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Forum #1:Dealing with Stereotypes

  • What stereotype does the culture associate with your looks? 
  • How often do people project that stereotype onto you? Does it happen more in particular situations?
  • Do you find yourself behaving any differently in order to avoid provoking the stereotype?
  • What skills do you use to break through the stereotype and show up as your real self?

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Your comments so far:

"I always find it amazing the different stereotypes that people can thrust upon you as a large woman. I have had people assume I am a lesbian (or geezer bird as the wonderful phrase is in the south of England), macho, scary, motherly or stupid. I think that all large people need congratulating for having to gain the quick wittedness to identify what is being assumed about you and counter it! "

Fat=Lack of self control...
Prejudice against overweight people is the last totally acceptible prejudice."

"I have unfortunately discovered that a lot of people in our
world must believe that fat women have no feelings and that
we must not mind being the butt of jokes and the recipients of
unwelcome, often crude and cruel comments.
Guess what world, we do hear you and the comments and they
do hurt. We do have feelings! As a very large woman, I often work hard to go above and beyond at work, god forbid I fit into the "lazy" fat person stereotype.  I also have observed that there are people who don't think that we deserve or would at least like some of the same consideration
offered to our thinner peers. Having someone hold the door for us,
offering assistance when our bag of groceries breaks and spills all over
the parking lot, when we are stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire or broken down car. I am not saying that I would expect that kind of treatment<but it would be nice< every now and then. I do that for others, and before when I wasn't fat, I got that kind of civilized treatment.

"The stereotype that Australian culture projects onto my looks is that I'm going to be the standard miserable, unattractive fat chick. That I overeat, underexercise, and that I spend all day sitting in front of the screen trying to drown my sorrows in the daytime soapies. Oh, and apparently I'm hideously unattractive to men... Well, close, anyway. Yes, I'm fat. Yes, I actually *do* suffer from depression, which can make me miserable at times (the size comes from the depression, not vice versa). Yes, I do tend to under-exercise. And yes, I do spend all bloody day in front of a screen - a computer screen. I work in IT, it'd be surprising if I could avoid it. People try and project this stereotype on me, and offer me the latest "wonder diet". At this point, the stereotype shatters, because I tend to tell them rather bluntly that I'm not interested. Having spent the 10 years of my life between the ages of 13 and 23 yo-yo dieting (to the point where I've now got a thyroid condition which was brought on early by it), I know that for me, dieting does not work. I do find myself behaving in certain ways to avoid getting stereotyped - for example, I'll try not to eat in public a lot of the time. If I do eat, it will either be "defiant eating" - everything plus extra fat - or "compliant eating", where I eat as little as possible, and most of it salad. I'm trying to get over this.  Most of the time, I try and break through the stereotype of "fat chick" by banging people over the head with a different one - "geek chick". I'm good with computers, I like playing around with them, and nothing blows the minds of the standard bitchy types quite so much as seeing me sitting there reading a computer magazine, completely oblivious to the comments about my looks. *evilgrin* "

"I'm in my 30s but because I'm small and look young for my age, people mistake me for a student. I try to carry myself in a confident way, talk more confidently and to be polite to try and seem older.

"I'm a college student and I'm not thin at all. Weighing
180 pounds makes me look totally different from nearly
all of my classmates. My advice to people my age who look
a little bit different or bigger: AVOID meat market style
pick-up bars. When I go out to dance, "competing" with
tank-top girls is just way too depressing. And alchohol
in your system makes you twice as depressed...It's a
totally unhealthy/un-helpful/negative cycle. If you do
go out to a place like that, wear your dancing shoes
and dance as strange and joyfully as you can because you're
there to please yourself and your dancing craving, NOT
the diet friendly crowd. "

"I find it interesting that at 5'10 and 230, people ask me all the time either a) when my baby is due or b) how old my baby is. I have no children and there are no outward indications (other than my weight ?) that a baby is part of my life. I don't think I look pregnant, and I find it amazing that people all over -- in stores, etc. seem to have no problem in just flat out asking me these things. Then, when I say No, I'm not pregnant and no, I don't have children, there's this weird silence, because they look like they don't believe me. It's really annoying. The clothes that I wear are not maternity looking, and I really haven't figured it out, but it happens pretty regularly. I just figure if they are ignorant enough to say that to someone who is not wearing a shirt with an arrow pointing to her stomach, that's their problem. But it does mystify me."

