the annoying responsibility of considering every case individually. It also insulates you from attack. Say 'some stereotypes have some basis in reality', and next thing you know people are accusing you of thinking blacks sit around all day eating watermelon and going to jail, or that jewish folks sit around deciding how to screw whitey out of a few more cents. By decrying all stereotypes, you've put up the invisible shield of protection, and, by default, people who don't put up the shield are ideal fodder for Godwinization."

But, unfortunately, life is complicated. Saying 'all stereotypes are ipso facto completely false and groundless and hateful' is living your life on a 'faith-based' level, not a 'reality-based' level."


Very nicely put, bugbread.

bugbread continues "This is pretty key, and I suspect that it's a cause of dobbs and matteo being unable to grok what ortho is saying: I suspect ortho is approaching the term 'stereotype' as 'statistically high incidence', not '100% probability'. Depending on how you interpret the word stereotype, the same statement could or could not be true."

Even weaker than that: I'm using stereotype as "widely-believed" and assuming there's a reason why many people hold that same belief. One reason could be that some stereotypes are based in truth. I didn't even say all stereotypes are based in reality.

Note that that claim alone -- "Sure 'stereotypes are based in truth' is a bit baiting, but it's hardly entirely untrue" was sufficient to impel matteo to call me a racist slanderer: "so you agree that Jews are gold-diggers? that blacks like to stay on welfare? because once upon a time stereotypes used to be considered just hurtful, racist slander."



LilBucner writes "Refer to my previous comments in this thread; that said, I'm done with this for the time being."

See, that's why I don't date Jewish men -- always with the afraid to commit. When the going gets rough, they head back to their over-protective mothers. (That was a joke. It wasn't a good joke, but it was a joke.)
posted by orthogonality at 5:21 AM on April 28, 2005


good to see there are a few people here that are not completely closed minded.

Around here, this always means "good to see there are a few people who agree with me."

It is, however, possible for people to be open minded and still think that you're a dick for what you posted. You have, out of hand, dismissed an entire population of people because of a few experiences. That is not open mindedness: it's prejudice.

Japanese women are shorter than white guys. That's a stereotype.

No, it's not. It's a statistic. I don't think there is anyone who's saying that no generalizations can be made. People don't like generalizations with questionable basis in fact that are used to dismiss an entire group of people.
posted by anapestic at 5:25 AM on April 28, 2005


"Stereotypes are always wrong" is a very comforting phrase if you don't like thinking. It absolves you of the annoying responsibility of considering every case individually.

In my experience, the opposite is true. If you abandon stereotypes, then you have to judge every person as an individual, whereas if you employ them, you can just, say, not date any Jewish women because you know, without considering them as an individual, that you won't like them.

There may be genuine statistical variations between different groups, and they may have some implications for social policy, but when they start to affect how you treat individuals, they're not a good idea. What use is it to say that Asians do better in school (and, by the way, you have to look beyond performance in one school; you might find that, overall, dropout rates among Asian immigrants are higher than among white kids, if you look at more of the data than just your own high school)? Does that mean that if you meet an Asian person he's going to outperform someone else? You still need to evaluate whomever you meet as an individual, and a stereotype is going to tend to lead you in a direction that might be wrong and is always lazy.
posted by anapestic at 5:37 AM on April 28, 2005


In my experience, the opposite is true. If you abandon stereotypes, then you have to judge every person as an individual, whereas if you employ them, you can just, say, not date any Jewish women because you know, without considering them as an individual, that you won't like them.


isn't this exactly what bugbread was saying?
posted by shmegegge at 5:48 AM on April 28, 2005


You're about to graduate from law school ... so I know you're not stupid.

Roffle.
posted by Kwantsar at 5:59 AM on April 28, 2005


isn't this exactly what bugbread was saying?

