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April 08 2008

Jane Espenson talks LGBT themes in Sci-Fi World. Jane, along with Tom Lenk, comments on LGBT themes in Battlestar Galactica and Buffy.

News flash: gay and lesbian people like things that aren't necessarily about gay and lesbian people.
Lenk is gay right? I met him at the reunion and I think he was with his bf. He's a nice guy! I keep wondering if he actually had to buy tickets to the reunion like all of us or he got invited. Shame he didn't get mentioned by the cast like Danny Strong did. I bet he was holding his breath hoping for his name to pop up :(
So Buffy "came out," huh? Interesting. I thought Joss Himself said "This doesn't mean Buffy's gay" or words to that effect.

Oh...wait. It said she "came out as a slayer," so...never mind.

I can't wait until the day it doesn't matter. People are just people, and shouldn't be defined by race, sexual preference, religion or any other "label."
Never gonna happen. People need their identity otherwise we'd all be carbon copies walking around.
They were referring to the scene where Buffy reveals to Joyce that she was a slayer, which has been read several times as a coming out allegory, so much that Joyce asks Buffy if she has tried NOT to be a slayer.

I don't know how much we can discuss the actors' personal lives here, but I've been to a few conventions with Tom, and he doesn't really discuss his orientation, like that's anything to be known or discussed. He's very open, though, same with Andy H. and the guy at the reunion was quite public. He took pictures with Amber, too. It's lovely to see that the Buffy/Angel audience, at conventions at least, as varied as it is, never made a point about it. Yeah, he was in the audience like normal fans, I wish he was on stage as well, being a huge Tom fan.. I mean, he was a quasi-regular in Season 7.
Tom is awesome. And so is Jane. :)
I can't wait until the day it doesn't matter. People are just people, and shouldn't be defined by race, sexual preference, religion or any other "label."

People shouldn't be defined by it but it DOES matter, hugely IMO, and I personally would rue the day that our cultural and even ethnic identities stop mattering. What a horrible "McDonald's" of a world that'd be.

The key is to not let it matter in a negative way but to celebrate everyone's diversity. Whether we can even achieve that or whether differences inherently lead to some claiming superiority is an open question though (how I answer depends on what kind of day i've had ;). Sometimes I think the world is just too "crufty" for people to ever just get on, that there's too much historical baggage. OTOH, i'd hate to lose all that history, it makes us who we are.
crossoverman:
News flash: gay and lesbian people like things that aren't necessarily about gay and lesbian people.


Corollary: straight people like things that aren't necessarily about straight people.
Confusionary: straight people that discover they're actually bi may or may not like either programmes that aren't necessarily about non-bi people or programmes that are about non-gay people that haven't yet realised they may or may not be either bi or non-bi or neither.

;-)
The quotes from Jane and Tom are the real substance in that article. The rest of the content's kinda thin. I don't think diversity necessarily comes with the scifi territory at all (as reaching back to Heinlein for an openly gay storyline reference kind of suggests). I think because scifi is often about envisioning a future society or an alternate present, the door is more open for all kinds of diversity and attitudes toward it, so there's great potential for exploring that. But writers don't necessarily walk through that door.

Undead corollary: vampires like things that aren't necessarily about the bloodsucking. Some of them like to watch Passions.
Sunfire, I think "Passions" is a bad example if you're trying to make a point that vampires watch shows outside the evil zone. I mean, have you ever seen "Passions"? It's the epitome of diabolical :)
Coronary: straight or gay people that have had massive cardio infarctions probably won't care that much about 'Battlestar Galactica'.

OT but it was years before I found out 'Passions' was real and not made up for the show. Oh and some of them also like onion blossoms, smoking, Jack Daniels and the Sex Pistols too (though some/all of those some of thems may actually be the same some of thems ;).
How about Manchester United?
Yep, and Manchester Utd. What can I say, no-one gets it right all of the time ;).


crossoverman:

News flash: gay and lesbian people like things that aren't necessarily about gay and lesbian people.


Matt K:

Corollary: straight people like things that aren't necessarily about straight people.