"I am a fat woman in mathematics and physics. I also have a learning difference that is labeled "profoundly gifted". My learning difference is real, just as my body is real. Though it is not superior or inferior. And this is the attitude that I have towards my body as well. I am who I am. I take up the space I take up. And I am not inferior or superior because of it. . .
The good news is the male professors have not integrated disordered eating into their attitudes about learning. And me being a fat woman is almost an advantage with them. They assume I know my stuff because I'm so "ugly" I couldn't have slept my way here.  .  . I've joined a woman's group and met many wonderful women of all sizes . . . I will be going back to graduate school and taking my rightful place in my field. And in the end I'm glad that they threw all this crap at me. Now I know what all the obstacles look like. I worked hard to survive so that someday I can go back and then I will be so grown, so knowledgeable in the material, so strong in my own self image, so experienced in my resume, that there is nothing they can do to stop me."

"Our culture thinks heavier people are not qualified to be picked for the job. I see it all the time--people who are well qualified for a position such as teacher's aide--rejected because they're too heavy or not dressed like the interviewer. I've had people tell me that heavier people can't wear their blouses tucked in. I wear them how I feel most comfortable." 

"A stereotype that I have often encountered is that Fat=Out of Shape. I enrolled in a weight-lifting class in school, and I caught some of the disparaging looks I got as I walked into the room full of male football players and female long-distance runners. I proceeded to go over to the squat rack, load an additional 205 lbs. to the 45 lb. bar and do ten low squats in perfect form. The looks on their faces were priceless! And it only got better when I walked over to the bench press station!!"

"Well all through grade school I wore jeans and t-shirts mostly and liked to do guy things. Many kids felt that I was strange and didn't like me. I liked hunting, fishing, wrestling, and all kinds of sports. Plus I have always been fat and I love to keep my hair really short. In grammar and middle school people picked on me because I was fat and I got in a lot of fights because of that. As I got into high school I got to be referred to as a lesbian. I tried to explain that I wasn't gay but no one listened. So I finally ignored it. I still have my hair short and wear the same type of clothes. It seems to me if your to be looked upon as very feminine you have to be a skinny bean pole with long hair and keep your mouth shut. Well I'm sorry that is not me, it never has and never will be me."

"Breaking thru the prejudice. This is the hardest thing. I find that I have to work harder to get my point across. People don't give you the time of day and you have to do your job twice as good to get half the recognition. : (

"What stereotype? I will tell you: fat=unworthiness. I am not tremendously overweight, but I am a plus size person, about a size 16-18 or so. However, this affects me greatly--via other's stereotypes being projected onto me. I recently went to a personals website and was reading through them and I saw one that disturbed me. It was a statement that is against not just me personally, but all overweight people. This man actually put a personal ad out that said "Not to be mean or anything, but I think I need to explain something to you. First of all, it is common knowledge amongst men that big women have to settle for less. Our society is based on the assumption that thin is GOOD and fat is BAD. So if you want responses to your ad, you will have to drop all the requirements and just be glad someone is responding." And this is a direct quote. This is just one example of the kind of cruelty and prejudice that an overweight person has to deal with."

"I have very short hair, don't use makeup or perfume, and wear fairly not "pretty girly" clothes. Plus, I kickbox - curves & muscle on a tallish frame. I'm prettyish and I like the way I look, but it seems (particularly when I'm not smiling) that at the very least, people think I'm making a statement about being "macho"; most assume that I'm a rabid feminist or a lesbian. None of which assumptions bother me in themselves, but that they exist at all does irritate me. All the hair magazines describe short cuts as "soft and feminine", or "gamine" - the message is what? you can cut your hair short, but you have to be gentle
or androgynously waify to be a woman. A few get "edgy/spiky" - usually on a celebrity - and I've never seen "sexy" applied to any of them. Anyway, pet peeve this (!), as I just like having my hair short cos it's dead easy to look after & it suits me.  No statement. No lesbian, hard girl, militant feminism going on here. BUT - I do find myself being very aware when I'm 
reading motor racing magazines, or anything to do with science/engineering, and so on.... I sometimes try to play up the "feminine" angle so as not to scare off potential boyfriends. Pathetic, but true. Otherwise, I walk tall, try to smile more & make sure that I look smart. And if strangers think my looks unfeminine, so be it."

"I used to be overweight, then lost it all by binging and purging. I realize I hate people assuming they know all about you, merely by looking at you. We need to stop forming snap judgments and look below the surface."