Yes, and what he was saying makes no sense to me, or at least I don't see how not abandoning stereotypes gets you there. Unless he thinks that when people say "all stereotypes are wrong," they're really saying "the opposites of all stereotypes are right," and I don't think anyone's saying that.
posted by anapestic at 6:02 AM on April 28, 2005


anapestic replies to bugbread "
'Stereotypes are always wrong' is a very comforting phrase if you don't like thinking. It absolves you of the annoying responsibility of considering every case individually.
"In my experience, the opposite is true. If you abandon stereotypes, then you have to judge every person as an individual, whereas if you employ them, you can just, say, not date any Jewish women because you know, without considering them as an individual, that you won't like them."

bugbread is, appropriately enough, making a meta-argument.

A stereotype asserts something is true for all instances of a class: "Black men always have bigger dicks", "All white men can't jump","All Jewish men are bad lovers". As you note, this assumption about all members of a class gets in the way of judging the individual merit of instances of that class.

But saying "stereotypes are always wrong" is itself a stereotype about stereotypes. It claims that something is true for all members of the stereotype class: "all are wrong". Bugbread's meta argument is simply that you ought not stereotype stereotypes, because it gets in the way of judging the individual merit of a particular stereotype. Some stereotypes have a basis in truth or are shorthand for correct statistical claims.
posted by orthogonality at 6:12 AM on April 28, 2005


Some stereotypes have a basis in truth or are shorthand for correct statistical claims.

Then it comes down to a definitional issue, and I don't think most people would define "correct statistical claims" as a stereotype. Whether a particular stereotype has a basis in truth is irrelevant in the context of dealing with an individual. And what does "basis in truth" mean, anyway? It generally comes down to a personal evaluation of a limited data set. E.g., Asian students are superior academicians because they were disproportionately represented in the top 10% of someone's graduating class.

But saying "stereotypes are always wrong" is itself a stereotype about stereotypes.

I'm not getting that. I mean, I understand what you're saying, but I don't agree. Also, "stereotypes are always wrong" is a characterization first used in this argument by bugbread, not by the people he purports to be arguing against.
posted by anapestic at 6:30 AM on April 28, 2005


Wrapped differently, the articles would have been fine links for MeFi, and probably would have kicked off an interesting conversation.

What taz said. All the stuff about Jews and cadillacs is fascinating but irrelevent to the issue of whether the post was delete-worthy. A simple post linking the Nerve pieces would not have been deleted, thus - contrary to orthogonality's intense desire to find one, there's no hypocritical crisis at Mefi involved.
posted by mediareport at 6:36 AM on April 28, 2005


orthogonality, like too many MeFites, would rather be clever (or at least sound clever) than be understood. I appreciate the valiant efforts by bugbread and others to restate his deliberately in-your-face, I-dare-you-to-take-offense comments in ways that actually make sense, but I find I have less and less interest in penetrating the hidden recesses of good sense in what appear to be opaque and unpleasant posters. I find that dobbs is both humane and well spoken in his comments, so my money goes on dobbs in this here video game. (STEREOTYPE! Now with extra Obfuscation Levels!)
posted by languagehat at 6:46 AM on April 28, 2005


bugbread writes " I'm late to work by about 5 minutes all the damn time. If someone characterizes me as being late to work a lot, is that invalidated because there are some other people who are also late to work all the time?"

No, whenever a discussion about stereotypes get reduced to one or two examples about specific people it shows the poverty of stereotypical thinking. When you are late to work you're late to work. When it becomes a reason for a Japanese company not to hire American workers (because they're all always late), or for people to refuse to date Americans living in Japan, then it becomes a harmful stereotype invalidated by the other non-Americans who engage in the same behavior. If companies don't want to hire people who come in late, that's fine, and can be addressed on a case by case basis.

I think, as anapestic pointed out, that you're confusing statistical and stereotypical at some points in your post. I also think that there's a difference between stereotypes that carry a negative connotation, and those that carry positive connotations. The hard working first-generation Asian immigrant student stereotype may have some harmful effects, but it is not harmful in the way that many of orthogonality's examples were.

LilBucner-You got off pretty easy. Your post was ridiculous for all the reasons that Taz most kindly pointed out. Any criticism you received was well deserved. I'm not sure what you have to be self-righteous about.
posted by OmieWise at 6:49 AM on April 28, 2005


Another shout-out to taz for cutting through all the BS. It was a bad post, made worse by the poster's attitude in-thread. Maybe it could've been done differently, but it wasn't.
posted by soyjoy at 7:07 AM on April 28, 2005


Maybe it could've been done differently, but it wasn't.

