Have you heard this before?
"All women just want money. They are the 'gatekeepers,' and use sex as a weapon to control men. They are also 'hypergamous,' and will leave you the moment they find someone better. Whatever you do, beware of women. You would be wise to just steer clear."
In my work as a coach, I regularly encounter men who have the above beliefs firmly ingrained in their Worldview. It's disheartening, because it means that they immediately see 50% of all humans as being so different, so alien, so untrustworthy... that they simply avoid trying to connect with them.
It's especially disheartening because these same men are usually heterosexual - which means that their aversion to women is in direct conflict with their natural biological attraction towards those same women.
I also encounter women who have similar beliefs about men...
"All men just want sex. They will lie to you with declarations of love, and promises of a relationship, just to get sex from you. Once they have had sex with you, they will never call again. Men are like dogs, who want to sleep with every bitch they can find. You can never trust your man around an attractive woman. Around 40 years old, your man will probably have a mid life crisis, buy a sports car, leave you and your kids, and marry his secretary. Whatever you do, beware of men. You would be wise to just steer clear."
How is it possible to develop such a broad interpretation, from a just few experiences?
As of this writing, there are more than 7.6 billion (7,633,977,649) people in the world.
How is it possible for someone convince themselves that all 3.7 billion women, or all 3.8 billion men, are the same, based their experiences with just a few?
From what I can see, this process happens in three phases.
PHASE 1 - Personal Experience. First, almost certainly, these men & women have felt harmed painfully, and more than once, by people of the opposite gender.
PHASE 2 - External Confirmation. This, coupled with experiences that other men or women have shared with them, reinforces their view.
This happens commonly because "like attracts like." When someone experiences a break-up, they'll most likely attract (and be attracted to) other people who have experienced a break up. They understand each other. They can relate, and empathise with each other. The problem is, this becomes an echo chamber. in which a very narrow set of perspectives breed and have no counter-perspectives to challenge and balance them.
We can already see at this point, that critical thinking process has likely become a bit warped, through unbalanced evidence.
Still, at this point everything seems reasonably legit...
"[ I ] have evidence that some women can ( and have ) hurt me. And I have met other men who report similar experiences."
Here's where things often go sideways...
PHASE 3 - Stereotype Bias. Once "enough" information has been gathered from the echo chamber, the mind extrapolates this to create a stereotype.
This final step of over-generalizing our evidence is where critical thinking goes out the window.
So what is a Stereotype Bias?
In social psychology, a stereotype is an over-generalized belief about a particular category of people. Stereotypes are generalized because one assumes that the stereotype is true for each individual person in the category.
There are some interesting things about the Stereotype Bias you might be aware of...
- Typically, we are not part of the groups that we form negative stereotypes about.
For example, if you worry a lot about black people stealing your stuff, you probably are not black.
- This is even frequently true for positive stereotypes.
If you think all Asians are good at math, then chances are you are not Asian.
- Stereotypes require homogeneity. They assume that all of the people in that group, sharing that identifiable attribute, are all the same... which is easy to see the fallacy of, because...
Obama doesn't want your car.
How does Stereotype Bias harm us?
Stereotype Bias is the basis for a metric fuck-ton of nasty social problems.. Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, slavery... pretty much any situation where humans separate out a social group, and then treat them differently from - and typically worse than - other humans.
A lot of phobias are based on similarly flawed thinking. Are you afraid of snakes? Only 20% of snake species are actually poisonous. Personally, I'm a bit uncomfortable about spiders, yet far less than 1% of all species are harmful to humans.
Pretty much all of us stereotype subconsciously, to some degree... but most of us don't take it to an extreme level.
As a result, the primary way most of us are affected by our stereotyping of others is Lost opportunity. Good people, and good connections, are a very special part of life. Much of our success in life depends on who we know, and the strength of our social connections.
When we stereotype people negatively, we tend to exclude those people automatically from our world- because, why invest time in them?
The fact is, your judgement about those individuals is likely wrong, and you are only hurting yourself.
Why immasculate your social world by stereotyping?
Challenging Your Stereotype Bias
Challenging your stereotypes is most easily explained through an example.
So, here, I'm going to talk to men for a minute. Specifically, men who see women as dangerous, untrustworthy, manipulative creatures.
