Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Stereotypes & Sweeping Generlizations

By virtue of being born as this strange little species called human beings, we are blessed with certain attributes. A pair of eyes and ears, a heart, some organs (and then some organs), hypocrisy, our penchant for stereotyping, and generalizing. I sincerely believe all human beings are hypocrites. Its just that their level of awareness about it differs from person to person. The less-aware people are so righteous and indignant about other hypocrites and while doing so provide the more-aware much mirth. But why do we do it? I have always been curious about the stimulus that makes each and every one of us stereotype, criticize the stereotype - within few minutes - recursively stereotype people who stereotype (like this blog post) and then criticize the person who stereotypes others (and therefore instantly become one of them). If I haven't lost my layman reader by now let me try a little bit more by proceeding further with my theorizing.

It is my theory that people stereotype and do all of the above to increase their sense of selfworth. Human beings are afflicted with the self-esteem problem. They want to feel good about themselves and they would like to, more often than not, reassure themselves that they are doing much better than their peers. It could be any peer. Someone in Antartica is as good a comparison as the guy next door. This is why Indians who migrate to western countries look down upon Indians who stayed back, Indians who stayback suddenly use patriotism to look down upon Indians who migrate, Kamal fans think Rajini fans have no class, Rajini fans think Kamal fans are pseudo intellects, both these fans put-together think Bollywood is trash, north Indians think all south Indians are dark people who eat curd rice while it flows down their left elbow, south Indians completely believe all north Indians are uneducated, etc etc. And then comes stereotypes like this Vulturo declaring that all Madrasis are dark and ugly. To be frank, I am not mad at him and am disinclined to argue with him. The Maanga doesn't seem to argue with him either, but instead realizes the recursive nature of stereotyping and just plays his own game back to him. I suspect the word 'Madrasi' here encompasses AP, Karnataka, Kerala and ofcourse Tamil Nadu. After all gora-aadmi/vellaikaaran encompasses Greeks, French, Americans, Canadians, Brazilians, Russians and Australians. Our indhi-karan covers every Indian above the Vindhyas. So no! I don't think Vulturo is in anyway wrong. Neither do I think this is going to be the desi-blogsphere's biggest flame war. But I am tempted enough to comment that he is after all human and is not much different from my 'Madrasi' friends. Should I talk about my Tamil friends who called me retarded because I happened to watch a Hindi movie (I watched one movie) or about this 'madrasi' friend who completely believes that all love marriages are much better than arranged marriages? Let me choose the latter.

So she had loved and married and so she wanted to reassure herself that she had done better than everybody else."I would never do an arranged marriage" - she would declare emphatically every once in a while, just to make sure her accomplishment reverberated to every corner of the room. She can feel her sense of self-worth increase as the Doppler effect on her statement decreases. She actually wants to say "the arranged marriage folks suck, they are lower life-forms" but chooses to put a plastic cover on it and present it the way she actually did. Every time, I complimented some woman for her independence, career success or progressive behavior - she would be quick to link it to a possibility that the woman might be part of the elite love-marriage-society and every ounce of her success would be sourced to the single act of her marriage. After-all what was her self-worth when a woman who does not belong to her clan was more successful.

I know of another person who left his native village and migrated to Bombay. To him - the native place, his relatives, and the people who lived there - all represented a bad time in his life. He wanted to believe he had progressed in life. So over the years he developed a sense of superiority over every single person from that place. It was inconceivable for him to accept anybody from that place was good because that would mean he hadn't progressed in his life. While he made sure his children learned to hate the place as much as he did, he was quick to point out the emigrated-to-America people were traitors who taught those ABCD kids to hate his beloved country. He spent hours extolling patriotism to those traitors and their ABCD kids minutes after criticizing his old-relatives for being close-minded and cocooned.

This is just a sample of some of the popular stereotypes that we know. Ofcourse there are certain outliers who would knock the B'jesus out of you. It is self-worth ladies and gentlemen. The inalienable weakness of human beings to crave for self-worth. A primitive want - to feel that they are better than somebody else. The somebody-else could be anybody. You needn't have met them. It could be black people, white people, people who don't dress very well, telegu heroes who wear yellow shirts, H1B parties, people who do arranged-marriages, Bengalis, north Indians who do not speak English very well, south Indians who don't speak Hindi very well, cigarette smokers, people who are religious, atheists, suspect atheists, people who live in joint families - anybody. You are so desperate to find that one stereotype who will make you feel better than what you actually are.


Vulturo said...

I am amazed at the number of people who are offended because a person stating that he believes Madrasi chicks are less hotter than Punjabi ones. (In addition to guessing that others believe the same). Not that I mind all the backlinks.

Also, where exactly did I make a statement that "*all* Madrasis are dark and ugly?".The only thing that was implied was that Madrasi chicks aren't as attractive (as Punjabis) in terms of certain physical attributes: i.e. Facial Features, Complexion, and stature.

I'm neither Madrasi, nor Punjabi, nor fair-skinned. And I think I'm pretty ugly myself.