It's such a fine line between clever and stupid.
posted by anapestic at 7:18 AM on April 28, 2005



The comfort one derives from believing that stereotypes "must exist because they have basis in fact" is a false one that further perpetuates the myth that stereotypes can be useful.


I think bugbread has been pretty good, but since I claimed you were misreading ortho and then went away: I don't think stereotypes must exist because they have basis in fact. It's very easy to see how a flat-out lie could get perpetuated and become a stereotype. But stereotypes can also be formed on a kind of British empiricist model of concept formation: you notice of some individual some aspect a*, you notice of another individual of the same type** the same aspect, and so on; eventually you associate the two.
*: why you pick out this aspect as being particularly relevant is worth considering.
**: how you group two individuals as the same type is worth considering.
Here's a stereotype about cats: they like it when you pet them, but you shouldn't play with their ears or paws, because they don't like that. This is a useful stereotype. I think it has some basis in fact.
Here's a stereotype about Jews: they're money-grubbing bastards. I don't think this is a useful stereotype. It's possible that it has some basis in a historical fact about professions available to Jews in Europe, highly distorted by anti-semitism.

I mean, of course stereotypes can be useful. They're a compact way of communicating a reasonable amount of more-or-less right information. Genres are a kind of stereotype. Genre terms are rarely faithful to the particular item described by them, but it gets a general idea across. Stereotypes on the order of "all blondes are ditzy" aren't useful, but it's not like you ever see anyone in all his or her particularity anyway. (Cue Ernst Gombrich: there is no innocent eye.)


You make stereotypes fit out of a psychological need to classify;

Thank you, exlotuseater. This is exactly what I meant when I said Ortho was "rationalizing", whether he knew it or not.


I think this is putting the cart before the horse; some stereotypes arise out of a tendency to classify, and once you've got them you tend to see fits.
posted by kenko at 9:44 AM on April 28, 2005


Where were all you reasonable and smart people when we had another discussion about stereotypes? (the drama queen thing)
posted by amberglow at 10:25 AM on April 28, 2005


anapestic : "Japanese women are shorter than white guys. That's a stereotype.

No, it's not. It's a statistic.I don't think there is anyone who's saying that no generalizations can be made. People don't like generalizations with questionable basis in fact that are used to dismiss an entire group of people."


I agree, and yet I don't. That is, some folks see "stereotype" and "generalization" as meaning basically the same thing (a key difference being that a generalization is based on statistics / personal experience, whereas a stereotype is generally believed before (and, unfortunately often, in the face of) statistics / personal experience).

That is an important difference. I certainly won't deny it. But there is overlap, and that shouldn't be denied either. Before I'd ever been to Asia, and before I was old enough to look up average heights of different nationalities in the library, I had an image of Japanese folks being shorter than Americans. That wasn't a generalization, because I had no basis for it, other than what I'd heard, depictions in media, etc.. It was a stereotype. It turns out that particular stereotype was true: I now have the experience to make that generalization.

My only point is that the statement that "all stereotypes are false" or "all stereotypes exist to justify racism / hate" or the like is silly. Most probably are, but most is not the same as all. There are some positive stereotypes, and some neutral stereotypes, and a section of the Venn diagram of "generalization", "generally true", and "stereotype" that overlaps

anapestic : " In my experience, the opposite is true. If you abandon stereotypes, then you have to judge every person as an individual, whereas if you employ them, you can just, say, not date any Jewish women because you know, without considering them as an individual, that you won't like them."

We're very close, but not quite the same. I certainly think that employing stereotypes absolves one of thought, and makes one do dumb-ass stuff. I was in no way trying to say people should believe or subscribe to stereotypes. Instead, I think of it more as a "hierarchy of laziness". To wit:
"Believing Stereotypes" is lazier than "Believing All Stereotypes are Foundationless, Racist, or Evil" is lazier than "Evaluating Everything, Determining Which Are True, Which Are False, To What Extent, Etc.."

