Opinion: Playing mind games with stereotypes

IT'S A slippery slope when we allow stereotypes to get a foothold in our minds.

When I was a kid our family doctor was a bloke, as were all the other doctors as far as I knew.

Obviously there were female GPs, but I didn't know of any. So, while I have chosen to be under the care of women doctors where possible since I was an adult (for a number of reasons), because of that earlier conditioning, when someone says doctor, for a moment my mind thinks "man". Weird - I even have several girlfriends who are medicos.

Similarly, having been raised a Catholic, with all the accompanying moral rules and regulations that entailed, I still think "aberration" for a nanosecond when I hear the word gay; this despite me having gay friends of both genders numbered in multiples of 10.

Most are as ordinary as you or I. Of course, my conscious mind takes over from the unconscious in a flash and I can then see my way clear to picture the reality; female doctors, the vast majority of morally sound gays. That is not to say that examples do not exist that perpetuate those clichés, but they are in the minority.

Stereotypes emerge at some point in our culture largely through ignorance and/or fear.

I was discussing with friends this week the racism and hatred that surrounded the family of an acquaintance of theirs who were cursed with a German-sounding surname during WWII; the family, who lived in Queensland, were third-generation Australians but the dad ran a radio repair and spare parts business and was therefore suspected of broadcasting secrets to the enemy. No basis for such a fear, but there it was anyway.

I still have some of the silly stereotypes that reside deep in the recesses of my brain being shot down in proverbial flames.

Just last week while walking my dog, I was stopped by the side of the road by a couple of tradies in a V8 ute - big boofy blokes in blue singlets - who were after directions to a job in a suburb unfamiliar to them. I'll say that again - men in truck stop, ask directions from woman.

It could have made the front page story in The Northern Star, so heavily ingrained is the perception that men never ask directions.

They were equally gobsmacked when, despite my lack of knowledge of the destination they were seeking, I managed to get them there anyway by turning on the maps function in my smartphone and giving them clear and concise instructions, all without having to turn the map around to gauge in which direction we were all coming from and heading toward. 'Woman reads map', the headline could have read.



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