"I'm 30 years old, 5 ft 3 and 270 pounds. I have been heavy my whole life. Just mere minutes ago I had a very devastating ordeal. I'm hoping in posting this that it will make me strong right now because I need it. I met a guy online that I really liked, and that I thought liked me. Well, at least he acted like he did. We've been talking on the phone for a week now. Constantly. . . I sent him a picture of me. I don't pretend to be a size 6 when I'm online. He said I was really pretty. I sent him some more pics and he told me I was very beautiful and that he was really starting to like me. (I've been told my whole life that I had a beautiful face...I'm sure alot of you can relate) I was so happy that he said that because i was really starting to like him too. We were planning to meet tomorrow in person and go to the movies. Tonight on the phone he started asking questions. Personal ones. . .He asked if I wore a thong and I laughed and said "CHYAAA, RIGHT!" He was confused why I would think that was such an odd question. When I said "you know I'm heavy and cant wear a thong, silly". Well....he acted like I had just told him that I was a bag of puss or something. He was hesitant as he asked "how heavy?". When I told him...he told me that there was no way we could meet because there was no way in hell he'd be attracted to me. So this person who was falling in love with me over the phone...suddenly became repulsed. What I  have yet to understand is....why would someone reject someone who wants to treat them like gold and love them...just because they don't look like pamela anderson? I'm totally devastated because we really hit it off. Too bad I'm the wrong size. Well, I guess what goes around comes around. Maybe he'll meet someone as shallow as him."

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"When i was young i was really skinny but as soon as i hit puberty i got bigger in my chest, hips and bottom. Why does everyone assume because you've got big hips or bigger boobs that you're fat?  I'm sick and tired of seeing all these girls in the magazines and on music videos with no hips and no butt! Hips are what make us female - let's get some girls in these magazines and videos that look like it. Not all guys like girls that are really skinny. Get with the times, their stereotypical ways are overwith  - girls should no long live ashamed of there bodies!"

"I'm only seventeen years old and I have been fat my whole life. I've noticed that there is a big double standard for girls and guys when it comes to weight. When people see me they automatically think that I should be depressed or that I'm stupid or slow or something. I've actually heard girls say "Gosh I'd kill myself if I was that fat". But when it's a guy people always say he's just husky and that he'll grow out of it when he gets taller or they suggest that he play football."

"The more I think about stereotypes, the more I realize that I judge those smaller than me as much as they judge me for my size. Being about 15 pounds 'overweight' (by society's standards) makes me feel like I have something to prove, and when I walk into a room with thinner women, I don't feel like I equal up. No matter how dressed up I am or how great my face and hair may look, I am so unsure about my body that I forget everything else that might be attractive. I hate feeling that way. I'm realizing that I need to stop judging others for their bodies, big or small, if I don't want to feel judged for mine."

"Stereotypes are very difficult for me because I work in the entertainment industry. I am not the stereotypical "thin" female & this scares me. It scares me because I know that agents want their actresses to be thin. --It shows up better on camera, you know! Well, I just want to be ME. If MY own personal "ideal" weight is 150 pounds (which I feel it is) & I'm only 5' 2", why should this affect how many parts I end up getting as an actress? My TALENT should determine the roles that I get, yet sadly I know that most of the time it won't. Not yet. Not until more actresses decide to accept their unique sizes & shapes & audition no matter what the stereotypes may be. It's scary. This is what I want to do with my life, yet one stereotype is keeping me at a stand still...I'm just dying to find a way around this stereotype not only for myself, but for all of the other talented actresses who don't weigh 100 pounds."

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"That when my body was thinner, other women (some who also were thin but percieved themselves as fat and me as thin) couldn't believe that I felt insecure about my body."

"As a 6 foot tall, 230 pound woman, I'm affected by many stereotypes.  One is that I am lazy. One is that I am slow. One is that I must eat "tons" of food daily.  Another, mostly from men, is that I'm "easy." To avoid these ideas, I tend to be careful about what I eat and how I move in public.  I know I shouldn't feel the need to do this, but I do. As far as the "easy" part, that is very "easy" to disprove!"

"Try being a goth and fat. . . Not only does "normal" society judge you for your looks, so do the people you identify with most. I've come to see the fickleness of the whole thing .  . Basically I stand up to it by still enjoying myself as much as I can in spite of feeling awful because of the nastiness of these people."