We definitely agree that employing stereotypes is the bottom rung of laziness, though.

anapestic : "Whether a particular stereotype has a basis in truth is irrelevant in the context of dealing with an individual."

Fully agreed.

orthogonality : " But saying 'stereotypes are always wrong' is itself a stereotype about stereotypes. It claims that something is true for all members of the stereotype class: 'all are wrong'. Bugbread's meta argument is simply that you ought not stereotype stereotypes, because it gets in the way of judging the individual merit of a particular stereotype."

I don't think that's what I'm saying. That, or I can't follow you well enough.

anapestic : "Also, 'stereotypes are always wrong' is a characterization first used in this argument by bugbread, not by the people he purports to be arguing against."

With that phrasing, yes. However, a number of statements indicate that that is what people are thinking. For example, matteo seems to have issue with the statement that "stereotypes are based in reality" is "not entirely untrue". I parsed that as meaning that he believed that the statement is entirely untrue. Apologies if that isn't what he actually meant. But the particular quote that set me off were:

exlotuseater : "Those of you that argue that 'stereotypes have some basis in reality' are accepting the racist fantasy."
and
dobbs : "stereotypes exist for one reason: to condemn, belittle, and classify for the purpose of exclusion."

The implications being that some stereotypes having a foundation in reality is "fantasy", and that all stereotypes exist for evil ends.

OmieWise : " I think, as anapestic pointed out, that you're confusing statistical and stereotypical at some points in your post."

You're probably right. Sorry.

I think what I said is generally right, but on reflection, may not apply strongly enough to the discussion (a lot of it was attempting to address what I felt was the basis of dobbs and matteo's comments, but I may have been reading stuff into them). Anapestic and Omiewise make good points, and I think Kenko is some sort of alter ego for me, because reading his/her post is like reading a post I never remember writing but which clearly came from my head at some point.

amberglow : "Where were all you reasonable and smart people when we had another discussion about stereotypes? (the drama queen thing)"

I was cycling between trying to explain to AlexReynolds what the other side was thinking, and getting exasperated and snarky when he wouldn't quite catch on, only to feel repentant for getting snarky and trying once again to explain things sincerely.
posted by Bugbread at 11:30 AM on April 28, 2005


bugbread, I think that when you say "stereotype" you mean something subtly but fundamentally different from what dobbs means, and I think that what dobbs means is closer to the usage that was in the original post that got this whole thing started.

I still can't see your notion that Americans are taller than Asians as a stereotype just because you hadn't done the research. Someone had done the research, and the notion had filtered down to you.
posted by anapestic at 11:57 AM on April 28, 2005


"Someone had done the research" isn't necessarily true.

What I don't like about dobbs' formulation of why stereotypes exist is that it's entirely too purposive—like people sat around trying to figure out how to exclude people. That may be true in some cases but I doubt it's the case generally—and even if that's how they originated, that's not why they exist in any one person. (Not to mention there are examples of stereotypes in the sense he seems to mean that are entirely non-negative. And "classify for the purpose of exclusion" is a bit of a rhetorical red-herring; all classification is exclusive, but exclusion in that sense is entirely pragmatic.)

What does dobbs mean? Seriously. It's clear that he's thinking of certain kinds of stereotypical stereotypes like "black people have rhythm" or "Asians are studious" and asking us to think of them as prototypical or archetypal [why isn't this "archetypical"?], but what's the general form of a stereotype? Let's say (this is more towards anapestic, I guess) that someone did a study and found out that 70% of middle-school-aged Asian-Americans studied an average of one hour more than their nonAsian-American peers; would the idea that they're studious cease to be a stereotype? I don't think so. Moreover, if I had generalized from my school experiences, wouldn't that count as doing a limited kind of research?
posted by kenko at 12:13 PM on April 28, 2005


I could be wrong, but my impression is that dobbs thinks of a stereotype as a generalization about a group of people that informs someone's behavior towards individual members of that group. I can see how you wouldn't like that definition, but that's the way the word is used quite a bit and why a lot of people automatically think that a stereotype is bad. For many people "stereotype" and "painting with a broad brush" are synonymous. I am not especially interested in which definition is correct, and I doubt that it's even possible to determine which is correct.