And don't forget people who can't make up their minds, and just like being entertained and encouraged to think about stuff.
And does anyone think it is odd that viewers would come up to Tom Lenk and thank him for the fact that the show had a gay woman- Willow- in it? I mean, he didn't write it or anything. I know, I know, nit picky, nit picky. :-)

Tomorrow I am buying S1 of BSG, since I have not seen it and it is getting a lot of press. This website is killing me; last week, it was The Wire, S1. And I still have My So-Called Life to go! My poor bank account.
I think it's interesting that Jane said that being gay in the BSG world wouldn't get you kicked in the ass, but what she didn't say was what you can expect to get if you are "outed" as a Cylon. Has humanity really advanced that far on BSG, or have they just traded one set of prejudices for another?
Interesting that they didn't mention the relationship between Admiral Cain and Gina in BSG:Razor.
People like to be able to relate to fictional characters and situations.

LGBT people have always been attracted to the Sci-Fi genre. It's not because of the gay characters or gay storylines. It breaks the rules of reality and social norms. It has freaks, weirdos and aliens. Gay people relate to it on that level, just like everyone else who feels like they don't fit in does.

Gay people relate to Buffy's situation of having to keep her "slayer identity" a secret. It doesn't necessarily have to be about gay and lesbian people...just about people going through the same things that gay people can relate to.

If other people can relate to the same things gay people relate to, then perhaps understanding will come out of that. Although, sometimes we hit a wall in the genre with people not wanting gay people to like the same things as them, or not wanting storylines and characters to be "for gay people".

We should be past the point of having to address certain societal issues only through metaphore and allegory.
Or obfuscation, which is why I dislike Andrew and the "is he or is he not gay" question. It's like Pat on SNL, fer pete's sake, and that wasn't funny either.
Has humanity really advanced that far on BSG, or have they just traded one set of prejudices for another?
Hating the machines who recently almost obliterated the entire human race seems a little different than your garden-variety prejudice to me.

Coronary: straight or gay people that have had massive cardio infarctions probably won't care that much about 'Battlestar Galactica'.
Damn it, when am I going to remember to not read Saje posts with coffee in my mouth?
We should be past the point of having to address certain societal issues only through metaphore and allegory.

True, which is why Willow and Tara actually being a couple and not just sharing significant glances and "doing spells" was so very important. But by the same token, stories will always use metaphors to make a point. The problem is when some things aren't able to be communicated outside of metaphors, because there will always be situations where they should be metaphors, and situations where they shouldn't.
RAH is probably not the best examplar of "gay science fiction"; his characters tended to be straight, with occasional touches of bi-ness, and homosexuality was rare (although there, I admit) and usually not approved of (Andrew Jackson "Slipstick" Libby being the exception, I suppose.) His characters frequently became involved in open or group marriages, though, so the misunderstanding is understandable.

I would have cited Joe Haldeman's Forever War or Ursula K Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness.

(And I was glad to see the "issue" so well handled in Buffy.)

[ edited by htom on 2008-04-08 16:03 ]
Really much of anything in Ursula Le Guin's Hainish cycle, yeah. She's the best example of a scifi writer who's spent a career not just walking through the door, but writing speculatively about everything the door's made of.
Read 'The Left Hand of Darkness' for the first time a few weeks back and though brilliant, it doesn't have an actual gay relationship in there IMO, not as we know it anyway (it's more the metaphorical approach) and even then I read it as more about male/female inequality (regardless of sexuality). 'Forever War' definitely had gay characters though.

I agree with GrrlRomeo that it's a pity if people still feel like they have to represent gayness metaphorically even if I don't mind seeing a metaphorical approach as a deliberate choice (sometimes people can only think about the real thing in the abstract if you abstract them away from the real thing to begin with).
Culinary: If the food's good no one cares who cooked it.
Mortuary: When you're dead, you're dead. Except maybe if you're a Buffyverse character, a cylon, or Starbuck.
Last week, it was The Wire, S1.


