I’ve had plenty of Ashton time lately, the other day I was riding my bike along the Esplanade at Surfers Paradise, watching people as I rode by, wondering where they came from or what they were doing there. Every man and his dog (so many dogs) were out that day, shirtless men doing calisthenic training on the beachfront monkey bars, parents yelling at their young children to not scoot so fast, tourists taking photos of each other in front of garbage cans. Overall, I thought most of the them looked pretty ridiculous, they all fit into a stereotype, muscle meat heads, crazy parents, oblivious tourists, and without even saying one word to these people, I had categorised them all, I had made a snap judgement, was it fair? I don’t know, but it got me thinking about the judgements we make, and if they are made solely on stereotypes?
Before moving up to the Gold Coast, I was frantically trying to find a place I could settle into, preferably by the beach with some cool new housemates who enjoy cheese and Brooklyn 99, a place I could call home, and I thought I’d found that perfect place. I put all my energy into making this work, I’d been on Gumtree looking at coffee machines, I’d located my nearest K-Mart, I was ready to meet my new roomies, it was looking like a win! Until… I was asked one simple question: are you a vegetarian? I believe my reply was “Oh hell no… ha ha”, and then to my dismay I was cast out of the room mate search, because apparently if I wasn’t a vegetarian, I wasn’t an acceptable applicant. I was in shock, how could they not like me? Why should my dietary choices impact my suitability to live in a house? Without even wanting to get to know me, they had already made up their minds. I won’t lie, I was crushed, but how dare they, I wasn’t about to give up like a juicy pork chop to live in a house with close minded people. They made a judgement on me based on a “carnivorous meat eater” stereotype, and I probably made one on them too, “hippies”.
I’m a pretty sport savvy girl, I can thank my Dad for that, but since moving here to Queensland, I’ve noticed that when it comes to Rugby league, or “footy”, they assume because I’m from Melbourne, “the great game” is beyond my knowledge. In a few conversations, I’ve found myself answering the same questions over and over, like do you know much about the NRL (Yes, go Storm!), do you know the rules (yes), do you know what a “footy” ball looks like (…yes), do you know what a field goal is (…YES). It doesn’t matter how many times I justify my sporting prowess, it’s as if they don’t believe me, because I’m from Melbourne, so therefore I must be clueless. I’m sure its all in good spirits, they mean no harm, they’ve just made an assumption that I fit into the “AFL loving Melbournian” stereotype. Over time though, will their judgement ever change? Maybe only if they’re willing to get to know me, then who knows, maybe one day they’ll swap a XXXX gold for a VB, or Bundaberg Rum for bin juice.
I guess the point of all this is; are stereotypes a good thing? I think they might be, they help us make an initial judgement, determine if this person will be valuable to us or not. Maybe it’s a first form of defence, to protect us from being hurt by a new person. Maybe its an offence, to be used as a form of hurt, to break someone else down. But I think stereotypes help us categorise, sort of like how films get sorted into genres. Personally, I’m a comedy fan, I’ll always pick something that makes me laugh. I’m not into horror movies at all, so I avoid them, because I don’t want to feel sad, on edge or terrified. The old saying goes “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but you do judge a movie by it’s category or even a critics review, but the only way you’ll know if its any good is if you watch the whole thing yourself. Same goes for people, the category we think they fit into or the opinion of others may not be a true reflection of who they are. The vegetarian house are the real losers in all of this, they closed off the idea to inviting me into their lives because they feared our views and beliefs (on meat) were different, people unwilling to learn about others or accept others for who they are aren’t worth the effort. Keep an open mind, people can surprise you.
** No vegetarians were harmed in the writing of this blog
Think often. Live well.