There was no "deeper meaning" in calling Madrasi chicks uglier than Punjabi ones (obviously meaning that the average Madrasi chick is less attractive, using the average Punjabi chick as a reference point - certainly not that all Madrasi chicks are uglier than Punjabi ones. It feels very stupid to explain this). There was no psychology involved here - no intention to gain any feeling of self worth. Nothing but what I think is merely an objective factual statement.

I haven't been able to understand whats with the whole insecurity.

Suresh said...

Beauty is a subjective attribute you dumbfuck. There's nothing objective or factual about it. (Oh no, don't talk about numbers, now. Don't even go there.)

The whole of 16th and 17th century Europe (well, more or less) thought the Africans were just cousins of monkeys with 10% of a "normal" human's intelligence. Hence they thought they need to be "civilized" by enslavement. I wonder if there was anything factual or objective because pretty much all the colonizing white pigs thought so.

unnayellam jattiyoda oda oda seruppala adikkanum!

Venkat said...


Are you seriously oblivious to the fact that "What you said" could have been perceived as offensive to some ?

Nilu said...

I own the copyright to the words 'recursion' and 'hypocrisy'. In all their forms and usages.

I said...

This vada naatu aadhikkam should be fought.

Anonymous said...

athellam sari. how Krish, ultimate saviour, will fit into these

Sowmya said...

"It is my theory that people stereotype and do all of the above to increase their sense of selfworth."

adhe, adhethaan. pramadama sonna po!

Anu said...

"It is my theory that people stereotype and do all of the above to increase their sense of selfworth."

In this case, self worth and page hits.

anantha said...

Saket: It's not about insecurity, dude. Really! The same stereotyping that I indulge in when criticizing your stereotyping leads to the implication that I consider myself, as a South Indian, superior in intellect to you, which is why I am arguing that your logic is warped. This is true of every single person who has criticized your post. So how does that make us insecure?
As for your statement that "some others believe in the same" I consider their logic similarly warped, which I am sure you will realize when you look at your spam queue.

Anonymous said...

Anti correct dhaan .. Kopparamdhevi, abhithakujalambaal, kuralvaaimozhi, selvi, kalpitha, bagyam, sinnakkili are the best.

When we get married we care only about intellect:)

Aenda thaevai illadha paechu .. When he says punjabi girls are better looking, where does the kostin of intellect come in? Why counter argue saying madrasis are intellectually far superior? Did anyone talk about intellect?

Avan vera edho paesaraan nee ennada'na ..sumba


anantha said...

Prabhu: Vennai! He's talking about my insecurity and I am countering it with the fact that I am very comfortable being what I am and what I see in South Indians like me. Also I am countering his stereotype with my own stereotyping that his claims are stupid and that I am more intelligent than him :P
Which is pretty much what your brother says, that we resort to stereotypes to make us feel better! Adhu puriyama, vennai! Did you have curd rice last night? Anu, what is this? Please take good care of Prabhu!

Anonymous said...

a thoughtful article ... not blogging for the sake of it , like u've been doing of late ..thanks ..

nithin said...

stereotype - all MBAs in s/w compaynees are dumb and evil(ala dilbert)

conclusion- makes me feel better i'm not one:):):)....Plus we get to make fun of you!!!

I said...

But watching Indhi padam is an unforgivable Thamizh-dhrogam. Not as much dhrogam as its sadomacahistic.

Deepa said...

Adhu oru survey adhukku oru post vera!
but I agree with your "theme".:-)

Anonymous said...

there was a point in my life, when, I went around asking everyone I could, this question: "What drives you?"

I mean, if you take out the summing game of good deeds and bad deeds in order to secure a better after-life or life-after-life as dictated by religion, what really drives a human being?

you talked about the answer, so I brought up the question.


Anonymous said...

Relax guys .... Is Saket a racist? yes he is. But only in the same way that some of us may have been when we were 13 years old. The real problem is that he is not really intelligent, and is not self-aware of this. Infact, he considers himself quite smart (this is a common trait amongst Indian "libertarians"). So he essentially shuts out contrary criticism from his brain (except perhaps in instances like this, when the criticism is relentless). Both things add up and result in very slow intellectual development. He may be 24 years old but behaves essentially like a 13 year old, unaware of his social obligations and the nature of social problems. If you read his archives, you will realise that he has always been like this. I am a regular reader of his blog. I read it for laughs :) Honestly. He is unintentionally funny in a Pink Panther kind of way.

It is one thing to say that most people prefer being fair skinned and north indians are typically fairer than south indians. But a sentence like this -

"But in any case, I’m thankful they are North Indian: If the site had pictures of a shit load of them Madrasi chicks (with equally unique sounding names) instead of the Punjabi ones, the contest would have been an absolute non-starter. Or maybe not. Madrasi boys would have flocked to see them, for sure."

is racist on so many levels. But I would honestly treat this guy as a juvenile offender. Have you read his archives? Almost half his posts are exactly like this. But more than bigotry, his problem is imperviousness to criticism and a self belief in his non-existent "intellect". And he has a smattering of a min-fan club of readers that keep him going. Half his posts can be labelled extremely insensitive, which he mistakes for "political incorrectness". One tends to develop a coccoon when blogging, meeting only people who share your exact same ideas and this leads to a self-reinforcement cycle where you become ignorant of your own stupidity until some major foot-in-mouth like this happens.

