I hate stereotypes.

Probably because I’m incredibly biased.

When my mom gave birth, God deemed me unlucky and stamped “label me!” onto my forehead. Therefore, my life has been, is, and always will be a constant battle between pre- and misconceptions. Now some people will express their preconceptions of me as if they were a compliment. But I’ll get into why even ‘positive’ stereotypes harm us.

Many people say that stereotypes are useful because a kernel of truth exists in each one. I think that despite the small fact being true for a few individuals in a group, the label doesn’t actually serve a purpose. Why claim that an entire group of people have a commonality when it’s not actually true for everyone?! For example, saying that Asians can’t drive. Sure, some Asians can’t drive well at all, but that doesn’t have anything to do with their race. And I think everyone would agree that safe Asian drivers exist, as well as terrible drivers in other demographics as well. It’s silly and pointless.

Some people say that categorizing comes naturally to us. While that is indeed true, there is a huge difference between a category and a stereotype. A category is based on objective information. Dairy products are products made from cows milk, usually. Some people like the goaty stuff, which is cool. But for the most part, from cows. Is this positive? Is this negative? Not really either, right? Dairy is a category based on the fact that the products are made from milk. A stereotype, on the other hand, is ALWAYS seen as either a positive or a negative. And no matter which moralistic judgement it holds, it still causes pain when receiving a stereotypical label.

Now I’m gonna get really personal, here. I feel some fear with what I’m thinking about writing because I know I’ll get burned for it. I feel nervous when thinking about the kinds of dismissals and criticisms I’ll receive when relaying my personal experiences as if they won’t be seen as valid. You see, a lot of my identity happens to be tangled up in labels, not because I wanted it to be this way. I think that my identity has become so dissolved in the social rhetoric that I can’t untie myself from all the discourse.

{Quick Note to Self: Deep breath. Realize that flaming is probably on its way.}

Fuck, I’m scared.

The two biggest labels that impact me most are the words “black” and “female”. The funny thing is, I didn’t always relate to black females. The stereotypes pasted onto dark and feminine bodies didn’t really resonate with me at all. Whether it was having junk in your trunk, or being a gold digger, or being hypersexual.

Let’s expand on that last one.

I remember turning nine years old, and puberty just started to hit. My grandmother, who was raising me at the time, started treating me a bit differently. When I turned ten, we moved down to Florida. Then my first period hit shortly after. I nervously asked my grandma, trusting her to guide me through such a scary change. However, instead of supporting me in overcoming this new challenge, she turned into a monster. As days turned into months, she started accusing me of doing highly adult things to adult men when I had nothing of the sort on my mind. She started telling me how I wanted to whore myself out to them, and be their bitch. In my mind, that was all wrong and I had no intention of doing anything like that at all. I just wanted to watch Sailor Moon and eat ice cream. Seriously.

Now I’m gonna tell you a secret about black people. None of us are born thinking that we’re gonna be thugs, criminals or whores. NONE. When we’re looking for guidance, we look to our parents just like any other kid would. But sometimes parents aren’t there. Mine weren’t and couldn’t be. So who is the next best teacher? Who is it that you trust if there’s no one else?

What happens inside a fragile mind depends on societal messages. As young children, we see other black people on the T.V. and see all the stereotypes thrown in our faces with no explanation. And then Occam’s Razor ensues. ‘Hey, I’m black. The person on T.V. is black. I’m supposed to act like that!’ The majority of rap and hip hop today is a modern day minstrel show. It’s all fake!! Maybe someone born in another race can already realize this. All you see is the T.V. and a bunch of actors. Maybe it’s different for people who grew up with good role models. But for me, the T.V. was my teacher, and society confirmed the lesson.

So as I started getting older and the jugs started perking up, other people started saying the same things as my grandmother. Maybe not in the same words, but certainly with their eyes. Older men saw my body as something to “appreciate”. Music videos showed me that grinding on someone in the club would mean I’d gain their affection and then they would fall in love with me. I had no mom or dad to grow up with, and no role model. I was the only person who thought differently from all of the outside messages. So hearing all of these things for several years, I gave in. I became the exact whore my grandmother accused me of being. Why get bombarded with accusations of a crime if you’re not doing it? Might as well have a go and enjoy it.

So I lost my virginity at thirteen, completely opened my legs to my high school at fourteen, and did my best to find that affection the music videos promised me I would get if I did this shit. I totally lived by the “Bitch Bad” mantra. Well, you know how that story ended. I was learning the hard way, pun intended, but I’m grateful that I learned fast before things became worse. That shit ended before I turned fifteen because these beliefs just didn’t make any logical sense at all. In that time span, I had so much sex that I lost count a very long time ago and I don’t recall enjoying any event. But it was wrong that I didn’t enjoy the sex because sex is fun! Sex is great and feels good. I really tried to enjoy it but it just wasn’t happening. It came to a point where I had sex for the sole purpose of trying to fix my dysfunction since I was not hypersexual like everyone was telling me.

I was not hypersexual!

I learned that I’m demisexual, which is gray-scale asexual. So much for being a scandalous and promiscuous black woman, eh? But if you find a black woman who’s heterosexual, and has a voracious sex drive, that’s still no excuse to treat her like a piece of meat. We’re all humans, here.