I'm glad I'm not the only person who randomly decided to go back and catch up on 'The Wire.' Them's some good viewing.
At the risk of getting a slap on the wrist for drifting totally off-topic, I'd like to add my encouragement to those people considering watching The Wire. It is one of the most amazing shows I have ever seen. The only thing I can really compare it to is Dicken's Bleak House. The first season is like a prologue, and subsequent seasons take in different aspects of the city: the docks, city hall, the schools, the media. The police procedural aspect is really a hook to lure you in: ultimately it is about the city, and how all these different levels and aspects of its society are connected, all equally trapped and ultimately crushed by the institutions they inhabit. For anyone curious about this show, I cannot recommend highly enough this interview with show creator David Simon by the novelist Nick Hornby.

Myself, I've just started to watch Deadwood after all the praise it got here. Wow. Just wow.
When Jane came to WonderCon last year and remarked that she thought the Felix character from "Battlestar Galactica" was likely to be gay, I about fainted from my chair. I have such a crush on Felix! *swoons*
Corralary - when writers find a way to work in a scene with horses chasing a Winnebago.

Carellary - Six Degress of Kevin Bacon with the star of "The Office," American version.
Speaking of Admiral Cain and Gina in BSG:Razor (spoiler alert):

No wonder Joss loves BSG. It's HIS kind of story-telling (i.e. the good, twisted kind).

[ edited by quantumac on 2008-04-08 19:11 ]
I actually find David Simon interviews really hard to take. That man sure is self-satisfied. And while I agree the Wire is wonderful, it's hard for me to sign on fully to a T.V. show that is so thoroughly not interested in women. I know: there's Kima Greggs, so there's one woman. But I just finished watching the third season, and so far she appears to be the only female character who isn't a love interest for a more-important male character. So yeah: David Simon is a genius, but he's also basically the anti-Joss in some ways that irritate me.

But to The Wire's credit, it shows that you don't have to set a show in an alternate universe to have prominently-featured gay characters.
Budgetary - when writers find a way to work in a scene involving an attack by a small Australian parrot. Oops, no, that's Budgiary.
Budgetary: when there isn't enough money left for more CGI, and everyone suddenly remembers that real parrots are cheaper and also look better.
But I just finished watching the third season, and so far she appears to be the only female character who isn't a love interest for a more-important male character.<

Weird. I just started on the fourth season, too. But, yeah, sometimes it can be a little sexist, like when they take a break from the series' gritty tone to show Greggs in an extremely graphic sex scene. Kinda off-putting.
whirlygirl: I think you're being a little unfair on The Wire (although only a little, I do take your point). Apart from Kima Greggs, Rhonda Perlman is a major character in all five seasons; Snoop is introduced in season three and is a fairly major character in seasons four and five; Avon's mother Brianna is a fairly important character in at least the first three seasons, and has a small role in the fourth as well; Beadie Russell is a major character in season two and has small roles in seasons three and four and returns to a more substantial role in season five; Tommy Carcetti's right-hand in his mayoral campaign is Theresa D'Agostino; the reporter Alma Gutierrez is a major character in season five. I could go on. You're right that the world depicted in The Wire is something of a man's world, but to say that the females are just love-interests for the male characters seems pretty harsh to me.
QuanticoMVP: the sex scenes in The Wire have never struck me as gratuitous; and to be fair there is actually more male nudity than there is female. There are more, and more explicit, sex scenes of Omar than any other character.
Just an afterthought to my previous two comments: it is possible that The Wire is just portraying Baltimore as it actually is. It is supposed to be grittily real. Maybe most of the drug gangs, and the police force, and city hall, are predominantly male. The Wire would be no more endorsing that than it is the brutal violence it also portrays. After all, in The Wire it is also the case that the overwhelming majority of drug dealers are black. Is there something suspect about that too? I suspect that in that particular part of Baltimore that's just the way it is.
Just an afterthought to my previous two comments: it is possible that The Wire is just portraying Baltimore as it actually is.


Yup. There are no women in Baltimore. They were all expelled from the city in 1992.

First of all, the show's producers *chose* which aspects of the city to focus on. If they only focus on the male-dominated ones, that was a choice. And second of all, as I understand it, season four is set in the public schools and still overwhelmingly focuses on male teachers and students. I have a friend who taught in an inner-city Baltimore school, and I have it on her authority that there are some women and girls there.

