Stereotypes and prejudices start at a very young age with very subtle training via surrounding conversations by parents and friends, TV ads and movie situations, such as The Little Rascals “He-Man Woman Haters” club. More recent children’s books have attempted to overcome that, but I am not sure how successful they are.
Starting with Comic Books — few heroines
When I was in grade school, I read lots of comics and Nancy Drew mysteries. I had over 1,200 comics when I finally sold them for 25 dollars. I had mostly Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, war and sci-fi comics. I never read romance or Archie stories.
Females were rarely strong or heroic, except for Nancy Drew. Comics even influenced my ad on Match.com. My future wife’s ad said “Intelligence is important” and mine said “Bugs Bunny is my Hero”. Well, he was always successful and had fun doing everything. She married me anyway.
Science fiction Books — few heroines
Then I discovered science fiction books. I would read until 4:00 am when I had to get up for school at 7 o’clock.
Heinlein is still my favorite sci-fi author. He included moral and philosophical questions in his stories that are still relevant today. They removed that completely from the Starship Troopers movie — ruined the movie for me.
He forced me to think about things that I wouldn’t normally think about. He usually had a female counterpart, but not in a real romantic or heroic role, at least in the 1950’s.
His stories did change as the U.S. culture changed as demonstrated in his book “Friday”. The paperback book cover caused me to think about cultures and what is normal. The U.S. cover had a picture of a defenseless, innocent girl, “Friday”, and the U.K cover showed a slut sitting on the hood of a police car. Both were sort of correct.
Sci-fi authors have no restrictions on their societies and can explore all kinds of questions without offending any particular group. At least the good ones do.
Indoctrinated — romance novels are for girls
I used to go to the book store and straight to the sci-fi section. Occasionally, I bought other books like westerns, mysteries or biographies.
I would walk by the harlequin romance section and wonder how anybody could read them. Of course, I had never read one, but that is the nature of stereotypes and prejudices.
People tend to question everything, except for things that they truly believe.
They never think to question that. There were hundreds of them, so somebody bought them, but not me.
The awakening (at age 67)
I started noticing people stereotypes in college, but never in books. Then, at age 67, I read “Starstruck,” a teenage, sci-fi, romance novel by the romance novelist Brenda Hiatt.
Brenda Hiatt is an American, New York Times and bestselling author of romantic adventure novels, including traditional…
In my opinion, Hiatt’s Starstruck books are much better than the Harry Potter series. It was so good that I read all 19 of her pure romance novels and I was hooked. Bridge across Time would make a wonderful movie without needing to be Hollywoodized.
I can imagine the Starstruck situation actually happening; space aliens kidnap a bunch of earthlings, ship them off to Mars, and set them up in some sort of experiment, then leave.
It’s now 2,000 years later at a small high school in Indiana, much like the one that I went to.
Marsha was the school nerd. She starts out by obsessing about the hot new quarterback. It turns into a real romance story that, with what I know now, I can relate to. At that age, though, there was no way since I was scared of girls.
While reading, I usually identify with one of the characters. It can be a man, woman, or like the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” the cat who gets thrown out of his house into the rain, poor thing.
In the Starstruck series, it is the handmaid Molly, not the heroine Marsha who is far more than she seemed at first, or the quarterback. The problem? Mars has a fairly rigid caste system and, well, Molly was a lowly Ag (i.e. farmer, dirt grubber, etc.), not a Royal or other high caste.
So, what would that make me if I identify with her? Maybe she seemed so normal, at least to me.
My prejudices never applied to movies
I have always liked the movies on the Hallmark channel. I never thought about where they came from. Once I started reading romance novels, I noticed things that I never thought about before.
The novels go into the thought processes of the characters and shift viewpoints. Sometimes, I wonder how they could think that way but I have met people who think the same way.
Politicians and Newscasts
I have started noticing attitudes and ways of thinking with some people, especially politicians. I wonder whether their position is from stereotypes and prejudices or whether they have a real basis for their opinion. It is surprising how often the “real basis” is based on partial information or stereotypes and prejudices.
News propagates stereotypes and prejudices.
Stereotypes and prejudices can come from anywhere, slang in the language, attitudes of others in school and society, misinformation, misinterpretation of personal experiences, movies & TV, and the News itself.
The News propagates them by deciding what stories to run and how to present them. They can’t help themselves. There is no massive conspiracy on the Right or the Left.
Therefore, it is important to look at everything, especially stuff that conflicts with your basic beliefs that you don’t question.
Finally, a “real” man does not let the stereotypes from society or prejudices taught in early youth taint his decisions. He is always on the lookout for such things. Sometimes, they are not obvious and may take years, a lifetime, to discover.
I did not realize until writing this article that it applies to more than just people and politics. Stereotypes and prejudices cover everything. So, I have overcome at least one. I now read romance novels.
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