I have always believed in the cliché that you can't judge a book by its cover. The underlying meaning goes far beyond looks, but to all areas of life. Like looks, you can't judge someone by who they are and what they do and assume that you know everything about them. It just isn't that easy to define someone and categorize them into little boxes like that. To me, stereotyping is lazy because it alleviates you from taking the time to get to know someone, to see them as a whole person, differences and all. That's the danger of labels… assuming that a stereotype incorporates everything there is know about a person.
I hate labels, but they are a necessary evil. But there is a difference between labels and stereotypes. Labels are descriptive, but stereotypes make unfair, and sometimes unjust and derogatory, assumptions about people. They devalue worth, create divisive lines.
Religion and occupation, and, very often, political affiliation. These are some of the big stereotyping areas I see everyday. It's the assumption that, because of your choice of occupation, you must be of a particular faith. Let's use me as an example. I'm a U.S. Army vet. I have spent most of the last 25 years in and around the Army. With that comes the overwhelming assumption that I must therefore be a Christian and a Republican, most likely a conservative one. I am neither. I am a full-fledged Goddess-woshipping pagan, a card-carrying liberal Democrat. I served proudly and honorably both as a soldier and still as an Army wife. There is a particular sign that has been going around Facebook for the past few years that addresses this, and it is one that is really offensive. It's the one that reads:
"Hey! It's either "One Nation Under God," or bite my ass and just leave!"
It's not the "Under God" part that bothers me. I say it, too, and always have. It's the implied meaning behind it: that if you are not a Christian, then you are somehow less than worthy as an American citizen. Being told to bite ass and leave my country because I am not a Christian, after all my years of service? That's disrespectful, since the accompanying text is usually about respecting our military. Well, I am one of those people. We, as the military, are made up of Christians, Mormons, Pagans, Jews, Muslims, aethiests and a whole host of beliefs. We aren't all cut from the same cloth. That doesn't make us less American, less worthy. I see people posting all the time that this country was founded on Christian principles. But is that really true? Maybe in a superficial sense. This country was founded by a group of people who were persecuted for the way they practiced their faith. Yes, those people were Christians and the founding of the country was influenced by their beliefs, but what those beliefs were is almost irrevelant because the intent was to establish a place where they could practice their faith freely and without reservation. THAT is the basis of the foundation of the United States. Seeing signs like that makes me feel like I am nothing more than cannon fodder.
This is just my personal story, an example of what I am trying to say, my own take on the subject. It is one I am sure that is going to lose me "friends". But that doesn't make it less important for me to say. Stereotypes are limiting, tunnel visions of who and what makes up a person. We come in all shapes, colors, creeds, faiths, and beliefs. Why is that so wrong? I guess I have come to the point that I am tired of being defined by others. I am tired of being told what I am "supposed" believe and how I am "supposed" to feel and think. I shouldn't have to justify myself at the fundamental level. I live my own truth, and that should be okay.