2.11.2009

On Stereotypes

I don't go to many parties.

Well, unless you count birthday parties for the under-10 set. I don't go to many parties with peers, especially not in a college town. A couple weekends ago, I did venture to one of these get-togethers at a friend's apartment. The group was a lively, interesting one, enthusiastically talking and debating about politics and current events the weekend after the inauguration.

Seemingly out of the blue, one of the guests at the party said to me, "I don't know you, but I take it you're a feminist..."* and went on with a new question for discussion.

Um, what? I just kind of stammered, and didn't really answer his question, because I was racking my brain as to where he got the idea to label me "Feminist". I was still thinking as the group's conversation moved elsewhere.

I had been introduced as the host's friend from Indy, a computer programmer. While discussing current events, the fact that the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act had just been signed came up, and my friend pointed out I probably make more than anyone else in the room (It was an awkward moment, I said something like "Well, that's because most of you guys are all still in college!", which was a fair observation.)

So, that about sums up all this guy knew about me. Does "Woman working as a computer programmer" = "Feminist"? How about just "Woman working in a male-dominated field"? Or was it "Woman working," period? Or "Married woman with a career rather than kids"? What of the tidbits of information he knew about me made him stereotype me?

And then, on our way home, I started thinking more about it. What if I had been introduced as the wife of the host's friend? What if it had been mentioned we got married right out of college? And that I spend my free time cooking, cleaning, knitting and gardening? All of these characterizations would have been accurate- What label would have been applied to me then?

Have you ever been pre-judged in a way that surprised you?

* In no way to I want to imply "feminist" as a bad thing to be stereotyped as- it was just out of the blue from a stranger. I've had that label applied to me before, but from friends who actually know me. Whether I AM actually a feminist is a discussion for another day.

4 comments:

Matt said...

College kids say the darnedest things.

Kacie said...

Lol! I really wish you found out where in the world he got that. Did his next topic of discussion have anything to do with feminism?

Lisa said...

My guess is that it's because you're female and in a male-dominated science field. I don't get that from other science types but I think I've gotten it from others.

David Swindle said...

I'm glad you got a good post out of your first Conversation, Alcohol, and Politics Club. :-)

Yes, Joanna, you are a feminist. You're a woman who embraces "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes."

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feminist

You are independent, think and speak your mind, and have gone about creating the life that you want to live.

"Feminist" only has negative connotations because it's most associated with its mutant sister "radical feminist."

And I apologize for my comment that you made more than everyone in the room. That was inappropriate and I'm sorry I made you uncomfortable.

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