I don't see how bugbread would have gotten the notion that Asians are shorter than Americans if someone hadn't noticed that Asians are, statistically, shorter than Americans on average and then passed that notion along to him either via remark or via media.

Let's say (this is more towards anapestic, I guess) that someone did a study and found out that 70% of middle-school-aged Asian-Americans studied an average of one hour more than their nonAsian-American peers; would the idea that they're studious cease to be a stereotype?

From my pov, the (hypothetical) fact you quote would only mean the fact itself. It wouldn't mean that Asian-Americans as a whole are studious. There could be a lot of reasons why some subset of some group could study a little bit more than some subset of some other group, but "studious" tends to be used to mean more than "studies a bit more."
posted by anapestic at 12:27 PM on April 28, 2005


anapestic : " I don't see how bugbread would have gotten the notion that Asians are shorter than Americans if someone hadn't noticed that Asians are, statistically, shorter than Americans on average and then passed that notion along to him either via remark or via media."

Good point, and on a bit more thought, that may change my view about the difference between a generalization and a stereotype (though it's still in the incipient hypothetical stage).

Could it be that a stereotype is a generalization that puts forth both a fact and a supposed but unsupported cause together as reality?

That is: Saying blacks in America have a high rate of commission of violent crimes is a fact/generalization, while saying blacks are violent is a stereotype that joins statistical reality with an unsupported hypothesis (they commit those crimes because they are violent, not because of other causes). Or, for another example, saying the Jews have a high incidence of being involved in banking / money-lending is a fact/generalization, while saying that they are greedy joins that fact with an unsupported hypothesis (they are involved in those industries due to greed), forming the stereotype.

Does this seem like a fair or possible separation of meaning of the two terms?
posted by Bugbread at 12:44 PM on April 28, 2005


"Studious" does mean more than "studies a bit more", but not that much more--not so much more that studying more, which can be measured, couldn't be used as a reasonable proxy for being more studious. I mean, you can replace "studious" with "study lots" if you like. If such a (hypothetical) study were conducted and that were its (hypothetical) result, people would probably get the idea that asian-americans studied more and would probably metaphorically expand that to being more studious. Similarly if a study noted that they (asian-americans of middle-school age, though here puberty would mess things up) were on average 5" shorter than others of a similar age, you might get a widespread impression that asians are shorter than others.

I don't see how bugbread would have gotten the notion that Asians are shorter than Americans if someone hadn't noticed that Asians are, statistically, shorter than Americans on average and then passed that notion along to him either via remark or via media.

Well, you can't really just notice statistics. But you could easily get people who, from their casual impressions, come up with a belief that happens to be borne out by statistics, and it could get passed on that way.

I get the feeling this is pretty far afield, though.

I could be wrong, but my impression is that dobbs thinks of a stereotype as a generalization about a group of people that informs someone's behavior towards individual members of that group

If that's what he means, I think he needs some argumentation in support of his "exist for one reason" claim, but you aren't him, so.

(On preview: bugbread, what about, say, the happy fat man? I don't know what to do with that on the proposed account.)
posted by kenko at 12:57 PM on April 28, 2005


Does this seem like a fair or possible separation of meaning of the two terms?

Indeed.
posted by anapestic at 12:58 PM on April 28, 2005


On preview: bugbread, what about, say, the happy fat man?

Yes, what about me?
posted by anapestic at 1:00 PM on April 28, 2005


What do you mean by the "happy fat man"? I'm not following...
posted by Bugbread at 1:14 PM on April 28, 2005


On postview: Huh, that's a pretty big surprise...I always thought you were female, anapestic. Someone with a similar user name must have thrown me off.
posted by Bugbread at 1:15 PM on April 28, 2005


There's a stereotype about jolly fat men, nicht wahr? Am I the only one who's been exposed to that?