I'll stop, because this is off topic. But it's a real sore spot for me. It drives me nuts that people praise that show so much without even noticing what seems to me to be a huge oversight in it.
Dana5140 - Buy the BSG miniseries first and then think about going onto Series 1. It sets everything up beautifully.

Re: Heinlein. Heinlein drives me crazy.

His stories always seem to involve two principle male characters: a wiley older scientist type who is intellectual yet of the spank-the-waitress breed of man, and a young naive attractive man who looks up to and gains knowledge from him. Somehow these men end up surrounded by women who are stunningly attractive and "fiercely" intelligent, with particular strengths in science and maths. For some reason these women worship the two men and insist on working tirelessly for them and servicing either or both of them sexually with nothing in return but smacked arses and being talked to like donkeys. By the end of the book it appears the only thing that didn't stay for the concluding orgy was the plot. Heinlein doesn't write ordinary women, plain women, stupid women, complex women or women who are not enraptured by the idea of sleeping with him his male characters.

I have a bee in my bonnet about Heinlein.
I have a bee in my bonnet about Heinlein.

If you lift your bonnet perhaps it will fly away?

There are those who see his work that way. I don't see it that way, and wonder if it comes from the selection of works read. You could start with Starship Troopers, which does have a en passant female character. Glory Road has several females who faun over the hero, but none of them are there at the end.

Perhaps it is just that he was writing to (at that time) a young male audience.
Being a female and smoking cigars and punching your superior officer makes you gay or quasi-lesbian? Really? I'm longing for the day where a tough, real female can just be a tough female.
Boy, you should work where I do. I am surrounded by tough, intelligent women. My boss is a woman who succeeded in a male dominated world (clinical research), and most of the scientists I work with are female- top biostatisticians, clinical trialists, and health services researchers. They are truly bright and really tough. Just saying.
Confusionary: straight people that discover they're actually bi may or may not like either programmes that aren't necessarily about non-bi people or programmes that are about non-gay people that haven't yet realised they may or may not be either bi or non-bi or neither.


Clarity: everyone's a little bit bi.
Clarety: including vampires.
Can't say as I have been following this thread too closely, having been much more involved in a paperclip discussion. Anyhoo, drove by and saw the recent comments. My mother was a tough old broad, who did just fine careerwise. Made more money than my dad. Raised me to believe I could do whatever I wanted. Seems to me it starts with us. Kinda what I'm trying to pass on to my daughter.
Tabz: Lesbians like Starbuck because she's butch and she bends the female gender role. Lesbians bend the gender role by default just by being attracted to and dating women (regardless if they're "femme" or "butch"). Thus, lesbians identify with Starbuck even though she is straight. This doesn't make Starbuck, or lesbians, any less of a "real female".

It's just like how gay men admire women divas...only different.
Clarety: including vampires.

Claretification: but only those that drink red wine.
Hmmm, looks like LGBT is firmly replacing GLBT; I guess because it's harder to pronounce as a word and so the letters and what they stand for are thought to be less l;ikely to get lost.

Dana5140;Sure, at elast you've *got* a bank account....

crossoverman MattK viragonaut; Secondaryu corrolary; Major characters can be gay in stories that aren't about it.

Saje - soemthing about this should be addressed to you but I forget what.

Sunfire -SM Stirling uses quite a few lesbian characters (altho maybe he does it for the same reasons I do, so it might not count) and some gay males as well.
DCA- metaphorically, any way. :-)
DaddyCat...it's actually the opposite. LGBT came first (after LGB), GLBT is a localized variant in parts of the US and Australia. Lesbians coined the acronym because they didn't feel "gay" was inclusive. I'm personally not picky about the terminology. I'd rather say queer or gay than the acronym, but whatever the kids are saying these days.
Interesting, GrrrlRomeo, I didn't realise it was coined by lesbians. But LGBT is easier to say as letters, but "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual" is more gramatically correct when written out in full.

