This one originally appeared HERE
Do I Know You? by DC Juris
I’ve long been a champion of bringing down gender barriers. Not just the old fashioned notions that pink is for girls and blue is for boys, but the more sinister ones – that men are stupid, that women are easy, that men who show emotions are sissies, and that strong women are bitches.
Color me shocked when the very first review of “Asian Persuasion” suggested I was perpetuating the stereotype that men think with their dicks.
I lamented about the review to my youngest son, who we call The Boy. The Boy wanted to know how many men were involved in the relationship portrayed in my story. Well, two. The Boy shook his head and snickered. “Then you’re saying two guys think with their dicks. If the story doesn’t contain every man on the planet, then you’re only talking about the guys in the story. Besides, lots of guys think with their dicks.”
Aside from being impressed at his use of logic, I was perplexed. How could I, on one hand, accuse others of furthering stereotypes when they’d only done the same thing I had – show two men and one relationship. On the other hand, had I perpetuated a stereotype?? That certainly hadn’t been my intent.
Actually, “Asian Persuasion” is based on something that happened to two real-life men I know, and it happened pretty much as I penned it. I took creative license with a couple small details, but overall, that’s the real story. The guys I based the story on believe that “sex without emotional commitment isn’t cheating.” If I agree with them or not had nothing to do with telling the story. I talked to them both at length after the story came out. One of them suggested, “maybe you should’ve put ‘based on a true story’ at the beginning.” Maybe I should’ve. ::shrugs::
Fast forward. I received an e-mail from one of my readers. In the e-mail was a link to a blog which suggested that men don’t link sex with love – that such is a romantic female notion – and hinted that gay men aren’t typically monogamous. The overall theme – or at least, what I took away from the blog, was that, hey, if a guy cheats it’s just sex and doesn’t mean anything. After all, he’s got an attached penis. You can’t really blame him for acting out – he’s just wired that way. I’ll repeat – that’s what I took away from the blog – my interpretation.
In any event, my reader had interpreted the blog much as I had. He ranted for a couple paragraphs – several four letter words were involved – about how he was a gay man and he hadn’t had sex until he’d been well into a committed relationship which he was still in after twenty years, and he had never cheated on his partner once, and he didn’t even look at other men anymore – hadn’t since he’d fallen in love. He fully understood that the blog portrayed some men correctly, but not him – therefore not all, and he was right pissed about it!
He then pitched me a story idea, and asked if I’d run with it. He wanted to prove a point through two characters. I replied to him that, of course I was honored, agreed with him, but anything I write is just fiction – it’s not bound to prove any points or change any minds. He replied that he knew that, but he wanted the record set straight, at least for him, and he wanted to see himself accurately portrayed. He didn’t believe romance was a fairy tale – he was living proof of such. So, I agreed, and added another WIP to my board.
And all this got me thinking about the original statements. That I’d perpetuated a stereotype, and The Boy’s interpretation that I hadn’t. Who was right?
I thought about the people I knew in my life. Some of them absolutely fall into stereotypical outlines. I know flaming queens. I know frigid butches. I know over-the-top masculine men. I know weepy, unable-to-make-a-decision men. I know shrinking violets. I know women who are just waiting for a man to sweep them off their feet. I know couples who are together for the kids. I know couples who are together for the tax benefits. I know couples who divorced after their kids turned eighteen. I know middle-aged men who drive fancy cars and honk at scantily clad young women. I know some of those scantily clad young women. I know ditzy blonds. I know feisty redheads. I know skeevy gay guys. I know fastidiously clean gay guys. I know women who sleep with anything with a penis. I know men who sleep with anything with a vagina. I know tragic, emo individuals who do nothing but bitch and moan. I know former fat people who are now self righteous skinny people. I know fat people who overindulge all the time. I know fat people who barely eat. I know skinny people who think they’re fat. I know skinny people who eat and eat and don’t gain a pound. I know slimy looking child molesters. I know average, every day girl and guy next door types. I know Italian men who are obsessed with their hair and say “hey, how you doin’?” to every woman they meet. And I know women who swoon and giggle when they do. I know women who are more concerned with how they look that who they vote for. I know racist bastards. I know tree huggers.
All of those are stereotypes, and all of those people exist.
So what does that all mean?
Maybe it means that we, as a whole, as a society, should look at the individual worth of a person – judge them on their own merits – instead of holding them up against a measuring stick founded on our own preconceived notions. Maybe it means we should be more open minded about the people we meet. Not decide who and what they are based on an out-dated thought process of shoving everyone into a box.
Or maybe it means we shouldn’t judge at all.