(I too thought you were female, anapestic.)
posted by kenko at 1:21 PM on April 28, 2005


God, you sure are a bunch of drama queens.
posted by graventy at 1:29 PM on April 28, 2005


Ah, ok, for a while with the Asianness I thought we were talking Happy Buddha, and I was wondering if that went into stereotype territory.

So, let's see...Although there is an fat old man archetype, I don't think it's a stereotype. Dunno if that makes much sense, but perhaps an example: a black clad makeup caked Hot Topic kid is an archetype of teenagers, but not a stereotype of teenagers. There is not an implicit "all or most X are Y", in that there isn't an image that "all or most fat men are jolly".

I still think my idea above is pretty weak, but I don't think this is the counterargument that topples it.
posted by Bugbread at 1:30 PM on April 28, 2005


graventy : "God, you sure are a bunch of drama queens."

Odd that you say that after all the drama queenery seems to have abated...
posted by Bugbread at 1:31 PM on April 28, 2005


languagehat writes "orthogonality, like too many MeFites, would rather be clever (or at least sound clever) than be understood. "

What I initially said was, "Sure 'stereotypes are based in truth' is a bit baiting, but it's hardly entirely untrue."

For that I was called a racist by matteo.

So how was that too clever to be understood?
posted by orthogonality at 1:49 PM on April 28, 2005


(I too thought you were female, anapestic.)

The name derives from the anapest, not from Anna. It's a Dr. Seuss, thing.
posted by anapestic at 2:45 PM on April 28, 2005


Except without the extraneous comma. Alas.
posted by anapestic at 2:45 PM on April 28, 2005


bugbread: That is a completely fair distinction of what a 'stereotype' is.

I apologize for returning so late to the thread, but my internets were broken. I feel I should try to clarify what I meant- I do not contend that stereotypes are completely arbitrary; they cannot be divorced from an historical context in which they operate. We select models based on cultural presuppositions about the 'Other' at any given point in time. It seems that part of the debate here is centering around whether those presuppositions have any validity or not. I agree with some of the statements above, saying that the historical background may provide evidence to support the origins of some of the cultural models.

I also was entirely too hasty in my response- while I admit stereotypes exist, what I meant was that those that accept and operate as if stereotyping is anything other than a psychological defense mechanism are functioning on a level that does not make distinctions between individuals. The line dividing the self and the other is fixed.
I am paraphrasing Gilman here, but my sense of what a stereotype is may not be the same definition that others have-

They are a set of images through which we categorize the world.

Stereotypes are a means of maintaining psychological integration, providing a sense of difference between the 'self' and the 'other'. We all have stereotypes, and the deeper structure of stereotyping begins to operate when we are first developing. They are a mode of differentiation.

These stereotypes are protean and dynamic- those that retain the ability to distinguish an individual from the class that they might be put into are generally healthy; they reject the stereotype.

What I get upset about is that there are those that are unable to differentiate between the 'other' and the individual, and those people are operating on an entirely different level- that of the pathological, where the 'other' is immediately classified.

Those that do so are operating from the perspective of a fantasy frame that assumes that the 'other' has qualities that are either needed by the self of they lack qualities that the self has; the conflict arises because of the perceived difference. (this is what I was referring to as the 'racist fantasy')

Stereotyping feeds this construct by reasserting the differences between the self and the other.

I apologize for being (admittedly) unclear earlier.
posted by exlotuseater at 5:13 PM on April 28, 2005


mischief: glad to see someone here gets me.
so my first FPP promptly gets bounced. i genuinely thought it was an interesting look at things from a perspective that i thought was a qualified one.
so how to post something like that without getting bounced? I think it says more about the general membership/readership of MeFi that the post got bounced (reason: "a mess") than it does about me.
finally, isn't MeFi supposed to be an open exchange and/or dialogue? Not a flame war or series of personal attacks? I'm a thick-skinned person, I'm not upset or offended by any of the comments on there. I've noticed that a large majority of membership of MeFi fit the "liberal" mold - meaning they voted for Kerry, are pro-choice, buy fair-labor-practice coffee, etc. I myself fit that mold for the most part. But when it comes to a person's right of self-expression, they seem to draw the line. My post was hardly as racist and horrible as most commenters made it out to be. Some people managed to inject some humor in their comments. fine. but it wasn't as tho i posted a FPP consisting of the n-word, over and over again. People on here should really attempt to open their minds rather than be content in a world-view that is just as narrow as those they attempt to crucify with their commentary.
so i am reaching out to the MeFi membership: how do I post on a sensitive topic without the commenting getting crazy and my post getting bounced? In the alternative, is that even possible?


