Tag Archives: stereotypes

Sometimes Gamers Get a Bad Rap

One of my favorite card games is a collectible card game (CCG) called “Warlord: Saga of the Storm”:http://www.warlordccg.com. ((I also enjoy a good game of Yu-Gi-Oh from time to time.)) I haven’t actually played the game in about 12-18 months due to a number of reasons – there doesn’t really seem to be anyone in my area who plays anymore; like all CCGs, it costs quite a bit of money to continue playing due to a new expansion coming out every three months or so; and it requires a fair amount of your free time for travel, deckbuilding, and actual play time. Unfortunately, my budget is tight and my free time almost nonexistent, so I haven’t gotten to enjoy this game I love so much for quite a while now – and it’s possible I will never again pick the game up seriously. I simply have too many other interests that also demand my time.

Now, when most people think of gamers, particularly the CCG(Collectible Card Game) or the RPG(Role-Playing Game) types, they think of guys (and some gals) who dress up in Lord of the Rings or Star Wars garb and parade their latest geek-fest wares at the local convention downtown – and that stereotype is, on a fairly significant scale, justified. Not all of us are that immersed in the game culture, however. A lot of us who consider ourselves gamers are just your average, run-of-the-mill Joes who enjoy games that are both imaginative and strategic. We enjoy our sci-fi and fantasy genres, but we don’t try to _live_ in them, _per se_.

Probably the two biggest reasons why I love Warlord is 1) it is a strategic game; it makes me think outside of the box, and 2) there is a solid fantasy backstory that serves as the foundation upon which the game is built that brings the characters on each card to life. In short it sparks both my intellect and my imagination. It lets me be a kid for a little while who can just have fun playing cards with some friends. I wish I had the time and the money to keep up the hobby, but alas, real life has this annoying way of encroaching and sacrifices have to be made in the interests of keeping food on the table.

Am I a geek? Sure, but that doesn’t mean I’m not just a normal guy, too.

Balance

Y’know, I think I resent the implication in our culture today that an artistic man must be, at the very least, a closet homosexual. For whatever reason people can’t seem to grasp the notion that even the most masculine men can still be in touch with those things that are considered ‘soft’ and ‘sensitive’. The reason I think of this is because I was listening to a woman on the radio this morning talk about her very artistic husband. The interviewers immediately asked if she was sure he wasn’t gay. At some point in the discussion, she stated that her husband is a gay man who likes women.

I’m not so much offended by this state of mind in our culture as much as I find it mildly disturbing. I guess I’m wondering where we got the idea that ‘true men’ don’t have a clue about art. (It is a further sign of the neutering of the male gender in our society, in my opinion.) I don’t know about you, but I know quite a few men who are as masculine as they come who are also some of the most artistic people I know.

What society defines as a ‘true man’ seems to me to be only half the picture. True men are defined as being brawny, red-meat-and-potatoes, heavy-weapon-wielding oafs who swoop in to save the maiden by violently destroying all enemies. They are the guys with the biggest muscles, the flashiest vehicles, and the ability to seemingly hold the world together through sheer force of will. I would suggest that this is not really what it means to be a man.

I’ve seen a lot of guys who fit the stereotypical definition of manliness who are oafish, selfish, brutal, and lazy. In fact, the more men I see who fit the stereotype, the more I see guys who disgust me because they almost always have those vices. The thing of it is that they don’t even bother to try hiding those traits because somehow those are part of society’s definition of what a man is supposed to look and act like. I truly believe that a true man is one that has the characteristics of strength that our society so admires but also encompasses ‘softer’ traits, like compassion and love and selflessness. It appears to me that so many of the traits that are considered to be feminine are forsaken by men who want to be as manly as possible. But it is many of those same traits that I think unlock the artistic abilities and talents of so many who are gifted in the arts.

It seems to me that a true man is one who has an almost perfect balance of both masculinity and femininity, who can be both strong and compassionate at the exact same time. It doesn’t mean that the guy is gay, or even that he leans that direction. It simply means that he is tapping into _all_ the built-in resources that God gave him. He is able to look at just about anything and see beauty – and _appreciate_ that beauty for what it is by expressing it in a way that is in itself beautiful and inspiring.

