Respect, people. That’s what this has all been about.
When we talk about stereotypes against women, men, minorities, ethnic groups ……… we are talking about lazy short hands used to group people so we don’t have to form individual opinions about individual people and so we don’t have to look for reasons. “Of course he’s stingy, he’s Mennonite”, “I should have expected that from you, all women are emotional and irrational”. The list goes on and on.
We don’t want to consider that he was poor as a child or that she lost her mother yesterday and isn’t in a frame of mind to respond to anything rationally. It’s easier to pass it off to stereotypes and walk away.
As writers we use stereotypes as a shorthand. “She was blonde” invokes a specific type of person, ditzy, air-head, vain. Saying “she was a dumb blonde” is easier than showing her personality. Glasses equal intelligent. Gay equal feminine. Native American equals drunk. Black equals gangs.
It’s not true, but writers use stereotypes to quickly invoke a set response from readers, an incorrect response, but a predictable one.
But that means that writers are supporting a culture of rape, violence, and racism (depending on the stereotype they present). It’s up to us as writers to treat each and every one of our characters with respect. Take the time to discover their motives and personalities. Go beyond the surface, the stereotype, the easy way out. Create something that is more true and honest than the stereotype. Show that people exist outside of stereotypes.
Literature, and its modern “counter parts”, film and video games, shape the cultural lense. As writers we control that shaping. We can bring an honesty and open-mindedness to the world. We really can.