From my example above, we had 3 key stereotypes that some men have about women-
- All women just want money.
- They are the 'gatekeepers,' and use sex as a weapon to control men.
- They are 'hypergamous,' and will leave you the moment they find someone better.
Let's walk through a simple exercise to look at this worldview as honestly as possible.
Find the exceptions
First, in order for a stereotype bias to be true, all women must be the same. Do all women you know match these 3 stereotypes? How about your grandma? Your sisters? Your daughter? Mother Teresa?
Most likely you're thinking...
"well Mike, most women have some of these characteristics, but of course there are exceptions."
And I understand that, Your grandma could be the one non-hypergamous woman on the planet. But how many exceptions are we talking about?
How many women have you actually taken the time to know well?
Let's make this even more clear
To make the "data point expansion" fallacy easier to see, let's turn it around. In order for the same stereotype bias to be true about men, all men must be the same.
- All men just want sex.
- All men lie to women with declarations of love, and promises of a relationship, to get sex from women.
- Once men have had sex with a woman, they will never call again.
- Men are like dogs, who want to sleep with every bitch they can find. Women should never any man around another attractive woman.
- Around 40 years old, all man will have a mid life crisis, buy a sports car, leave their wife and kids, and marry their secretary.
So... are you the same as all men?
If a woman stereotypes all men as cheating assholes, does that accurately mean that you must be a cheating asshole too? Do you only want sex from your relationship, and nothing else? If so, why would you ever consider a relationship? Paid sex workers would be so much easier. And probably cheaper, too.
It's easy for our minds to want to take a few emotionally-laden data points, like "the 3 women I've had a close romantic relationship with..." and extrapolate them to "all women." But it's very inaccurate, and unhelpful, to stereotype that way.
Let's put this in perspective...
If 1,000 women totally screwed you over, you'd probably say...
"well then, that's pretty clear evidence that all women will screw me over."
But look at your evidence. If there are 3,783,369,971 women on the planet, then your total sample size equals a whopping...
Yep, that's less than three hundred-thousandths of ONE PERCENT.
So think again.
Harsh life lessons, and why I interpret my experiences differently
Let me share my own personal experiences as an example...
When I look at my life and people who have sought to cause me harm or pain, effectively all of them happen to be women. I have been used, cheated on, lost custody of five (5) kids, and more than $1 million USD, all to women...
Sad, unfortunate, and painful... but true.
... despite this, I've never thought of "women," as a gender, as hurting me - just those specific individuals.
As negative as these experiences were, I never formed a Stereotype Bias towards women.
I think there are four reason why-
- I realised that my experiences were with very few women, and could never be translated meaningfully from "these women" into "all women."
- When I fell off the bike, I picked it up and got back on. It's essential to keep trying towards what you want. If you stop trying, you stop gathering evidence, and now you brain is stuck with a worldview that's based on a handful of imperfect attempts.
- I invested time in looking for proof, exploring relationships and friendships with other women - and I found that most women I meet are pretty freaking awesome. Or, at the very least, not evil. Now, many of my deepest, closest friends... are women.
- In each situation where I experienced pain, I looked deeply for my own part in creating that situation. What was my own part in the failure? In what way was I responsible for this mess? At a minimum, my responsibility including choosing who I had a relationship with, so I definately had something I could improve in myself. And I did just that.
Even with my painful personal experiences involving women, the idea that "all women are dangerous" absolutely cracks me up...
Sure any woman could try to hurt me, but so could any man. The truth is that most women, and most men I meet, are awesome.
If you find yourself fearful or judgmental to an entire group of people, especially if it's based on nothing but a physical characteristic like gender, or race... you owe it to yourself to look deeper.
Find your Stereotype Bias, and unpack it. Look for the exceptions. Keep connecting. Grow.
Build a better world, for yourself, and everyone else.
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More interesting notes on Stereotype Bias, from Wikipedia...
While such generalizations may be useful when making quick decisions, they may be erroneous when applied to particular individuals. Stereotypes encourage prejudice.
On a personal note of interest...
Today, several of my very closest friends, are ex-girlfriends... this tells me something very special, that even when you don't match up with someone romantically, or in terms of lifestyle, or life goals... you may connect very deeply with this person.