"People stereotype me as someone who has everything she needs, when in reality, I feel empty. People look at me and think I have no struggle with my appearance and no struggle evaluating my abilities to achieve things, such that when I DO ACHIEVE things, others will respond "oh yeah, of course you did." there is generally no celebration for the path I take, just that I was expected to arrive where I did. 
    I ask for praise because people think I don't need it. I hate asking for it all the time, but sometimes I just really need to hear it. Nobody tells me I'm pretty anymore because as a friend told me, "You're too pretty. If people told you what you already know, you'd get a big head." And beyond appearance, it all seems the same; when do others actually talk to you directly about a time when you were funny, when you were so quick-witted, when you were friendly and patient?
    I am trying to show up as my real self by disallowing people from always making me feel like I have to be the motivator of the group. I am showing up angry when I am, sad when I am, and frustrated when I am...rather than always fulfilling the way that others want me to be....I would really like to (in the words of Ani DiFranco) "make noise" and feel okay about it."

"I asked my father what stereotype our culture associates with my "looks" and my father replied (with a grin), "Young grunge-hippie girl." Hmm. I am not conscious of what other people think of me, not usually anyway. I found it difficult to be a young girl, for awhile, and can remember being labeled a "dyke" in high school, but it never bothered me much. In fact, I got a kick out of being a "dyke" and found it rather rather amusing. 
My best friend and I spent a day, once, in high school, wearing halter tops with our bellies marked in felt pen, "I am not a lesbian" and our backs marked, "And neither is she." We then proceeded to spend the day holding hands and necking in the halls. Needless to say, we were called into the vice principal's office, and admonished for our "inappropriate" behaviour. We made a convincing argument though, pointing out that it was no more appropriate for our peers to harass us constantly. A little while later our school brought in a guest speaker to talk to the students about gay and lesbian rights. It actually helped a lot and has become a yearly event now. All grade eight students get the same lecture. 
     I dislike being dismissed and invalidated. If I have a complaint, say I didn't like something at a restaurant, I find that the management, particularly if older and male, will dismiss me and my complaint... I hate this. 
     [What skills do you use to break through the stereotype and show up as you real self?]
I am a friendly, pleasant person. I found that I had to learn how to assert myself AND be friendly, simultaneously. A difficult task, to say the least.. Body language was important, too. I used to slouch a lot, and keep my eyes down. I don't do that any longer. Chin up, eyes forward, shoulders squared. I speak calmly and clearly. I maintain eye-contact. 
      I just wanted to add, also, that it's not just women who are stereotyped. My boyfriend is a big man, over six feet and on the heavy side... he is the most gentle, caring man I know, and is pained regularly by the way people fear him for his size. It genuinely hurts his feelings to be thought of as a threat."

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"Being a young woman with very distinct features, I have been associated with many stereotypes because of my looks. Standing 6ft tall, slender with milk chocolate skin and very pretty face, culture will try to associate me with being an air head. I say, try to because it takes but one minute after meeting me before that stereotype quickly shatters. Some of the other stereotypes I have encountered is the assumption that I play basketball or an athletic event of some sort or that I model. Well, I do not do either of the two, at least not at the moment. I find myself trying hard not to have simple and sometimes stupid conversations that we have just because in the company of new acquaintances because I fear that it might provoke the air head stereotype. I make it a point to have only intelligent and stimulating conversations at those times. Of course, with all my t's crossed and dots over my i's. The only skill that I use is being intelligent and being smart. My looks might get people to be interested in me at any point in time, but it is my personality and intelligence that make them respect me and eventually accept me for who I am."

"I am a female erotic photographer/editor... I see and take pictures of couples who want to be photographed, sexy people but what observers have called "unusual" looking. The first thing is that "unusual" looking people are the NORM. The NORM is volumptuous, pear shaped, pointed breasts or whatever.. including very bony in some places in some cases. That gives a body character. The fact that is a photograph is always of a real person who hopefully is putting something of herself/himself into it. What is most erotic about a photograph is what the person brings to it which comes from within and shows in their face and posture. The thing some of my friends who are not into any "scene" don't get is that EVERYONE is sexual, and these (bodacious) women are beautiful and they get to be sexy as well as fat.. as in "I get to." <Anyone who wants to can explore their sexuality by being photographed by a (cool, and that is very! important, cool photographer.) Two of the three people who've ever photographed me were women and the photographs did not objectify me (any more than a photograph is an object... a moment and nothing more), they captured my essence.> It is other women who try to make big women feel bad about being sexy. Okay, I get the traditional oppression of women by the fashion industry.. but in my experience women are the ones tearing other women down. My site is Lemoncream.  PS I dig your site."