But I also champion the term queer - although that's still not widely used in Australia, except in the perjorative sense.
This is something we have to deal with.
That Huffington Post article was interesting in parts but distinctly reachy in others IMO.

The idea behind Kirk's attachments is a classic naval fiction trope, on one hand he has "a girl in every port" but on the other his first love is the "sea", his ship and his crew (presumably because the authors of those stories - either intuitively or consciously - have grasped the idea that someone that effectively isolates themselves from society for months or even years at a time within a highly controlled "cocoon" may have "issues" ;) there's nothing unique to 'Star Trek' about it, even within sci-fi (it's developed even further in 'The Next Generation' with Picard, the nigh asexual "philosopher king" but 'Firefly' most definitely played with the same dual ideas of freedom wrapped up in a quagmire of the psyche). So why aren't paedophiles attracted to Hornblower or the Jack Aubrey novels ? Or are they, but it's just easier to have a pop at 'Star Trek' ? Either way, light seems to be giving way to heat and/or some sort of agenda.

(the "misfits accepted" notion makes much more sense though - all cult fandoms, owing to their nature, tend to attract fringe dwellers of whatever stripe)

Claretification: but only those that drink red wine.

FYI barboo, FYI ;-).
Roddenberry explicitly had the Hornblower series in mind when he created the original Star Trek, so it's hardly surprising that it should include those particular navel fiction elements. Apparently, Picard was even more specifically modeled on the character of Hornblower.

Saje, Re: clarety. Very nice. But as a Yank I had no idea.
Of the two acronyms, I think LGBT is slightly easier to read than GLBT, mainly because my first impression of the latter is still that the topic under discussion is grilled lettuce-bacon-tomato sandwiches (which I don't even eat!) :)

Although I know the term has been adopted by the LGBT community, I'm old enough that "queer" still sounds to me like the epithet it used to be. Indeed, I'm unclear as to whether this word is now acceptable for common usage, or if it's one of those terms that's acceptable if used within the community, but highly negative if used by someone not of the community, even if the intent is friendly.
Reminds me of bootcamp, when the DI asked "Private, are you gay?" and I replied "SIR, the private tries to be so, SIR!" "!!! Lieutenant!" {mumbled conversation I didn't hear}

LT: Private, what does "gay" mean to you?
Me: SIR, "happy" or "joyful", SIR
LT: Any other, different, meanings?
Me: (after a pause) SIR, Green And Yellow, SIR!
LT: What does that refer to, Private?
Me: SIR, an group of Oscar Wilde's friends who would wear green and yellow ribbons, SIR!
LT: Do you know that he was a homosexual?
Me: SIR, Yes, SIR!
LT: Why do you think that he and his friends wore those ribbons?
Me: SIR, the private does not know, SIR!
LT: Guess.
Me: SIR, as a political expression of protest against his trial, SIR!
LT: Where did you learn about the Green And Yellow society?
Me: SIR, History of Theatre class, SIR!
LT: Oh. Private, are you homosexual?
Me: SIR, No, SIR!
LT: For your information, some people think that "gay" is a synonym for homosexuality. Carry on.
Me: SIR, YES, SIR!
It's just like how gay men admire women divas...only different.

I've always been slightly puzzled by that one. I initially thought the comment in the article about Starbuck being a lesbian icon was just the writer being lazy and relying on stereotypes, but GrrrlRomeo's explanation seems to make sense. By blurring gender roles whilst still being undeniably female, Starbuck is a heroic figure for many people.

But I'm not really sure why there is this stereotype of gay men loving female stars like Madonna, Kylie Minogue and glamorous actresses from old films. It definitely doesn't work in the same way Starbuck does, because most of these women are unmistakeably, perhaps, resolutely female and heterosexual. Perhaps it's just a sign of how gay men are generally very respectful and appreciative of women, often moreso than heterosexual men? I'd genuinely be interested to know.
But I'm not really sure why there is this stereotype of gay men loving female stars like Madonna, Kylie Minogue and glamorous actresses from old films.

It's a stereotype if you generalize it to all gay men. But there is a trend of certain female stars having a very strong gay male following. Likewise for lesbians with physically tough female characters like Starbuck. The gay press can be rather annoying in that it often reinforces stereotypes. There's sort of a back and forth between true identity and stereotypes in these kinds of articles.