Of course, maybe I’m a little biased; I’m an artist. I love my music, and I love my writing, and I have a high appreciation for art and dance and dozens of other forms of artistic expression. I definitely have those strong, masculine traits that our culture uses to define true manhood, but I also have the softer, more emotional traits that are viewed as weak if found in men. But it is those emotional traits that allow me to appreciate and to express art in my own way. I’m not gay, nor do I even remotely lean that way (just the mere thought is enough to make me ill). Rather, I see it as having the best (and some of the worst) of both worlds of masculinity and femininity, and it is not something I am ashamed of. It does, in fact, make me stronger because it is part of who I am and closer to what I believe a true man should look like. More men need to tune in to their softer sides, I believe, and not just because it will allow them to appreciate art more. I believe that men who are both strong and sensitive are ones who are able to have richer, deeper, and more meaningful relationships with others because it opens up their ability to empathize and sympathize, both of which, again, are great tools in the appreciation and expression of art.

Living On the Fringes

It is the extremists of any major religion that end up giving the whole a bad reputation. Bad news travels more quickly than good news does, and poor behavior is more easily remembered and available to memory than is good behavior. So what typically ends up happening is that the whole organization gets placed under the banner of those who make the most noise, even though they are not necessarily a representative sample of that population. Christians are often perceived as hateful, unforgiving bigots because there are many who are exactly that. Note, however, that I did not say ‘majority’ or ‘most’ because it has been my own experience that, in general, those who call themselves Christian do strive to live up to the compassionate, forgiving ideals of the Bible and of Christ’s teachings. The same goes, as I understand it, for those of the Muslim faith. The vast majority are a peace-loving people, and those who perform heinous acts of murder and bombing are the fringe extremists, just as are those Christians who bomb abortion clinics, twisting the ideals of their religion into a perverted distortion of the actual. In the process they give the entire faith a black eye, and the world sees the whole as being just like the extremists.

So, the question becomes then, what underlies these fringe, extreme groups? What drives them to justify horrible acts and behaviors that are counter to the basic tenets of belief that define the faith they claim to espouse? Ultimately, I can only conclude that they are flawed people, just like the rest of us, who, whether through willful disobedience or through genuine ignorance, misunderstand the teachings of their religious system in such a way as to justify hatred and murder. They are the people who lack the personal discipline to control their emotional impulses, who act on their base desires, rather than striving to live up to a higher ideal of morality. They are the people who pick and choose which parts of their canon to abide by, rather than understanding that the bits they follow are parts of a whole and cannot be separated from it without ending up, by definition, with a completely different set of beliefs. They are the people who were already angry and bitter, who found a system of belief that was attractive to them and fit at least somewhat with their own preconceived notions of how the world should operate. They are the people who then twisted the system of belief to fit their own ideals, rather then reshaping their own ideals to fit the system. In so doing they found justification and an outlet for the violence already in their hearts, and by acting upon that violence, then sullied the name and reputation of the group they claimed to be a part of. Christians who bomb abortion clinics or express hatred, bigotry, and superiority to those not like them are Christian only in name; they are not Christian in actuality because anyone who truly understands the teachings of the Bible would not perform the sorts of behaviors that these extremists tend toward. Similarly, Muslims who fly planes into buildings and strap bombs to themselves and blow up a group of children, and who decapitate innocent victims are Muslim in name only; they do not represent the Muslim faith at large or the teaching of the Qu’ran and do more harm to people of that faith than good. These extremists cannot and should not be called Christian or Muslim, even though they call themselves that. They should be called murderers and hatemongers and should be separated, both in name and in deed, from the whole of the groups that they claim to be part of. Yet, perhaps because it is convenient to do so, they continue to be categorized into the group by the population at large, thereby stereotyping the whole by the deeds of the few. Unfair? You bet. But stereotyping is easy and convenient, even if it is at times unfair and makes it harder for those with the true ideals of their beliefs to communicate them. It is a challenge, no doubt, and that is why unity of the whole is necessary in order to overcome the misdeeds of the few.

