Sunday, September 28, 2014

Stereotyping Much?

Stereotyping is a part of human nature. Period. Except for maybe Dalai Lama and other noble souls. We all have an uncontrollable urge in ourselves to observe people around us and make unrequired/unwanted/unauthorized pieces of judgement about them. Sitting in a food court with my friends, many a times we have passed comments on anything walking on two legs. A cute baby, the overtly romantic couple totally unaware of surroundings, the cola drinking dude, chicken leg enjoying fatty, the solitary eater and salad eating dressed to nines divas. With a single glance it somehow feels that we can predict and calculate some characteristic traits of these people. This is a universal activity which irrespective of the place is omnipresent. And while we are busy judging others there is a very positive chance that at the same time we are the topic of discussion/ridicule/judgement amongst a different group of people. This activity is pretty harmless and a popular topic of gossip amongst all.

The harm comes when we start to stereotype. Some are just etched into our minds from childhood, so even if our adult mind understands or recognizes the correct information our first instinct will always be to go with what’s been imprinted on our minds. Coming from religiously disturbed land of Jammu and Kashmir, the first emotion the word Pakistan derives from me is of strong hate, irrespective of the situation or circumstance. I can’t be in a same room with a person who praises a Pakistani cricketer. My mind knows and understands that its silly but I just can’t help it. For me its brings about haunting memories of migration, loot, gruesome murders, rapes and awkward years growing up in a place away from homeland. Like this we all have some or the other stereotypes that have been passed into our minds through our own experiences, portrayal on television/films, hearsay's, old grandmother tales or some due to sheer stupidity. But trust me, the list is huge.

I will try and venture into it slowly taking one popular stereotype at a time. Since time immemorial women have been the most popular victims of various sexist and stupid stereotypes. Blondes are naturally perceived to be dumb. A lady driving a car becomes a butt of jokes and ridicule. Smoking and drinking will put demeaning labels on you. Having a lot of male friends or ex-boyfriends will make you a slut. Being reserved, talking less to people will make you a snob and being friendly will make you a tease who is just out there to attract all people and attention to her. A well-dressed shoe accessory nail paint coordinating girl is termed as a wannabe. A tattooed girl is considered to be wild and one with wayward ways. Agreeing to a male friend or a colleague for a simple coffee or a movie labels you as easy catch. Strong career women is always considered to be unemotional, ruthless and the one wearing pants at home. And if you are over the ripe age of 26 and unmarried, well then god save you from all the allegations and inquisitive personal questions about your life. What’s all the more hurtful about all this is that it’s not just men but even women who turn up against each other. Which reminds me of another popular stereotype that two women can never be close friends without a fair amount of jealously involved. This is something I totally disagree with, I know we are a little bitchy by nature but there is no way that affects the bonds we have with our girlies. Well, whoever said that girls have it all easy was definitely drunk off his ass.

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Moving on to other stereotypes (most of which even I believe in):

1. Models don’t eat.
2. All south Indians are extremely intelligent and eat food cooked in coconut oil.
3. And put coconut oil in their hair always.
4. People from Delhi are over smart.
5. Punjabi’s drink and eat tandoori chicken every day.
6. Haryana is full of farmers and women abusers.
7. Goa is the great Indian party hub.
8. African Americans are all sportsmen.
9. French are Italians are great lovers.
10. Americans are obese
11. Arabs are freakily rich with all the oil money.
12. All Muslims are terrorists.
13. People from J&K have apples trees in their backyards
14. Vanity caring women are only fit for glamorous jobs
15. And don’t get me started on what we have about people from North East

Stereotypes have always existed and I am guessing will continue to stay for a long time. Old ones may die but new ones are sure to sprout. While their existence it pretty harmless to general public it really is a slap on the face when you are a direct victim of it. Over the years I have been stereotyped on numerous occasions. Sometimes it was funny, other times flattering. But mostly irritating and on more than one occasions downright hurtful. Since I am from a state that has been a source of constant trouble and various pre conceived notions, the stereotypes (or myths) are many. We will take them one at a time:

1. Stereotype: Militants and terrorists just roam out and about the city and I must have seen about two dozen of them.  
Reality: If they would have be so easily accessible to general public, there wouldn’t be lakhs of moolah riding on them. In the almost 22 years spent there I haven’t seen even a single terrorist (and boy am I happy for that or what!). Life goes on pretty normal out there, in spite of the unfortunate incidents.

2. Stereotype: Since it’s a small town, education possibilities must be pretty limited.
Reality: Surprise Surprise. J&K boasts of many elite schools and colleges. Ok not as per standards with IIT but we do have our share of recognition. In fact very recently my Alma-Mater, Presentation Convent Senior Secondary has been ranked 10th in a survey conducted by Education World India School Rankings 2014. #so proud#.

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3. Stereotype: Jammu main Beauty parlous hai?  
Reality: The two things you will find in every nook and corner of the city are ~ beauty parlous and tuition centers. You would be surprised to see how decked up Auntyji’s are in my part of the world even if out to buy just vegetables or throw garbage. If you are spotted in a night gown outside the premises of your home, well it will be the catalyst for a mini scandal in the city.

4. Stereotype: You have a good dressing sense, why don’t you try modelling?  
Reality: I have a good dressing sense. Thanks! But why does that make me fit for just glamorous jobs and give me a very party going snobbish image. Even a simple girl in any profession of any background with any kind of hobby or something can be fond of dressing up. And has every right to be dressed elegantly and stylishly if she wants to. As long as it’s not vulgar, it’s all good. Even then it’s the girl decision and hence her problem rather than everybody else’s.

