Beating the Drum on stereotypes

Beating the Drum

The stereotypes that separate us

'Whereas the number of Canadian males behind bars decreased by nine per cent between 2002 and 2007, the number of women jumped by 11 per cent, according to a new report by Statistics Canada.'

By Beverly Blanchard
True North Perspective
Beverly Blanchard is an Ojibway First Nation from Northern Ontario. She holds a degree in Economics. During the last twenty-two years, she has worked as a consultant to First Nation and Inuit organizations in a variety of disciplines including: homelessness, suicide prevention, violence prevention, childcare, HIV/AIDS, women’s issues, business planning, and economic development. She has also designed and delivered Aboriginal awareness and stress management workshops to Federal government employees. Currently, Ms Blanchard is a life strategy coach, author and energy healer in Ottawa.

I have never been an advocate of programs that seek to empower people by separating them into categories of gender or culture or race. I find that most of these programs do more harm than good, and in many instances are usually based on faulty assumptions.

Only boys are bullies. Only men are violent. Aboriginal people are discriminated and excluded by ‘white’ people. Only men are arrogant and aggressive. Women are gentle and the caretakers of our society. Girls are not good at math. Only girls suffer self esteem issues. Only boys join gangs. All blondes are bimbos. We live in a society that is continually selling us stereotypes, and using these stereotypes to perpetuate the myths.

The problem with these myths is they do not empower anyone. Instead they diminish an individual and create a society which is based on divisions and separation. It is these separations that allow people to group human beings under one banner and create an environment of fear and blame. Fear in that people are afraid to report a problem; blame in that an individual can blame someone else for their situation.

In addition, many of these stereotypes have created an environment where we now have numerous charities to address various causes. Give to this cause and you will empower this particular group and our world will become a more loving place to be. Personally I don’t think so. Personally I think it makes the world more violent and creates an environment that promotes bullying.

Carl Dow’s article last week displayed a very good example of the power of stereotypes in our world. The two young females who were picking on a young male and the responses from the institutions that are designed to protect all human beings are a classic example of indifference. Young females bullying a young male, you must be mistaken!

Perhaps these individuals should be brought up to date on the violence that girls are becoming known to display. They should also be made aware of the rise of girl gangs. Having written a literature review on Aboriginal gang violence, I was surprised by my own research findings. In an April 2009 Maclean’s article entitled Girls and Gangland, it identified that the traditional role of girls in gangs is expanding and they are “closing the gender gap in terms of drug use and abuse — are no longer just appendages to male gangs; some are forming gangs of their own. Whereas the number of Canadian males behind bars decreased by nine per cent between 2002 and 2007, the number of women jumped by 11 per cent, according to a new report by Statistics Canada.”

As I went further in the research, I myself was even further shocked at how violent girls could be. As the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ paper entitled The Invisible Gang Members: A Report on Female Gang Association in Winnipeg, stated, many of the girls go through a “beat-in” process and suffer a beating from female gang members to ensure that the initiate is solid and worthy of membership in the gang. In this process the initiate is punched, kicked and knocked down. If they survive then they are welcomed into the gang with a hug. Sort of changes how we view the stereotype of girls.

Years ago I ran a homeless shelter for men. Many of the men that came to the shelter were not the average street people. Some were there as a result of divorce and had no other place to turn. Many had lost their homes in the family court system and were using the shelter as temporary accommodations.

I remember having a conversation with a police officer about domestic violence. In this conversation he stated that many men would never report that they were physically abused by their wives because they feared that they would be laughed at at the police station. Sad but true. Our current stereotype of family violence almost always depicts men as the perpetrators.

In order for our society to evolve, we must view every situation without the filters of stereotypes. It is our stereotypes that keep us all separate. We need programs which seek to empower every human being regardless of their gender, culture and race. We are all human beings and we should be concerned with the whole instead of the parts.