Generalisations and stereotypes

I try not generalise or subscribe to stereotypes. Once you’ve subscribed to a certain stereotype it’s very difficult to see the exceptions to that perceived rule, and incredibly difficult for others to challenge your perception of that rule.

Some stereotypes can be harmless, some people do embody a stereotype regardless of whether they are the norm (stereotypes have to come from somewhere, I guess), and sometimes stereotypes are infuriating. Especially to those who do not conform to that stereotype’s characteristics even though they do fit into the category.

I find myself in that last group all the time. It truly is infuriating.

Some of my favourite generalisations include the stereotypes about arts students, and drivers.

I chose my degree because that was the only thing I could fathom continuing to study. Nothing else appealed to me whatsoever. I did not do an arts degree because they are “easy” or “cheap” or a “cruisy” degree. Sure, they aren’t as expensive as other degrees – perhaps because of the stereotype they are crap and useless. Sure, you can scrape through at a pass with minimal effort – though I’m not certain of the passibility of arts degrees other than writing.

To do well in a creative writing degree, you have to be incredibly talented. I consider myself moderately talented at this – at writing, at creating – but I only graduated with a 5.0 GPA, with a 4 being a pass, and 7 being a high distinction. While I’ll admit I didn’t put 100% effort into every assignment or exam, I tried pretty hard. It’s easy to scrape through, it’s ridiculously hard to get top marks. I can count on one hand times I got a 6 or 7 on an individual piece or exam. And those were the pieces I put all of myself into. Sometimes I wouldn’t do as well even though I tried that hard anyway.

The other side of the arts degree stereotype is that they are useless in the real world.

I use what I learnt in my degree every day. I didn’t study explicitly for the piece of paper at the end; I studied for the knowledge. I use that knowledge in my job and in my general life. I’m using it right now. And yes – I got a job doing what I studied. The only reason you might even think that an arts graduate will still be working at McDonald’s or similar is because there simply aren’t as many jobs going in the arts industry – I speak from a writing point of view of course.

Maybe the girl you’re judging based on a stereotype isn’t in a full time, corporate job because she’d rather have an easy job and write her book at home on her “days off”. Maybe she has a second income from a magazine where she submits stories on a regular or semi-regular basis. You have no idea why she’s working at a fast food joint when she has a degree. Don’t judge her based on a stereotype. Don’t judge her; you have no idea.

So everyone can bugger off with their crap about arts degrees being for stupid people who’ll never use them in real life. It’s bullshit and I refuse to accept that mentality.

Next come the driving stereotypes. I fall into the “woman” category and the “provisional license” category. I hate the broad and insulting generalisations about both.

I always hear people talking about how P platers (for those of you not playing from Australia, these are people on a provisional license for a number of years between being a Learner and have a full, open license) hoon around and don’t know the road rules. It mainly stems from people saying they don’t have as much experience on the road, and usually leads to them saying they need to learn the road rules better, or that they’re all hoons who police should crack down on.

Sure, they have less experience because they haven’t had a license for very long – I’ll wear that, it’s quantifiable truth. But that they need to learn the rules better? I’m sorry, no.

A P plater will have sat – and passed – their theory test some few years ago, and will have taken AND PASSED – their physical driving exam within a year or so ago. Sometimes a lot less time will have passed than that too! They will generally know the road rules in a hell of a lot more detailed way than you do, unless you’re a P plater too, or you study the rules for fun.

The exception to the general rule is the idiot who hoons around with total disregard for any rules they may know. That is the stereotype, not the most common occurrence.

Police need to target bad drivers, not new drivers. For example, a friend of mine – a P plater, a girl, and someone who very rarely did anything wrong on the road – would be pulled over nearly every time she got in the car. I mean, why did they pull her over? All the time? She stays in her lane, doesn’t speed (except that one time to get out of the way of an ambulance *rolls eyes*), and just generally isn’t a hoon. Her car wouldn’t even let her hoon if she tried. I am genuinely curious as to why she gets pulled over all the time, at random times, and isn’t doing anything wrong.

Is it her P plate in the window? I am genuinely curious… because I think it is.

I see so many people doing the wrong thing, or stupid things, on the road. I can’t say this with 100% certainty, but I do believe most of the time they are on open licenses. Which means at least 3 years plus learner hours of driving experience. Infuriating.

The other driving stereotype I want to address is that women drivers are bad drivers. That if someone does something silly or even dangerous on the road, and it turns out they are female – well of course they did that, they’re a woman driver. But if it turned out they were male – no comment, they’re still stupid or a bad driver, but the fact they’re a man isn’t part of the complaint.

What does it matter what gender a driver is if they are doing the wrong thing? Granted, if someone cuts me off and I can see it is a woman, I will instinctively mutter “stupid girl” or “stupid woman”. But that’s the same as if it were a man. I’d say “stupid man”. Well most of the time it contains a few more expletives in place of the “man” or “woman” part. But it doesn’t matter who has cut you off, except that they have.

Apart from the fact that it makes no difference whether a man or woman is driving poorly, the generalisation that women are more often bad drivers annoys the hell out of me. I find that sometimes people will say they believe the majority of people they see driving poorly are women, but I would rebut that they only remember the women, because of this stereotype, and there have probably been more bad, male drivers that they simply haven’t remembered because there is no list to add to – “oh, that’s another woman cutting me off. Women are terrible drivers.” Replace “women” with “men” and it immediately makes less sense. It shouldn’t, but it does.

I consider myself a relatively competent driver. I have rarely been in situations where someone else has shown annoyance or anger towards me (I know it might’ve happened without me noticing, but as mentioned in my very first post, I notice a lot). When I’m merging onto the highway from a lane that is ending, I do it with ease 99% of the time, while a lot of people around me seem to be struggling. I can do the speed limit on said highway once I’m there, while many people are going 10-20 kms under the limit in any lane they want to be in for no noticeable reason. I manage to indicate every time it is legally necessary and then some, while others seem not to know their car has that function. I won’t go on, but there are many more examples of why I consider myself a competent driver. Not necessarily good or great, but not a nuisance or bad driver. And I’ve had a license for all of 6 months plus learner hours (which, frankly, are a totally different driving experience as you are never alone).

I would hate for someone to see me on the road, a P Plater girl, and be nervous or judgemental purely for those two descriptors. I don’t want that, and I’m sure nobody else does either.

I’m an arts graduate. I had to work hard and I learnt a lot and I use that knowledge every day. Deal with it.

I’m a female, provisional driver. I know the rules, I follow them, and I try my best to be safe and smart on the roads. Deal with it.

I’m done with generalisations and stereotypes. Done. Not interested. I would hope the same goes for everyone… one day at least.

Until next time,
L.A
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