5. Stereotype: Girls like you don’t have such knowledge. {Such in this case being mythological knowledge}.  
Reality: This by far has to be the one that hurt the most because it was made by someone I consider a friend. What hurt the most was like people out there may speak trash, call names or categorize me into some type of woman that they feel I am. But when that same thing is done by someone close to you, a person you consider friend, the feeling of betrayal is unmatched. That’s when I feel that is always better to be a private person and not just sit and discuss every tiny detail of your life with all. You never know who is going to change sides and use that information to hurt you where is hurts the most.

Coming back to the topic of mythology, well girls like me (if you may say so) do know the basic things but if you go on about asking me details of it, I wouldn’t know Bhim’s son’s name from Mahabharata, not because I love fashion but simply because it’s something that doesn’t not interest me. Like chess. Or sports. Or cartoons. Or Sci-fi action films. That does not make me an alien or a different type of girl all together.

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I for one feel that it’s really irrelevant to put labels on people. Lovers, show-off, wannabe, greedy, stingy, especially when you have no idea about them, the life they really lead. And the actually person behind that designer wear, those pointy peep toes, that stylish tattoo, those low riding jeans and that big long pricy car. But if you do know the real person behind all that junk, then my friends do keep the name calling in progress.

On a totally different note, have you seen this picture of ISRO scientists, after the Mangaalyan's bon voyage. Its speaks a thousand words, saree and gajra wearing scientists breaking stereotypes without uttering a word. And here I had to ramble on and on before getting to the point ;)

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  1. Points no 2 & 3 refer specifically to Malayalees (ppl from Kerala). We've got de brains and de oil !!! :)

  2. Stereotyping, name calling and sexist remarks are so hurtful and to do with the fact that we are stuck in our bubble of thought. I've been stereotyped quite a few times and now I'm like, I dont give a damn.
    So well put, Sneha:)

  3. sneha ji...good one yar..hey...dunno how to thank u for your consistent encouragement and being such a good friend..can only wish u all the very best in life...abundance of joy and peace...keep the cheers buddy and spread the positive energy cya

  4. Good topic, well written :) Can understand your frustration when people judge without actually making an effort to know what reality is. Sometimes you need to just put down thoughts and emotions on paper and then feel lighter, I am sure you must've felt relieved after posting this one.

    I personally don't believe in stereotypes. To me it is just someone's opinion about something and it may or may not make sense - so, why not experience it yourself and then understand exactly what it is all about. If not, then forget it and ignore it.

    It is obvious that you felt the need for people to know the truth/reality when they questioned you about your home state. As you have a good reader base, with this blog post your reach is wider than what it was just by communication in person. But could you possible answer everyone who believes in those stereotypes? No! That's the reason why I just smile at such people and simple ignore their statements - cause what they say is silly and doesn't add any value.

    Well, coming to the stereotype on South Indians, I heard them before but never bothered to answer them, just laughed them off. But as this post is exclusive discussion on this topic and as I was born and brought up in Hyderabad, A.P., I'd like to share my opinion on it.

    1. South India is just as diverse and overly populated as the North or East or West. So, South Indians are just the same intelligent, Indian, human and normal as other Indians. You always find a mix of people - good/bad/smart/foolish.

    2. Coconut oil is restricted/exclusive only for food in Kerala. And Kerala is only one part of South India - you never find coconut oil used in cuisines of Karnataka, A.P or Tamil Nadu. Even Keralites use coconut oil only in 80% of their dishes and they still use sunflower/ground nut/other oil for rest 20% - I personally noticed that through some of my Kerala friends at Uni.

    3. Coming to the point of applying coconut oil to hair - it is not restricted to Kerala alone, it is followed across all of South India. But it is completely based on individual family traditions - some people apply, some don't at all. And coming to my family, my grandparents and parents apply coconut oil to hair only on the mornings of major festivals like Dussehra, Diwali, Makar Sankranthi, etc and that application is done 1 hour prior to taking shower - so, the oil gives medicinal and health values to your hair and scalp and then once you take the shower, it is all gone and hair is just normal like usual.

    It is not mandatory though - personally, the last time I applied coconut oil to my hair was when I finished school - my early teenage. From mid-teenage and even till today I use only one brand(been loyal to it for over a decade now) for my hair - "Brylcreem" - that too not every day, just when my hair ask for it or when I go out for a dinner party - to style my hair.

    So, it is clear now that the person/people who stereotyped South Indians have done that based on their limited knowledge and exposure - may be the few people they met were all Keralites who ate food cooked in coconut oil or people with attitude that they were over smart/intelligent and must've applied too much coconut oil to their hair as well. So, just because 25% of the population do that - wouldn't it be stupid to not survey or learn what the rest 75% do - but they end up stereotyping everyone.

    Anyway, good piece of writing from you, nice photo at the end. My personal suggestion is ignore those people who make such statements - cause there is no point in trying to educate a fool who'd be more interested in gossip than actual facts. Personally I avoid trying to clarify such questions and trust me, that's the best solution - let people think whatever they want, they have a mind of their own, that's never gonna change you - you'll always remain the happy person that you are :)

    All the Best,
    Cheers!! :)