Stereotypes; and the Bucking of Them (Or Why I #$% Love Science)

8 Apr

A while ago, I wrote a post on patterns – and how solving for those patterns makes for a lot of fun and excitement.
This one is actually diametrically opposite – of late I have seen a lot of exceptions to “expected patterns” – in other words stereotypes – and bucking these is almost always more fun, and sometimes much more interesting.


– It started with an exhibition in my 2nd grader child’s English class – they were “publishing” a unit on “Non Fiction Writing”, where every child had to take a topic and research it – write it like a book – TOC, facts, conclusion, source, glossary etc. Achchu being the foodie she is, picked Chocolate as her topic.


Her friend Diya on the other hand picked Pokemon – she even did a simulated video Pokemon game. What I found very amusing is the teacher Shikha Ma’am saying – “Diya, I’m surprised you picked a video game – I would have thought you’d pick the Solar System or something.” Now Diya is, according to Achchu, “the nerdiest nerd ever” – nerd defined by her as – great tasting candy but also someone who works all the time – and actually LIKES working 🙂 Hence the obvious stereotype triggering Shikha Ma’am’s comment.

Rajni Gandha

– In a similar story, maybe as a stress relieving mechanism (and maybe not – Im just looking to rationalize a bad habit!) over the past 3 – 4 years, my partner Shoma and I got addicted to this – awful really – “mouth freshner” (I guess is the best description of it – though according to my kids, my mouth really stinks now) called Rajni Gandha. Now, this is a really popular thing in India, most often combined with tobacco. The common reaction when a lot of folk saw us chewing it incessantly, almost obsessively, was – “wow, Shoma, you don’t look like the kind of person who wd eat Rajnigandha” (Pls note: Shoma is really classy – she’s tall slim nice looking and is always dressed well. She looks, and is, educated, from the upper echelons of society – and so NOT the kind of woman who would do infra dig things like chew Rajni Gandha. Pls note also – as my appearance is the exact opposite of Shoma’s MY chewing the same stuff was almost viewed as something folks would expect 🙂 Another stereotype – busted again!

– Ofcourse the best example of this is the recent brouhaha over the originator of the extremely popular facebook page “I Fucking Love Science” , Elise Andrew, being a woman. Its a fantastic page actually – combines awesome facts, great humour and lovely pictures. Has 4.5 million likes! But when the originator recently revealed she was a woman, the reactions were really strange! Read here for a short description of how the page started, click here for an interview with the originator, and here for one random post on the reactions (again, “Science and Women?? nyaaahhhhh” – stereotype being busted – these guys forgot Marie Curie or what?)

– Elise’s site actually showed me another great example. Remember the actress Winnie in the old TV Serial The Wonder Years ? wonderyears . Well, that actress Danica McKellar is a Math Whiz, with a true blue book in her name (called “Math Doesn’t Suck)! See here for an interesting interview with her

– When you look for examples in org life, I’m sure we’ve all made hiring decisions that are powered by this similar stereotyping thing. Infact, our HR manager, had a clear bias against long hair and ponytails in men – and very often had to work past this bias. I once heard her telling a new hire politely, but with a definite glint in her eye – “it may be neater/ cooler for u to get a haircut”. I always had a bias against men from a certain state in India – in my mind they are almost always lazy, and have an attitude to boot! But we have all seen people that bust these stereotypes, even though organizational culture actually perpetuates really by following patterns/ stereotypes in groups – whether they are cultural/ age or interest related groups. (See related older post on org culture)


I wonder if this whole pattern-vs-stereotype busting arises out of the Johari Window model – it was one of the management concepts that I used to really like – I specially found the Bull in a China Shop very evocative 🙂 . I think if we run a Johari Window on most of us, we will follow established stereotypes, but also one of the rooms will show those elements in our make up that bust the stereotype. Infact, maybe time to test a hypothesis that each of us in general can be stereotyped – maybe in a multiattribute model, but each of us has a few – maybe even as small as one – streak that busts the stereotype and THAT is what makes everyone different from each other – notwithstanding the “every man has a double somewhere in this world” theory 🙂 Are we all a formula? Imagine God having this menu of features and attitudes and essentially mixing and matching all of those as he made us – OK if u want to be a little scientific – its DNA and all the Ribosomes on them – and they actually do get mixed and matched in menu options – so my theory of stereotyping is not all wrong!

What say?

Meanwhile, an old article I wrote on the MBA student – with a time series Johari Window construct used there – enjoy 🙂


One Response to “Stereotypes; and the Bucking of Them (Or Why I #$% Love Science)”


  1. Absolute vs. Relative : Is there a universal truth? | joshsang - July 23, 2013

    […] construct I wrote about in a previous post, the Johari Window, actually touches on many layers of relativity in people’s perceptions […]

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