jeez, i really hope i don’t offend anyone but…

ok, i really try not to stereotype people. as i have mentioned before, yes i will judge you (i can admit that it is a fault of mine), but it will damn sure not be because i believe you to fit a stereotype. following that logic, i can not stand to be stereotyped. ugh. i have been stereotyped all of my life because of the way i look, where i’m from, hell, sometimes even because of my last name (although that particular stereotype is one that by chance does fit me: “crazy but in a good way”). by all means, label someone AFTER you know them but do not stereotype them before.

i have been stereotyped under many different things throughout the years, some of which are very contradictory: tomboy, girlie (see? opposite), crazy, poor, well-off, middle-class, lazy, energetic, well… you get the point. what brings you this latest rant (hopefully chock full of good humor as well) is the stereotype of “country girl.” i sincerely ask anyone who truly knows me if i could be labeled a “country girl?”

really? what is a stereotypical “country girl?” do not get me wrong. i do NOT think that being labeled a country girl is a bad thing, i think being stereotyped a country girl with no factual basis is a bad thing. in no way shape or form is the label bad, the stereotype is. in fact, some of the most amazing, strong, sweetest, and generally fantastic girls that i know would consider themselves “country girls.”

i however, don’t think of myself as such. i’m from the country, well sort of except that it is actually a quite large town with a thriving, and well-known university, but i really don’t like cowboy boots (on me), fishing, farming, or any of the other activities other people generally associate with a country girl. i work in a world of academia and books. so what in the world brought someone to label me as such?

see below conversation:

subject a: oh so where are you from?

myself: (insert typical smallish town here), in any state south of the mason dixon or in the midwest

subject a: well you must be one of those country girls!

GAH! (by the way, subject a doesn’t even know my last name, yet he/she will make assumptions) yes, this is an actual conversation that i have had many times.

so what is the difference between a stereotype and a label?

Wikipedia defines label as:

1. An item used to identify something or someone, as a small piece of paper or cloth attached to an article to designate its origin, owner, contents, use, or destination.
2. A descriptive term; an epithet.
3. A distinctive name or trademark identifying a product or manufacturer, especially a recording company.
whereas stereotype is defined as:
1. A conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image.
2. One that is regarded as embodying or conforming to a set image or type.
i know… there is a very small difference in the semantics here so i will tell you how i interpret them: a label is a descriptor that defines what it embodies, a stereotype is the embodiment of a set descriptor. basically, a label is fact, a stereotype is an assumption. and we all know what happens when you assume (please let me know if i need to tell you what happens)…
so i suppose the moral of my rant is don’t try to tell someone who you assume they are. give them time to tell you themselves who they are. if someone comes up to you and says “hells yes i’m a country girl and proud!” let them own it. and embrace them for who they define themselves as. but know them before you label them and never stereotype.

 

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