Wednesday, June 22, 2005

.:Let's Talk About...:.

... stereotypes.

One thing I definitely despise is the concept of stereotypes. There's just something about depersonalizing a group of people by classifying them derogatively. Whether it be a joke, or a plain snide opinion about people, stereotyping inhibits people from seeing other people as something more than just the sum of their parts.

It happens in daily life. The Atenean is arrogant. The La Sallian is stupid. The Benilidian is more stupid. The UP student is an activist. Virgins are a rarity in Miriam. The Assumptionist “makes tusok-tusok the fishball”. The AMA student is a big Jolina Magdangal fan. The San Bedan is gay. All these stereotypes have pervaded in the mindset of a lot of people.

While generalizing in the broadest sense can help in making heads and tails about people when dealing with them, stereotyping does no such thing. It tramples on sensibilities, and amid all the clamoring for political correctness, it does make sense, after all. These student stereotypes are so persistent that it's hard to break free from them. You see a La Sallian and you automatically think less of their intellect, despite them outstripping you in every exam you both take. You get chummy with a San Bedan, and in the back of your head, you fear ever sleeping over with him because you're both guys.

If you feel outraged that I'm using the word “you” when I give examples about stereotypes, then I applaud you. It would appear you're not one of them. This isn't even a stereotype about people who stereotype. I frankly don't know how to lump them all so impersonally.

The difficulty about writing against a stereotype is that you are likewise guilty of making some generalizations in the course of your elucidation. Despite that, I think what sets apart generalizations from stereotyping is that while all stereotypes are generalizations, not all generalizations are stereotypes. As I said, stereotypes are hurtful because not only are they impersonal, they tend to be derogatory. It's the higlighting of what seems to be a common flaw in a certain group of people, caricaturizing it to become true for all of these people, and then taking it in as gospel truth. While at first it's meant as a joke, it subconsciously becomes far more than that when given due time.

Let's think a little bigger and put stereotyping on a grander scale, and see how inane it actually is. Newsflash: Not every Indian is engaged in usury. Not every Chinese person can't pronounce “r's” properly. Not every Muslim enjoys declaring Jihad on non-Muslims. Not every African-American likes hip-hop. Not every German is a Nazi.

And on a personal note, not every Filipina is a domestic helper.

First of all, there's nothing wrong with being a domestic helper. As is my opinion with usurers, there's nothing wrong with that, either. However, as is the case with Indians, while there really isn't much wrong with usury if you view it as a means of profit, not every Indian is one. I hear so many jokes about how Indians stink, or how they love riding motorcycles, and while I can observe those things every now and then, it's also obvious that not all who stink are Indians, and not all who ride motorcycles are Indians. Again, there's nothing wrong with a Filipina being a domestic helper, and there are some adverse situations that could be considered if a Filipina is likewise a mail-order bride or a prostitute, even.

But that's not all they are about.

You talk about Filipinas, and I automatically think diversity. Close to four centuries of Spanish occupation, four decades of American occupation, and half a decade of Japanese occupation, plus extensive diplomatic relationships with the likes of the Chinese have certainly given this nation a hodgepodge of different viewpoints that blend more than conflict. It's a very observable development of how cultural ties have certainly instilled some sensibilities into the Filipino culture.

Filipinas are no different in their being different. From the music industry to the information industry, Filipinas have made their mark in society, and while the Filipino-Filipina gender clash does exist, it is far less pervasive in this society than it can be in other societies. Historically speaking, the high regard of women has been present since pre-colonial times with the Babaylan, further accentuated by notions of chivalry during the Spanish era. Clearly, the Filipina has plenty of opportunities, including, but not limited to, being a domestic helper.

There was an editorial I once read about how when someone in the States talked about having such a great little maid who did everything so well, one of the guests remarked without any malice whatsoever, “Oh! You have a Filipina?” The author felt outraged because of the assumption that being a “great little maid” is all Filipinas are good for, while the guest probably just thought it was that way. Similarly, my best friend was assumed to be male just because she was good at computers, and was assumed to be American due to her impeccable English and, as one of the people she talked to put it, “I didn't even know you guys had Internet there!”

Newsflash: we don't live in trees anymore. At least, if some of us did, that's still a minority.

Inasmuch as these stereotypes persist and persist in trying to bring the Filipino down, the Filipina is even more affected because of the whole domestic helper scenario. Again, there's nothing wrong with being a domestic helper, but if the assumption is that is all you're good for, then that certainly becomes a different story. Although we'd like to change that notion, how can we start? Well, for one, making our voices heard and telling everyone not to be a little too hasty to judge the Filipina is a good way to get the ball rolling.

Some might tell me “why don’t you concern yourself with the issue poverty first?” That just doesn’t fly with me. I can’t do anything about that. Even Jesus Christ Himself didn’t (There will be poor always/ pathetically struggling/ look at the good things you’ve got… - Jesus Christ Superstar).

But there’s something I can do about this kind of stereotype.

Yes, uplifting the Filipina image is quite higher up in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs than food, clothing, and shelter, but it’s still a need, nonetheless, bordering on metaphysical. It’s a need that I, as a Humanist, am well capable of addressing far better than I could address the lower, more primal (But definitely no less significant!) needs of the ladder.

Filipinas are far more than the sum of their parts. While as a Humanist, I certainly can say that for just about any person or group of persons, I would want to pay some special attention to the Filipina for the obvious bias I have: I'm Filipino, and being one, I, more than anyone else who's not, can and should mind.

I can’t really speak for everyone, because doing that would make me presumptive. But yes, I mind. If only because my female counterparts are far more than just what they are commonly known to be, I do mind. Not everyone thinks that way about Filipinas, granted. But neither is everyone a thief, but the police are always there, neh? I have no Messianic delusions that I can single-handedly uplift the Filipina image just by writing about it. That’s exactly why I’m not alone.

I mind. Do you?

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