Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Stereotypes were dangerous to her 

I think Liz has picked up on my post on men and women in academia, and has done me one better by linking to this article from the weekend, particularly about the Progressive Insurance commercial.
...caricatures exaggerate a feature to make it stand out more in amusement to others. For example, that Twins commercial where a guy is sitting on his couch watching a Twins game. He pretends to catch a ball, he makes a mess of things and is having a great old time. That is funny because it exaggerates a trait that a lot of men have. The Progressive commercial is meant to show that men need women to get them out of trouble. This is wrong.
The problem in dealing with issues such as the man who believes he was sexual harrassed by the lesbian supervisor (in the STrib story) is that we do not perceive men as possibly being harrassed. Why? Because our fine academic institutions insist that only (white) men can have power and therefore only they can be harrassers. This is a caricature, the use of a stereotype, thinking of a class of individuals rather than separate individuals separately situated. It is the refusal to think of individuals as such.

Liz' personal story also involves stereotypes, insofar as her other friends could not see her harrasser as anything other than some geeky guy in a Christian group. To be taken as an individual means acting as an individual and accepting the responsibility that comes with it. Read her post and understand why it matters.