Take a sampling of his posts

Hello to all ugly ghaatis from Saket

A hello from Saket to all his female colleagues and friends

Pakistanis are assholes, today we know that dalits are the same BOCTAOE

On the dude with the big blue turban

All Muslims arent terrorists, but aren't all terrorists Muslims?

A diary entry for his kids, grand kids and future employers

An analysis of religion by anthropologist Saket: case study islam

If You Are Christian, Jew, Or Muslim - You Are Stupid - Oh OK :)

In which IIT becomes a woman :D Dunno if this offends anyone but submitted as evidence of intellectual deficiency :D

Saket is frustrated by stupid people, No really :D

Strongest evidence of stupidity yet :)

This kid just needs to grow up, thats all. It might take some time though :D

Anonymous said...

Summa sollakkoodadhu, your theory is really worth stating.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, however biased it might be. But to be unaware that it is a bias and that the language used can offend others, takes away from whatever he has to say.

- Frequent visitor

Terrance Wishbone Lee said...

The best way to respond/address such a blog or a person ("Vulturo") is to ignore it/not respond to it at all.

I understand the irony of my commenting on this, but hey it's surprising to see how many people (including hawkeye) are wasting their time on this and unwittingly advertising vulturo's blog.

Hawkeye, I never thought I would say this but pls go back to reviewing "moojic" and movies.

I P said...

Did you see the picture of vulturo..hahahah..theanju pona anju paisa coin mathiri moonju with a lot of pimples..hmmm. Probably got rejected by a "madrasi girl".Take it easy vulturo.

Jayesh said...

My take on this time pass

Hawkeye said...


i see where you are coming from. 'perception' is a key element. in your mind it all sounds right - the key thing is to say it in a way that accurately reflects whats in your mind and at the same time offend the least amount of people (which usually happens when u fail to do the former).

this is the theme you are trying to get at - "i am frank politically incorrect and if my on-you-faceness exposes certain truths you are uncomfortable talking about then I can't help it" . Something similar to this is in my disclaimer also. most bloggers, even stupid ones, think they espouse this theme. but it has to be backed up with logic. this mitigates whatever difference might be there in 'public perception' to what you really wanted to say.

In your case - its totally in the subjective realm. so you dont have a logic except for saying "I say so because I feel so" - this is why you have to resort to clan'ish insinuations like "look madrasis are sticking together - come northies lets stick together" - no sensible, self-respecting northie or madrasi will fall for that.

you had no independent logic to support your claims. its not your bigotry that hurt you man! its lack of logic.

Hawkeye said...


i linked u and credited u. plus according to the law you cant hold a patent on commonly used words.

Hawkeye said...


He is is there in the pillar and in a speck of dust. no explicit mention needed

somya, anu, anonymous

nandri :-)


leading the lemmings to the sea man! thats what we do :-)


padupaavi. oru industry'a total family damage pannite.




its a deep topic. different folks have different stimulus. 'self-esteem' and 'happiness' - i wud assume to be very popular driving forces.

Hawkeye said...


i have been following vulturo's quite regularly. i still think 'racist' is too generic and probably not a good fit here. but i hear u.

Hawkeye said...


nandri nandri.

frquent visitor,

i agree 100%

terry lee,

(gulp) u didnt like my 'moojic' reviews. i am crushed :-). no this is no showbiz - bad publicity is bad publicity - not publicity.

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Anonymous said...

This is definitely no reaction to Vulturo's comments coz seriously its not worth commenting.. but what U had discused seems like a philosphical question I have loong wondered about...I dont know if it all just boils down to "Self worth" gratification...coz I do believe that sane people (Atleast people I think are worth discussing about)can only attain self worth from within... which cannnot be obtained by comparing with others coz that in turn is self deprecating..dont U think?? coz only someone who does not have any self respect would go ahead and compare himself with someone else and then feel better about himself...But thats not what I am talking about... in all other cases the sweeping genralisations made acording to me is a lesser evil.. Its coz of an innate tendency for the the human mind to abstract...i.e Its easier to group people (every person that U come across) into different homogeneous segments.. than to attempt understanding / analysing each one separately... these groups can be anything like "those who go for love marriages" , H1B category blah blah that U had mentioned.. It is just one means/ form of cognition according to me when U are trying to uunderstand someone... it will always have errors...every one of these groupings will have exceptions... but it still makes the effort easier for the mind right? U need to make the effort of manually analysing only the exceptions!!! :)) Dont know if I've made any sense... but anyways....

Anonymous said...

A very well written and thoughful article.. really enjoyed reading it. Thanks.

- Kanchan