You shouldn't mistake open-mindedness for a totally uncritical acceptance. People can be open-minded and still legitimately take issue with something you've said, you know.

Aside from the interesting discussion above on the ontology of stereotypes, I think taz addressed your concerns pretty well; regardless, here's my take on it.

First, you state that stereotypes are often based in truth. This, in itself, would have been a large enough issue for an FPP, but only if you'd bothered to make it a supported contention, rather than a total non-sequiter. Second, you mention that the essays illustrate why you don't date Jewish women; the precise reason, though, is still unclear to the rest of us, and I don't honestly think anyone gives a damn that you don't date Jewish women, especially when you couch your preference in such an unbearably self-important way.

I'm curious: why, precisely, wouldn't you date a Jewish woman? For the sake of argument, we can suppose that there are Jewish women who wouldn't be entirely opposed to receiving your scarce blandishments.
posted by clockzero at 12:55 AM on April 29, 2005


I'm really late coming back here and there are far more comments than I have the time or mental capacity to comment on.

Hopefully this will help explain my position:

At face value if someone says "Jews are cheap" or "Blacks are lazy" I take that to mean that they think "All Jews are cheap" or "All blacks are lazy". If that's not what they mean, then I don't understand the point in saying it. Why? Because to qualify it ("Some Jews are cheap") renders it useless, no? Is not the proper response to that statement, "So? Some Polacks (or whatever) are cheap." It's a stereotype about Jews not because more Jews are cheap than non-Jews, but because it's an easy way to condemn Jews.

I do not consider statements like "Men are stronger than women" or "Asians are shorter than non-Asians" to be stereotypes, but, as someone pointed out, statistics. Perhaps I'm wrong in this understanding but that's another issue. i'm just trying to give my initial posts context.

Those of you who argue that stereotypes are ipso facto completely divorced from reality are scared to look reality in the eye and accept that everything is case by case, and that reality doesn't conform to big sweeping generalizations.

I do not follow your logic even remotely. I'm sorry, but I feel like I'm talking to tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum when I read that sentence. (I'm not trying to be insulting but I am dumbfounded trying to figure out what you're saying.)

Stereotypes are sweeping generalizations, no? It seems to me that, parsed, your sentence reads:

Those of you who argue that sweeping generalizations are ipso facto completely divorced from reality are scared to look reality in the eye and accept that everything is case by case, and that reality doesn't conform to big sweeping generalizations.

Wheres what I was trying to say was:

Those of you who argue that stereotypes are ipso facto rooted in reality are scared to look reality in the eye and accept that everything is case by case, and that reality doesn't conform to big sweeping generalizations.


Stereotypes are always wrong" is a very comforting phrase if you don't like thinking. It absolves you of the annoying responsibility of considering every case individually.

I completely disagree with this statement and believe the antithesis, that ignoring stereotypes forces one to consider each case individually.

In addition, I never said (and I do not believe) that the information in a stereotype (Jews are cheap; Americans are ignorant) is "wrong" (ie, I know cheap Jews and I know a hell of a lot of ignorant Americans), but stereotypes (to me) are, by definition, wrong, because they classify groups, not an individual.

There are some positive stereotypes

Maybe I missed it, bugbread, but could you provide an example of a positive stereotype? (Or were you thinking statistics?)

My mother also thinks that not all stereotypes are bad. For instance, when my sister dated a Jew, she said, "At least he'll always have a job" thinking that she was saying something positive and not realizing it was a sort of "backhanded compliment".

