Labels and Perceptions

Here is a question that I found at one of the blogs I follow:

Do you think society forces women to pretend that they’re happy or that they’re unhappy?  Are there differences in these pressures between IRL and the internet?  Are there different expectations by cultural context?  For example, are working moms supposed to be harried and not keeping it together but professional single women are supposed to have it all figured out?  Or is there a “damned whatever you do” of competing pressures?

Of course, I do not find the idea that “society forces women” to do anything to be very useful because at least half of society consists of women. Any “supposing” about what women should or should not be like can only come in equal parts from women and men.

What is interesting, however, is how we form such perceptions of groups of people. To give an example, I have this image of women with 3 or 4 children as extremely organized, powerful, and in control. The reason for it is that I know three such women and that’s how they are. There is no doubt in my mind that these specific women would be exactly the same if they had no children at all because this is simply what their personality is like.

A personal knowledge of somebody’s reality always overrides any sort of stereotypical expectations. If you agree with the popular stereotype of accountants as boring creatures with poor people’s skills, meeting a single accountant who is fun, sociable and has a great sense of humor will change that stereotype in a flash. My students could have brought any kinds of stereotypes about “Russian women” to my classroom but I know for sure that they will be leaving my class with a completely different image of us.

The point I’m trying to make here is that we are all responsible for the image of the groups we belong to. I suggest we abandon the passive voice discussion of how we “are seen, perceived and expected to act” and start looking at how we actively contribute to such perceptions.

As for whether it makes more sense to be happy or whiny online and in RL, I believe that the best strategy is to be real. People who know us and blog readers sense fakeness in a flash. What they really respond to well is honesty and sincerity. It is normal for people to whine from time to time and to be happy from time to time. I don’t think that anybody will condemn us for being both on a regular basis.

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2 comments on “Labels and Perceptions

  1. We all walk around wearing filtering spectacles. It has to do with the law of attraction and repulsion. People who are socially conservative won’t notice me and I won’t notice them, unless we are forced together in the same room by some kind of compulsion or mistake.

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