I don't think gay men are necessarily respectful of women, but I am not familiar with any general trends one way or the other. I think it more has to do with a strong identification with a person's life and style than anything else. Judy Garland's usually described as having struggled in a way that gay men of her era and since really identified with. There's some stuff on Wikipedia about gay icons, with articles on specific examples and some interesting links, if you want to go questing.
I don't think gay men are necessarily respectful of women, but I am not familiar with any general trends one way or the other.

Well, I think gay men are respectful of women - for two reasons. 1) Women are generally more respectful of gay men than heterosexual men are and 2) Women have suffered thousands of years of oppression based on their gender and gay men identify with that because of their sexuality.
DaddyCatALSO:
crossoverman MattK viragonaut; Secondaryu corrolary; Major characters can be gay in stories that aren't about it.


IIRC, Neil Gaiman said one of the major characters of Neverwhere was gay, but he refuses to say who because it's not relevant to the plot. Just thought I'd mention an example of this, though I'm not sure if anyone is still reading this thread.
Thing is I've been saying in my head "gillbett" for about 6 years now and mentally switching to "lagbitt" will take some time and "brainsweat."

If I ever finish and sell my s creenplay, the subplot will be an example of my corrolary; Kim and Sue could as easily, for plot functions, be Kim and Stu or Kyle and Sue but they very very much aren't in terms of presentation. And the main plot isn't a romantic, political, or social-role one either.
Well, I think gay men are respectful of women - for two reasons. 1) Women are generally more respectful of gay men than heterosexual men are and 2) Women have suffered thousands of years of oppression based on their gender and gay men identify with that because of their sexuality.

I agree with your general point, but I'm making the distinction that it's not necessarily true. For many gay men, yes. I expect maybe even for most. And I do understand why. But not all. I've met exceptions. Gender and sexuality don't necessarily correspond or interact in expected ways. And one kind of oppression doesn't necessarily engender appreciation for another because people are complicated and can be quite contradictory. I've met women who are systematically disrespectful of other women, for example. They're exceptions, of course, but I think we can all be a bit misogynist every now and then. I don't assume that gay men respect women any more than I assume that women do. But I do expect that a gay man or a woman is likely to.

Addendum: necessarily necessarily necessarily necessarily.

[ edited by Sunfire on 2008-04-10 03:06 ]
Oh, of course, Sunfire. We can't make generalisations, because there's always exceptions to the rule. But to get to the heart of why gay men like Divas, I think that's a good starting point.
Shapenew: What do you think of homosexual though? I'm guilty of using it even though I know it's considered derrogatory.

The thing with using LGBT within the community is that there are people who identify as something other than L G B or T. So, I just go with queer because you can't just keep adding letters. Plus it avoids the issue of splitting hairs over whether someone (like a fictional character) is lesbian/gay or bi or pan...which at the end of the day shouldn't really matter. (i.e. The character is queer. End of story and argument.)

On divas as gay icons: I think it's tempting to see it as...divas are flamboyant (as are gays). That's a stereotype, and like most stereotypes is over simplified. I don't think that's the root of it. I think it's that divas are unapologetic and unashamed of who they are in the face of rumors and criticism. This attracts gay fans, and usually when a diva learns of her gay fans she extends her uhmm...unashamedness? to her gay fans.

IOW gay icons aren't ashamed to have gay fans and be part of the gay culture as an icon, and in fact sees the gay community as a viable commercial target audience (sometimes to the chagrin of the mainstream audience).

Sometimes straight actors and musicians become gay icons because they risk doing something that could be detrimental to their career, cause them to be labeled gay themselves, or get gay bashed. i.e. playing a gay character, doing a gay friendly song or video....writing awesome lesbian characters... It's becoming less and less risky, although the AFA still floods the FCC with complaints when they catch wind of something gay in the airwaves.

Disclaimer: the above is a generalization and not always true.

I've met exceptions. Gender and sexuality don't necessarily correspond or interact in expected ways.