To be clear, the reason that I feel that such a stereotype is negative is the same reason I feel that the "black man in caddy" is negative: it strips the individual of his/her free will, choice, and decisions. ie, my mother's a) assuming no Jews are ever unemployed, which is stupid and b) assuming that any success the Jew gets in life stems from his being Jewish, thereby implying that said sucess was not gained or earned the way it would be for a non-Jew achieving similar things.

Here's a stereotype about cats: they like it when you pet them, but you shouldn't play with their ears or paws, because they don't like that. This is a useful stereotype.

I don't follow how that's a stereotype. You can't just say something's a stereotype and it is. "Bears don't like being poked with a stick" is not a stereotype; either is "Bears like being poked with a stick". The truth or falseness of either statement is irrelevant. Neither is a stereotype. Either is "Bears have fur".

Maybe I'm not following your cat example but I fail to see how it's a stereotype. Useful information perhaps, but not a stereotype. By definition, does a stereotype not have to be widely accepted? "Mauritian men are hung like a horse" isn't a stereotype either, whether it's truth or fiction. However, if it becomes widely accepted, it is a stereotype.

I mean, of course stereotypes can be useful. They're a compact way of communicating a reasonable amount of more-or-less right information.

I've yet to see proof of this in real life or in this thread. And no, they are not "more-or-less right information" because it's implicit within the definition of a stereotype that it cover a group.

I think that I was clearer in this post than those early AM ones but... I dunno. Maybe I just stirred the post more.
posted by dobbs at 12:40 PM on April 29, 2005


dobbs : " Wheres what I was trying to say was:

"Those of you who argue that stereotypes are ipso facto rooted in reality are scared to look reality in the eye and accept that everything is case by case, and that reality doesn't conform to big sweeping generalizations."


I think we're just barely missing eachother, then. I completely agree with this sentence. What I was trying to get at is that anyone who is looking at anything and making ipso facto judgements ("all blah blah blah", "no blah blah blah") is avoiding reality. Someone who says no stereotypes are based in reality is avoiding looking reality in the eye. But, by the same token, someone who says all stereotypes are based in reality is also avoiding looking reality in the eye.

dobbs : " I completely disagree with this statement and believe the antithesis, that ignoring stereotypes forces one to consider each case individually. "

The problem is that the antithesis isn't "ignoring stereotypes", it's "accepting as possible every option except the stereotype". That is, if the stereotype is "A is generally B", the antithesis is that "A may be C, or it may be D, or maybe even E, but it is NOT B". And what I'm saying about not ruling stereotypes out as invalid out-of-hand results in the view that "A may be B, or may be C, or may be D, or maybe even E". So, again, perhaps we actually come close to agreeing, and phrasing is in our way.

dobbs : " Maybe I missed it, bugbread, but could you provide an example of a positive stereotype?"

Asians study hard. Latins are passionate lovers. American Indians have deep wisdom.

dobbs : " My mother also thinks that not all stereotypes are bad. For instance, when my sister dated a Jew, she said, 'At least he'll always have a job' thinking that she was saying something positive and not realizing it was a sort of 'backhanded compliment'. "

Fully understood. When I say there are positive stereotypes, I don't mean to imply that employing those stereotypes is positive: it's often pretty durn ignorant and insulting. But I also find that that varies directly with how much the group being stereotyped is or has been oppressed. I find the native american spirituality stereotype, while positive, the most demeaning, and I suspect it's because they've gotten the shaft the worst. Stereotypes like "Americans are frank", for example, which I hear here quite a bit, while I consider incorrect (I think Americans are even more circuitous than Japanese), I don't find insulting.

But it seems much of our disagreement comes down to semantics and ontology: when I hear the word "based in reality", I parse it as "has a foundation, an origin, a starting point historically, in some event, trend, or other real-world cause, which may or may not be true or valid now". In other words, the stereotype may be invalid, but it wasn't cut from the cloth whole, but originated from some real-world basis. That's all I'm refering to when I defend the "based in reality" statement.

dobbs : " I think that I was clearer in this post than those early AM ones but... I dunno."

Nononono. You were way clearer, and way less pot-stirry. That, or it just switched to stirring everyone else's pot while leaving my pot to settle.
posted by Bugbread at 2:23 PM on April 29, 2005


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