 

This is my biggest, and most painful recollection of what steretypes do. They devalue you as a human and make you some else’s utility in some way.
I mentioned earlier that stereotypes are always seen as positive or negative and they can be harmful. I’m standing my ground on that. ALL stereotypes, whether positive or negative, harm us! All of them!! The main reason being the expectations they inspire.

Let’s start with smart. Now I’m gonna bring up Asians again because this demographic gets labeled ‘smart’ all the time. How can this cause pain?

A few years ago, I would probably still consider smart as such a compliment. All my life, I’ve wanted to be regarded as intelligent; although when moving to Florida in the middle of fifth grade, the school system was so behind that I felt like I was held back one grade level. I wasn’t able to really gather information well and I didn’t even learn how to write a research paper until my final year of university. I remember one of my college classmates Vu, a Vietnamese girl who DOMINATED one of the hardest anthropology courses that we had. She would be the one posting quintessential Asian memes like “You’re not Bsian or Csian! You’re Asian!!”  But I also remember another Asian friend of mine back in high school who was born and raised in the U.S. and completely sucked at math. Everyone made fun of her for that. “How can you be Asian and suck at math? Won’t your parents be angry at you or something?” She filled the role of the class clown, often cracking jokes and making people smile. I think she was crying inside.

After university, I started getting into personality theory. Most websites that do the little profile horoscopes tend to point out the “smartness” of INTJs, which is my type. Other stereotypes revolve around the INTJ category like being incredible planners, getting shit done, and being incredibly calm and able to distance ourselves emotionally in stressful situations. But the first time I read a summary of the INTJ type, I got pissed. Like, crazy pissed. Can you tell why? I’ll summarize to make this a bit easier.

  • I went to shit schools where I didn’t even learn anything. X on smart.
  • I grew up with an abusive grandmother where stress was rampant. We were constantly fighting at full fury almost everyday. X on emotional distance.
  • When I went to university, I tried to do the honors research program which was self-motivated research. Failed it. X on getting shit done, especially for something I’m ‘supposed’ to be good at!
  • And while I can fill in a schedule with appropriate times and activities, I can hardly get that shit done. And my planning may not be the best. So…X on that.

Just Xes everywhere! And if you’re saying that I’ve probably mistyped myself, I can understand your view. It makes sense to think that because of how certain stereotypes color the INTJ category of people.

Personality types are about how you think. Not how you behave. So since this is about the inner mechanisms of your mind, true personality type stuff is about growth, and the process of self-development over time. This means how does your type overcome a particular struggle? How do you solve a problem when you see a deficiency in a specific area of your life? And what’s the best method for your type to up the success game?

So INTJs are considered smart. Plain and simple. Now I can somewhat relate to my high school Asian friend’s plight. See, when you’re telling someone about yourself that’s just a fact (I’m asian. I’m an INTJ. etc.), you’re simply sharing information. If someone replies “oh, no wonder you’re so smart!” anxiety will start to boil up. It’s the expectation of being this brilliant genius that harms people. Whenever someone tells me I’m smart, it’s like they threw me onto a stage in front of a waiting audience for me to say something profound. If I choke up, or say something clumsy (a.k.a. stupid), then I automatically do not fit the label. “How can you be an INTJ? You must be mistaken about your type. You’re probably an INFP instead.” Fuck. You.

Intelligence actually takes time to build. It’s a skill that people learn. No one pops out of their momma being like “I know everything there is to know about Quantum Physics!!” Get real. I think people who have intuition as a driver process struggle the most since intuitive cognitive functions are not well recognized on this planet (yet). We’re taught to suppress our natural talents in order to mold into something that’s acceptable and status quo. But people see me and they see an angry black woman. But I’m an INTJ so I should be unemotional and smart. Black women don’t have anything important to say and aren’t well-read. INTJs are incredibly well-read and have amazing ideas all the time. Black women know how to dance well and have lots of rythym. INTJs can’t dance well because inferior Se makes them clumsy. Black people can rap on the spot. INTJs need time to think and process things before speaking their minds.

Am I a walking oxymoron or what? How do I synthesize all of these things into a single body?! It’s bullshit.

I have way more beef with stereotypes than this. Perhaps this is just part one. I also have issues with the “young” vs “old” dichotomy and how it’s harmful, as well as the “black angry women” vs “unemotional INTJ” stereotypes and how they’ve impacted my emotional intelligence journey. This article is kind of jumbled, and maybe not as articulate as it could be…but for now, I’ll just leave things here.

Have stereotypes placed on your race, sex, ethnicity or sexual orientation clashed with your personality type or your own personal view of yourself? Please leave a comment here about your experience.

2 Comments

  • After reading this article, I regret the several broad assumptions I’ve made recently about people. It’s not typical of me but I’ve been doing it lately. Thank you for your words that have helped me reflect on my attitude.

    In fact, I relate a to what you’re saying, although your situation was harsher than mine. Being an INTJ female, I didn’t fit the expectations of being female. It’s caused problems for me, too, in growing up and in trying to buck those stereotypes. Not a story I would care to tell publicly, so I think you’re brave! It’s hard on a kid who doesn’t fit expectations! It made the implication to me that there was inherently something wrong with me. A lot of my adult life was probably what inevitably had to follow such disapproval of my natural self.

    Thank you again for leading me to reflect on my behavior. You’ve done me a favor.

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