I love Wray Herbert’s blog, We’re Only Human, and one of his recent posts has me thinking.
Citing Claude M. Steele’s research on stereotypes, he writes:
“Steele’s unique contribution is taking us inside the mind of the stereotype victim, and it’s not a pretty sight. When we’re unnerved by an unsavory caricature, our minds race; we’re vigilant; we’re arguing internally against the stereotype; denying its relevance; disparaging anyone who would use such a stereotype; pitying ourselves; trying to be stoic….We’ve channeled our limited cognitive power into dealing with the threatening caricature.”
Steele and Herbert concern themselves with the effects on academic and sports performance. But what about in our bedrooms and our living rooms? What harm is done when we share our stereotypes, or even just pass along our friends’ beliefs or joke once too often about a cultural stereotype:
- Once a cheater, always a cheater.
- All men are dogs and care only about sex.
- Women are a ball and chain.
- Gay men are effeminate.
- Lesbian women are pushy.
- Every marriage has a 50% chance of failing.
- Women want men just for their money.
By allowing these stereotypes about people like our partners, are we perhaps robbing our partners of their ability to think clearly of ways to handle our shared problems, to be fully engaged in sex, and to be fully present and loving with us?
I suspect so. And I’m sure I am guilty of robbing myself of some of the joy of having a loving life partner by letting stereotypes about married men into our conversations. No more!
What’s your take on Wray Herbert’s post and Claude M. Steele’s research? Could it be affecting your relationship, too?