Confronting National Stereotypes

Yesterday, I had a terrible headache which virtually incapacitated me all day. I’m not 100 percent my old self yet, but I finally feel a bit better this morning. I can at least function. (When I get a headache, I can become very ill.)

While I was waiting for the pain to subside, I stumbled on this on Twitter from the Matador Network. It’s an entertaining travel and international site, which (full disclosure) also follows me on Twitter. I thought it was worth a blog post:

Twitter screen capture.
Twitter screen capture.

The tweets that went back in response were about what you might expect. However, one of them included an old canard. It’s hard to tell if the tweeter, apparently a man, was joking; he may well have been trying to be lighthearted. The sixth tweet down: it’s about women who (apparently use too much) perfume and don’t shave (under their arms):

Twitter screen capture.
Twitter screen capture.

My initial reaction to reading that was much like that of the Matador tweeter, who replied immediately: “lol stereotypes!” Indeed it’s akin to asserting the English have bad teeth; or Italians are criminals; or the Irish are drunks; or Americans are simpletons.

I’m trying to be “factual” here, and not to judge “right” or “wrong.” Yes, there are certainly women there who don’t shave, just as there are women everywhere who opt not to shave. However, those I have encountered do like most American, English and other European women.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a globe.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a globe.

Some twenty years ago, an American I’d known well and who was trying to be insulting (and that is important), threw something similar at me. I’d never forgotten it. I used it in Frontiers:

Seeing the photo Lisa had zeroed in on, he remarked, “Yes.”

“She’s pretty. I knew she’d be,” the short, blonde Long Islander smiled, and then took a sip of her diet soda. After swallowing it, she added, “You’d never have gone out with a dog. But I wouldn’t have thought French would be your type. Is it true they don’t wash every day like we do?”

My response was this, which I put into “James’s” mouth word for word:

James was flabbergasted. “Are you f-in’ kidding me?”

Of course we all do have a laugh now and then about national distinctiveness, habits, and even stereotypes. But we also realize there’s a line. When what we hear is instead ugliness and bigotry, we should do our best to challenge it.

Have a good day. It’s Friday! 🙂

2 thoughts on “Confronting National Stereotypes

  1. Reminds me of a party I went to. Soon as I get there someone shouts “who’s the schvartze?” Gave him my burn hole through brick stare, smiled because I was with the most attractive woman in the building so understood where he was coming from: trying to pull me down and build himself up. That was the only time someone said something like that to me, ever. I still remember it 40 years later.

    The Long Islander seems very angry about something 🙂

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