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"I really liked what you had to say. If you have a certain idea about yourself, and somebody echoes it you will believe it. However when someone contradicts your belief it bounces of your protective screen. For example if you see yourself as fat and ugly, a comment such as "why don't you try to lose some weight dear" will pierce your heart. While if you perceive yourself as sensual and beautiful and the same comment is uttered, your reaction might be "Why? you poor thing, I'm gorgeous right now."

"It isn't that steriotypes are totally untrue. It is that small bit of truth that can cause us problems. Is it really true that men only like tall skinny women, and women only look at a man's wallet? No, but it is true for some. Many women hate themselves, or punish their bodies because of some ideal body type. Many men feel worthless because of their thin wallets, and ignor the body that could use some care. Both ideas are false. The fact that we can look around and see all types of couples, in all types of combinations doesn't seem to have an impact on the thinking of most people. Having rejected this thinking years ago, my skinny sister-in-law came right out and told me I was fooling myself, and no man, including my husband, couldn't possibly be attracted to me the way I am. 
      I am happy to say she was wrong on both counts. And believe me, neither my husband's body or wallet is the primary attractor, nor what keeps us together. We like each other, have fun, cook and eat together, sing, and raised beautiful children, making their own way in the world. If I had to point to the major thing that attracted me, it would be his voice. A rich baritone, and he sings to me. He was the only man to find that weekness, and the only one to ever get anywhere. And he says I was just so nice and loving he couldn't help himself. "

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"I had to put up with a lot of stereotypes growing up -- not because I'm fat, but because I have a congenital disorder that makes one side of my face look swollen. People often assumed that because I looked the way I do, that I must also be retarded. (Which greatly annoyed me, since my intelligence was the one thing I could cling to to get me through school.) Anyway -- I am also a woman from a family of women with large, beautiful bodies. I spent most of my childhood never thinking I could be beautiful -- so I managed to escape the obsession over weight that plagued my peers. Now I feel that I have been given the gift of a perspective that many girls don't grow up with -- beauty has nothing to do with being thin, or with what people think of you. Unlike other girls, dieting didn't have the potential to 'make me more beautiful'. Now, at 22, I look in the mirror and love who I see, all 175 pounds of me! And I hear my friends and peers complain about how fat they are -- who w!
ere never forced to redefine a definition of beauty they could never conform to. It is possible. I did it. Lynn"

I am a 5'10", 130lb., in shape woman whose friends call me beautiful (I'm at least ok...). I have been bulimic and have had bouts of anorexia for 13 or so of my 29 years and have gotten a good cap on it within the past 2 years. I have had body dysmorphic disorder all of my life. In fact the other two disorders are direct results of this. All of my life people have assumed that I had everything and have given me major attitude, not cool because I lacked even the definition of self esteem until a few years ago. The attitude was because I am thin and decent looking and talI. I can't really complain to anyone because who the hell would listen? Awww... you're thin and tall and have an eating disorder and don't want attitude. Sooo sorrry. Not. I have even had a psychologist who sent me to OA (Overeaters Anonymous) as a support group---well now, that was all kinds of fun! People still project that stereotype onto me. I truly enjoy bucking it whenever possible by being blunt/honest, doing what people expect I cannot do (since it is assumed that someone takes care of me), being outspoken, being (reasonably... not hoochily) sexually open and assertive. I also try not to dress as people would expect me to. I don't dress conservatively or freakily, but definitely exactly how I LIKE to. It surprises me how often people walk up to me and say I like that>dress, coat, hairstyle... it's unique. I never get any wacked out looks, except for people who are so uncreative that their opinion truly does NOT matter. I am an artist and enjoy doing political cartoons, women friendly artwork and fun, unserious artwork that makes you feel alive inside or think. I am really pleased that there are web sites like this one. If you want a smile, go to They kick ass. Also, look at This site is hilarious! I am working on a site myself. I can't wait. :-) "

"Well, for as long as I could remember, I was always short and petite for my age. People made fun of me because I looked so much younger than everyone else. I also got a lot of crap for doing the "wrong" combination of things. In high school, I competitively rode horses, played piano and sung, wrote for the school paper, and played flute in the concert band. To everyone else, that seemed too "nerdy" and I didn't even dress very femininely so it made that even worse...but now that I'm out of high school, I've learned to get over the stereotypes about my height and I am happy with my body. I regularly exercise, but it has nothing to do with a stereotype...I exercise because it keeps me fit and I enjoy it. I still don't wear "girly" clothes and I've almost never worn makeup so I consider myself very fortunate.."

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