Stereotypes generally are considered bad things. People stereotype entire races or populations (of countries, with disabilities, rich, poor) and this can lead to misunderstanding or even hatred. Writers are warned away from stereotypes because the result can be boring, one-dimensional characters. This all makes sense, but…
In my own home, I have a right to be stereotypical if I want.
I’ll bet you’re saying, “Huh?” and that’s understandable. The thing is, I realized the other day that I was wearing a sweater, sitting in my rocking chair, and knitting. Stereotypical grandmother. If I’d written a character this way, an editor would likely come at me with a yardstick. In this case, the stereotype fit. I was happily knitting in my rocking chair, and I was wearing a sweater. And, I admit it, I am a grandmother. I was a living, breathing, knitting stereotype.
I’m not a brain or memory expert, but I think grouping things together helps our minds process and remember. Maybe humans are even “types” like the rocking granny. There’s the waaaayyy too short shorts and tube top wearing trailer trash (the reality I’ve seen many times). There’s the artistic type with long hair and loose, slightly too large clothing. The little blonde girl with a long ponytail who likes to play soccer. And the list goes on and on. Of course, there are many, many exceptions to the “types,” and that’s why stereotypes can be such bad things. You can’t really put everyone you see in a group. Except, we probably do.
Grouping people together may help us process information, much like the grouping of numbers or colors or songs. The problem begins when we assume a person in a “type” will behave in a stereotypical fashion. People are not numbers, or colors, or songs. People are much more complex. So group if you must, but don’t expect that little girl to love soccer. And remember:
Sometimes it really is a sweater wearing, rocking chair using, knitting granny.
Have a great weekend!