Example: gay men aren't necessarily respectful of lesbians (and vice versa). We have issues. Certain gay writers and producers are often criticized for neglecting lesbian characters. And there's a rather scathing song by Amy Ray (lesbian musician) about Jann Wenner (now openly gay and the founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine). One would assume that these two groups would automatically be supportive of each other, but often are not.

ETA: Generalization isn't the same as stereotype. Generalizations have exceptions, stereotypes don't. In general =/= always. If you never generalize, then you risk not seeing the forest for the trees...and endless splitting of hairs ensues.

[ edited by GrrrlRomeo on 2008-04-10 04:21 ]
Cautionary: one should be as wary of making unsupported generalizations about gays as about any other category of human.

Canaryary: when they replace the real parrots with real canaries because they're even cheaper.
You have to make a generalization before you can figure out whether or not it is ever true, how often it is true and whether it is true enough times to matter (is it a common trend?).
Cock[up]nerary: of a joke that depends on knowing Cockney slang to work ;).

Canneryary: when they replace the real Canaries with the tinned variety because they last longer.

You have to make a generalization before you can figure out whether or not it is ever true ...

I agree with that GrrlRomeo though I still think care's required. It's great, for instance, to sit and calmly discuss the "generalisation" that gay men are respectful of women (though how we can actually come to any real truth is beyond me - we can sit and swap anecdotes all day, that doesn't make it true. Anyone here know all gay men so we can check who's in the majority ? And in a survey, who's going to say they don't respect women ?). Problem comes when you start to discuss less kind and fluffy "generalisations", that's when heat > light.

Also, some generalisations are damaging just by existing, whether they're true of a particular individual or not. 'Stereotype threat' evidence suggests that black students score worse on standardised tests than a control group just because they've been told that their intelligence is being measured (and they're clearly aware of the "generalisation" that black students do worse than white students on standardised tests).

(don't agree about "stereotype" vs "generalisation" though, I think that's just a matter of negative associations - "stereotype" has "not always true" built into it every bit as much as "generalisation" does, it's just that "stereotype" is more often applied to nasty stuff)
Saje: No one can know all people. That's why we do the generalization thing. A survey or study is done on a sample, and the result is a generalization.

Do all black students score worse on standarized tests? Probably not. It just happens often enough that we recognize there's a problem. It would be just as damaging to point to the exceptions as evidence that there isn't a problem, because then we can't fix it.

A positive generalization can be a problem if we never see the exceptions.

A negative generalization helps us to see that there is a problem that needs to be addressed and concentrating on the positive exceptions prevents us from addressing the problem.

The latter tends to irk me the most.
Airyfairey - unsupported generalizations about the good qualities of a particular subgroup of the population.

Renfairey - Willow getting a little carried away with her wardrobe.
Canaryfairey: doesn't mean anything, it just rhymes ;-).

It would be just as damaging to point to the exceptions as evidence that there isn't a problem, because then we can't fix it.

My point is, while the generalisation itself exists, we can't fix it GrrlRomeo. It's sort of self-fulfilling. The bigger point being, it's not, as you're saying, just a matter of creating a generalisation and testing it for factual accuracy because the act of generalising itself isn't neutral towards individuals, whether the generalisation in question actually is true or not.

I think it's also true to say that (to generalise ;) most people don't adopt generalisations as a sort of hypothesis they're then going to test in a rigorous fashion (even indirectly), most people do it out of laziness/necessity as a way of short-circuiting the decision/judgement process. It might be an interesting experiment to list the generalisations (good and bad) that you hold about different groups and then tick every one that you've actually researched in reference books or read studies for (assuming there are any) or even consciously checked anecdotally.

I guess fundamentally i'm saying, we all do it, we even need to do it to deal with the world around us BUT even creating a generalisation has consequences, especially if it becomes widely known. Plus, I often don't see the usefulness. What does it mean when you meet a gay man if statistically he's supposed to respect women (whatever that even means) ? Bugger all IMO because you should still judge him as an individual.
Canaryfairey: doesn't mean anything, it just rhymes ;-).


A gay man from the London Docklands?

:-)

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