“Generally Speaking…”

bq. Don’t tell us over and over again how something’s a generalization and doesn’t apply to everyone. Duh. Some use of generalities are necessary with these topics. “#”:http://scatteredwords.com/meta/faq.php#q000379

Generalizations. We all use them. They’re a necessity inherent to the world of interpersonal communication. They facilitate conversation by allowing people to make their points easily and quickly by pointing to observable trends. Whole sections of social psychology textbooks (and others) are devoted to the concept of generalizations and stereotypes and their uses. It is probably impossible to get through an entire conversation without at some point using at least one generalization. It is simply the most efficient way to handle the vast amount of information at our disposal. We have to categorize it, mentally placing each bit into groupings with other bits of information that are very similar. We make mental estimates of behavioral trends based on our own experiences, knowledge, and observations. I doubt that there is anyone who readily has actual quantitative data on hand for every subject under the sun, who can point to such statistics and say definitively, “This is the way things are.” So, we generalize, a habit that is obviously limited by the availability of relevant data.

In theory, it is understood that generalizations do not speak to every person in every situation under every circumstance. Statistics themselves are only probabilities, based on past behavior, predicting what is most likely to occur in the future under similar circumstances. In actual practice, however, we find that the problem with the human makeup is that we often forget this margin of error. On the one hand, we make generalizations and begin to think that this applies to a far larger segment of the population than it actually does. This is, of course, somewhat necessary, as stated previously because if we were to point out every possible exception to the ‘rule’ all the time, no productive communication would ever occur. In many cases a compromise is reached by pointing out only those exceptions that are most relevant to the discussion at hand. But even then it is sometimes all too easy to dismiss them perfunctorily, whether because they don’t fit our generalized model or because we don’t like the implications or because they are too difficult to deal with or for some other reason.

On the other hand, some people hear generalizations that other people make and will either accept them as being all-encompassing or will quickly criticize it for not acknowledging all the exceptions. The former group may quickly grasp the point being made but then generalize said point too far, falling prey to their own naiveté. The latter group all too often _misses_ the point being made in their critical frenzy, falling prey to their own cynical rationality. A balance of both approaches is, as usual, to be found somewhere in the middle — recognizing the point of the generalization while acknowledging the fact that it does not speak to all people everywhere in all circumstances. The generalization is a shortcut of sorts, facilitating the cataloguing of societal trends. The naysayers are the ones who are either insecure or who merely like to argue with any philosophy not their own, or both. (Whether their points are valid or not is often irrelevant, as their approach to criticizing the generalization usually stonewalls further discussion.)

Finding this balance is a continual effort, requiring the mind to always be engaged at all times, sifting and filtering, striving to find the truth of the matter through open discourse and rigorous study. Critical thinking is a strong skill to possess because it allows us to first be able to make better and more accurate generalizations and then to be able to reason through other generalizations and critique them for their accuracy. It is a difficult task, to be sure, but one well worth undertaking.

Going From Cynical To…

I’m working on trying to be less cynical. I overheard a comment today about hard how people have been working this week, and my first thought was to remark about how poor the guy’s work ethic was. It wasn’t until I’d followed that train of thought for a little while that I realized that his statement was probably more observation, less surprise. So, I started examining his words in _that_ context and discovered a much more positive and upbeat viewpoint.

A little bit of cynicism is good – to a point. It keeps a person cautious and aware of the fact that people are rarely exactly the way they present themselves to the world, that they may, in fact, occasionally stab you in the back (whether purposefully or by accident). On the other hand, though, too much cynicism is a bad thing. It causes you to immediately assume the worst of people, whether they deserve it or not.

In this fast-paced culture where so many of our judgments of others depend on only brief exposure to them, we have to rely on stereotypes to fill in the gaps of our knowledge. Unfortunately, cynicism is, in itself, a stereotype, and it is one that generally causes more harm than good by flavoring every other stereotype that we hold. Many arguments and debates are caused by cynical attitudes, relationships are damaged by thinking the worst of others, and sarcasm carries with it a bitter undertone of cynicism. The only good way of countering harmful cynicism is to take the time to think things through, and that requires adopting a slower pace of life (or at least taking a time-out from life) and training yourself to be aware, both of the world around you and of your own attitudes toward it.

Cynicism has its place, I think, but it is a _bit_ like a fine spice – a little goes a long way.

What’s black and white and gray all over?

