Tuesday, October 12, 2010

P4E.185 Appearances, Stereotypes, Prejudice, Judgment and Bullying

Lately, my awareness has been heightened to an ugly side of us. Like me, you've probably been hearing news recently about suicides by young people who've been bullied or tormented by others who've passed judgment on them based on appearances or stereotyping. I'm currently reading Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which deals extensively with prejudice towards the hunchback, Quasimodo, and the gypsy, Esmeralda. Finally, I just watched the wonderfully made 2010 HBO production about Temple Grandin, an autistic woman played by Claire Danes, who endures intolerance because of her autism and her gender.

I find myself a little overwhelmed by the ugliness portrayed in these circumstances. I feel the need to examine myself to see if the reason I'm repulsed is that I too carry prejudices, stereotypes and a pre-disposition to judge. God help me, I hope I can minimize this natural tendency.

God knows we are a fickle people. Victor Hugo depicts the Parisians as prejudiced against Quasimodo because he is so ugly. They rumor him to cast satanic spells and generally bring bad luck. The same Parisians are quick to judge Esmeralda for her beauty and being a gypsy. Her having a pet goat assures everyone that she must be a witch. Hugo perfectly captures our prejudices.

But, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a fiction. What happened to Temple Grandin throughout her life is a terrible, yet inspiring, reality. As an autistic child, she did not speak until she was four years old. Her mother resisted the recommendations of the medical community to permanently institutionalize her. Despite the ugly discrimination she suffered due to her autism, and with her mother's encouragement, Temple graduated from Franklin Pierce College, with a bachelor's degree in psychology, earned her master's degree in animal science from Arizona State University and her doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. If her autism was not handicap enough, Temple suffered through belittlement as a woman in the man's world of cattle ranching and slaughter.

Finally, we hear the despicable stories of harassment, ostracizing and bullying of young people because of rumors and prejudice. Can we really be this horrible? Certainly, as Believers, we would say "yes!" about the world around us. But, I'm asking the question, even as Believers, can we also be this horrible? Because I believe that becoming Christlike is a process, not an event, I think we do still have the potential to be prejudiced and judgmental; bullying and applying stereotypes based on appearances.

Ken Nair, in his book, Discovering the Mind of a Woman, points out four male prejudices that he has identified among men towards women (and therefore their wives):

1. Women are impossible to understand!
2. Women are the real problem!
3. Women are inferior to men.
4. Men are supposed to be the boss.

Please read the book to get a better feel for what Ken is trying to point out. In the mean time, if any of these four male prejudices strike your heart in the least, we husbands have an opportunity to model tolerance and non-judgment right in our own homes. That's where we can affect those closest to us and the next generation by our own example.


1 comment:

  1. Kim,
    The stories detailing the abuse and harassment of young people lately have been haunting. In a recent Time article, 4 teenagers committed suicide in 19 days...all were seen as outcasts.

    I agree completely with the idea that tolerance must be modeled at home, and I wonder what our family does to model tolerance...