You want to be seen as an individual, right? Of course you do. But it’s bordering on impossible to avoid perpetuating at least some of the stereotypes attached to the various aspects of your identity. There are just too many of them!
Well, that’s where I can help. Consider this a “How to be [X], without being a stereotypical [X]” guide. I’m hitting a variety of major identities, but feel free to request addendums to the guide in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
Also, if you’re more prone to spot-reading than reading-reading, I strongly encourage you to at least read the last section before you formulate your reaction to this article.
Without further ado, in alphabetical order…
How to Avoid Being an Asian Stereotype
Let me introduce you to a phrase that you’re going to want to get really comfortable with: “I don’t know.” What’s the square root of 64? “I don’t know.” What do you want to be when you grow up? “I don’t know.” Do you know how to play the piano? “I don’t know.”
Also, you should probably avoid making peace signs ever again, just in case someone, somewhere, has a camera trained on you. Ditto goes with any sort of martial arts-/breakdance-like movements.
How to Avoid Being a Black Stereotype
Let’s start with the dietary stuff. Here’s a list of things you can now no longer eat: watermelon, grape kool-aid, fried chicken, collard greens, and hot sauce. Seem reasonable? I thought so. Also, whenever you can, try to eat White people food in public — that’ll turn some heads. Oh, and in case you’re unsure, White people food is pretty much everything but collard greens.
No more listening to Rap, Hip-Hop, R&B, and by no means should you let someone see you bringing the Funk. Leave the Funk where it is. And don’t let anyone catch you committing a crime. I’m serious about this — it’s a big one. Again, I’m going to refer you to your White peers here for advice: they barely ever get caught, and when they do, they are much more likely to get off with an innocent verdict. Aim for that. One pointer: get an all-Black jury. That’s a great first step.
How to Avoid Being a Gay Stereotype
Do whatever it takes to talk with a manly voice. No more high pitched stuff. Lower it, like, at least seventeen octaves to be safe. In fact, if you can do a Sean Connery impression, just stick with that. Sean Connery, every day, all day. But don’t call people “love.” That will only hurt your cause.
Dress poorly, smell worse, avoid social situations, don’t sleep with anyone — you know what, just adopt a vagrant lifestyle. I never realized this, but it seems like the more homeless you get, the less gay you get, so let’s go with that. Also, don’t over-think the “fact” that homeless youth are disproportionately gay. The stereotypes aren’t wrong, so their data must be. Also, I’d encourage you to do your best not to spend any time around young boys, even if they are your sons/nephews (it’s for the best).
How to Avoid Being a Lesbian Stereotype
No more sports for you, missy. In fact, to be safe, you should probably give up sweating altogether. You are, however, allowed to “glisten.” Wear pink (or, even better, pretty pink dresses!), but try not to look ironic doing it, and grow your hair out super long (extensions are allowed and encouraged). Drive a pink convertible, too, if you have the means. When in doubt, think What Would Barbie Do?
Go out of your way to let men know you don’t hate them. This might be a difficult task, so do whatever it takes: give men impromptu hugs, wear shirts that say “I’M A MAN-LOVING WOMAN” (actually saw one of these once, so I know they exist), and occasionally throw a guy friend a quick handie. I know this all might sound like what I’m really asking is for you to be straight. But, seriously, if you can swing it… it won’t lose you any support. Also, no Indigo Girls.
How to Avoid Being a Mexican Stereotype
Note: “Mexican” applies to all Hispanic/Latino/a people, and most lighter-skinned brown people with dark features (I’m looking at you north Indians).
No more carpooling. Stick to white collar jobs, but don’t let anyone see you resting your eyes, or, God forbid, your head on your desk. Oh, and you should probably get used to showing everyone you meet documents depicting your legal status (for immigrants, naturalization documentation should suffice; for U.S.-born, I want to say a birth certificate, but that doesn’t work for Obama, so I doubt it’ll work for you).
How to Avoid Being a Middle Eastern Stereotype
Have you ever seen the television show Family Guy? If so, you should do whatever you can to emulate the principle character, Peter. If not, let me break it down for you: be rude, but not threatening, drink beer constantly, be obnoxious in public spaces (sports games, bars, libraries — whatever), eat fattening, red-meat-heavy foods to the point of obesity, and, above all, blindly celebrate ‘Merica.
Oh, and no pilot licenses, please.
How to Avoid Being a White Stereotype
Hahaha, kidding. You don’t have to worry about this stuff. Carry on, Whitey.
Any of this seem ridiculous?
It should. To ask someone not to do any of the stuff above to avoid “being a stereotype” is extremely limiting, and rather silly. So why do we (the royal “we”) ask this, both explicitly and implicitly, of people all the time? Oh, and we certainly do. As I travel the country talking to folks in my comedy show about stereotypes, and fielding emails in response to articles on this site, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to respond to some version of “If gay men don’t want to be stereotyped as promiscuous why don’t they stop being promiscuous?” (just replace “gay men” and “promiscuous” with [some group] and [some stereotype])
This article is satire. It’s my impression of anyone out there who has ever defended stereotyping, or argued that a stereotype is true “because this one time I saw this one person yada yada yada…” Guess what: even if 99% of [some group] do [some behavior] there would still be thousands (if not millions, depending on the group) of people who do not. We need to move past this idea that we know an individual based on their group memberships. It’s idiotic.
To all the folks I mentioned above (and all the folks I didn’t): don’t worry about being a stereotype. The onus isn’t on you to end stereotypes attached to your group, it’s on everyone else.