Truth. Well, sort of. Honestly, I think that all truth is actually very much black and white, and if it seems to be more of a gray issue, it is simply a demonstration of the limitations of human
knowledge and understanding. Some truths are really very basic, very cut-and-dried, things like, “Gravity is what holds me down,” and “If I touch this hot stove, I’ll get burned.” Others often seem to be purely black and white and end up looking more gray the closer the individual looks. The trouble is that so many things in life involve levels of complexity that quickly overwhelm the capacity of the human mind to process. Human behaviors may seem relatively
straightforward, and we may think we understand the motivation for why one does something, only to find out upon breaking the issue down that we really don’t understand it at all (or, at least, as much as we thought we did). Even the person involved in the behavior itself may not fully understand everything that goes into their own motivation, which is often, I believe, why there is so much confusion in so many people’s lives.

It is so very easy to fall into the trap of using stereotypes and generalizations as definitive answers for any topic or issue. The trouble is that they are only ever just guidelines, general statements of human behavior. People do A because of B. This group will react in such-and-such a way because of such-and-such motivations. There’s your black and white. The gray is examining individual motivations in said groups. Ultimately you will (typcially) find that every individual acted in a similar way for similar, yet different, reasons. And that is where you find that the strength of stereotypes and generalizations to describe behavior breaks down. The irony is that the generalization doesn’t actually generalize all that well. Every individual within the group proves to be the exception to the rule. People will judge an entire group based solely on a stereotype (e.g. “Christians are horrible people because they are so judgmental.”) without ever taking the time to learn and understand that so often the stereotype doesn’t
apply to nearly as many individuals as one might think. Stereotypes and generalizations do an adequate, though ultimately very limited, job of describing group behavior (though perhaps not the motivations behind said behavior) but do a less than adequate job of describing individual
behavior within said group (duh, right?). Clearly, the complexities of the human psyche make it seem as though the truth of the issue is an issue of grayness.

Limitations of knowledge and understanding can gray-out truth. Deliberate action to gray-out truth is an additional factor. There are some who feel threatened by truth. These are individuals who wish to live their lives in their own way and are only free to do so because the ‘truth’ of their lives is appropriately gray enough to let them interpret it however they see fit. These are
the sort who, as soon as an individual begins to try to make sense out of the grayness and move it more toward black-and-whiteness, are quick to try to discredit the individual or to introduce a new level of complexity to the issue in an effort to keep the issue within a
comfortable level of gray. In other words, they deliberately sabotage the effort to achieve understanding. In doing so, they are able to remain within their own comfort zone and continue living life as they see fit because, for them, truth is whatever you make of it.

Is it any wonder that our society is in the place in which we find it? Religion and politics are topics in which it seems nearly impossible to know what is true because such things as debates about semantics, character defamations, complex contributors to situations and behaviors get in the way of making sense out of the gray. Science, as well, often ends up in the realm of the gray, with one study proving a finding where another study disproves the same finding. And in all places, personal and political motivations muddy the waters appropriately so that it seems that the truth can never be truly known, only guessed at, only interpreted, only approximated. Postmodernism, political correctness, and ‘tolerance’ are the results, a dwelling in the land of the gray with black-and-white, clear-cut truth little more than a pipe dream to those who wish to know it.

Racism

So, what’s the issue with racism? In the evenings, on my way home from school, I tune in to Scott Sloan out of Cincinnati. Racism in that city has always been such a huge issue, and lately again it has been the subject of a great deal of discussion — blacks accusing whites of racism, whites accusing blacks of the same. It seems just a little bit ridiculous to me.

What I don’t understand is why everyone is so sensitive. Granted, there are still people out there who discriminate against anyone who is not white. And it goes the other direction, too. But the real issue, to me, is that it’s even an issue at all. Sure, people are sinful and foolish and flawed and are going to make judgments based on stereotypes. And you know what? It’s a fact of life. So get over it!!!

We’re all part of the human race, right? So what if your skin is a different shade than mine? So what if your accent and mine don’t match? We’re all still created in God’s image. So what if we’re different, if we come from different cultures, different mindsets? Just because you look different doesn’t mean that you are so different. And frankly, there are people the same race as me who are far more different from me than someone is a different race and culture than I am. And there are people of different races who, except for the color of their skin or the accent in their voice, are virtually identical to me.

It’s so foolish and juvenile to get upset about things just because of skin tones. I wish people would just grow up…..