Friday, March 14, 2008

Am I a walking stereotype?

I came across an interesting site recently. It's called "Stuff White People Like" and, well, it's a list of things that white people are supposed to all be into.

There are several different ways to approach such a list, many of them resulting in indignant offense. I think, though, that the blog is meant to be approached as observational comedy, and with that in mind it's very entertaining (and sometimes cringeworthy) reading.

One thing I noticed is that the site is written from a very specific angle - that of a white North American male. The list is therefore an interesting mix of racial, cultural and gender-based stereotypes. But is it accurate? I am the daughter of the Whitest Man in EnglandTM, so let's give it a shot and see how many of the items on the list I can relate to.

I've colour coded the list - green for yes, red for no, blue for partial credit, and black when I got confused.

Coffee
Coffee makes me way too jittery. I drink the occasional decaf, but I'm really more of a tea drinker.

Religions their parents don't belong to
Atheism is not a religion, so I'm claiming a no.

Film Festivals
I've been to the occasional festival screening, but not for years and I'm much more likely to watch a DVD than go to the cinema anyway.

Assists
Alien concept in European sports, in which assists are not tracked unless you play in some kind of fantasy league. Which I don't. I do like hockey, but don't care about stats. Just results. (Not too many of those in Vancouver at the moment).

Farmers' Markets
Love the idea, don't go as often as I would like, which is something I plan to change this summer.

Organic Food
Ditto.

Diversity
Yes. Homogeneity is boring, and I should know! I went to a school of about 1500 students, of whom around 1496 were white.

Barack Obama
Yes we can.

Making you feel bad about not going outside
Lots of Vancouverites are very outdoorsy and will make you feel like shite if you didn't spend the weekend fending off bears and cougars. I am outdoorsy-lite. I do like skiing, kayaking and camping, but I enjoy lots of other things too and besides, I'm too lazy to get out there very often. So I will never ever rip on someone who'd rather stay in the city at the weekend.

Wes Anderson movies
Yup. Just watched the Darjeeling Limited. Not as good as the others, but I still enjoyed it!

Asian girls
I think this might be one for the boys.

Non-profit organisations
Work for one, volunteer for a couple more!

Tea
Ooh yes please. Don't forget to warm the pot and put the milk in the cup before the tea. My home and office tea stashes are the stuff of legend and I have my own kettle on my desk at work. I am English after all.

Having black friends
I love having friends, period. I've never had the opportunity to have black friends (in real life anyway, I have no idea about the ethnicity of most of my blog buddies), having lived in predominantly white and / or Asian areas my whole life. But my friends do reflect the ethnic make-ups of the places I've lived in. I guess this is a partial...?!

Yoga
Loved it when I did it, haven't done it for years. Planning to start again.

Gifted children
Don't know really, I don't have kids and don't plan to have any, so I don't really have an opinion on gifted children programmes, having never encountered one in the UK.

Hating their parents
I have some issues with my parents (doesn't everyone?), but nothing major and I certainly don't hate them.

Awareness
I'm more into direct fundraising and research than awareness.

Travelling
I like going abroad, but I'm not a hard-core traveller. I've done my fair share of backpacking around Europe and North America, and I have a long list of wish-list destinations, but you're more likely to find me hanging out in Prague or Madrid than seeking enlightenment in Tibet.

Being an expert in YOUR culture
Not unless YOU are British or Canadian, which doesn't seem to be the point of this entry!

Writers' workshops
I've never done one, but it does actually sound like something I'd enjoy.

Having two last names
Nope. I changed my name when I got married and never even considered hyphenating. (Dunn is a very difficult name to hyphenate anyway - it sounds dodgy whether you put it first or last).

Microbreweries
Yesh, what'sh yer point? *hic*

Wine
Ditto, but I'm not too snobby about it. I'm still a student at heart, I'll drink anything if it's free...

David Sedaris
Yep, he's represented in my book case.

Manhattan (now Brooklyn too!)
Fun for a few days, but NYC scares the bejebus out of me and I always come back completely exhausted.

Marathons
Dear god no. Running was considered a punishment for misbehaviour at my school, and I've never seen a reason to change that mindset. I only run if chasing (e.g. a football) or being chased (e.g. someone who wants to tickle my feet).

Not having a TV
Yeah right. I LOVE my TV. I would never have made it through my PhD without Friends and the Simpsons.

80s night
I went to many an 80s night in University. Hopefully the photos have been destroyed.

Wrigley Field
Huh? (Another one for the white American male).

Snowboarding
Skis all the way, baby. I tried snowboarding once and couldn't even stand up. It's not natural to not be able to move your feet independently of each other.

Vegan/vegetarianism
I like it in principle, just not enough to, y'know, actually do it or anything. I have cut down on my red meat intake and started to cook more meat-free meals though.

Marijuana
Um, no officer, never ever ever. (OK, maybe once or twice a year. Fun while kayaking).

Architecture
I know what I like, but I don't really know the first thing about it.

The Daily Show / Colbert Report
I wasn't too keen on the Colbert Report when it first started, but now it's actually my favourite of the two. There's hope for America yet ;)

Breakfast Places
Ooh yeah. My favourites being the Cuban place near our old apartment and the Caribbean place near our house. A regular feature of our weekends.

Renovations
It's coming... at the moment we're just constantly patching up the raccoon-inflicted damage to our roof.

Arrested Development
...was indeed awesome. Sadly missed.

Netflix
Who what? This is something to do with movie downloads, right?

Apple Products
I don't own a single one. I went for a Sony MP3 player just to be different (it's crap, but Mr E Man likes his higher-end Sony), and I almost, but not quite, went for the Mac instead of the PC last year. So this No is really a Not Yet, Maybe When This One Dies.

Indie Music
Of the British variety, yes. I'm a wee bit out of date these days though.

Sushi
It's a Sunday night fixture at our place! Japanese tourists apparently rave about the quality and price of Vancouver's sushi. Yum.

Plays
Meh, I can take them or leave them. I usually go if invited, but I never instigate a trip to the theatre (the one exception was when I won some tickets to the Reduced Shakespeare Company, which was fun). I prefer opera actually, if I can say that without sounding too, well, white or anything!

Public Radio
No, unless you count BBC radio when I'm in the UK, but the context is very different to that of public radio in the US.

Asian Fusion Food
Probably. I'm not sure if I've ever had it, but I do like most Asian food.

The Sunday New York Times
Our local paper runs the Sunday New York Times crossword on Saturdays, which we do religiously, but that's the only part of it I've ever read.

Arts Degrees
BSc Genetics, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1998.
The site says, "But what about the white people who study Science, Engineering or Business? Unless they become doctors, they essentially lose white person status (and can only be regained by working at a non-profit)".
So that's OK then.

Whole Foods and Grocery Co-ops
Only when I'm not being lazy and going to Safeway, or virtuous and going to farmers' markets.

Vintage
Not so much any more, although there is a genuine 1960s top lurking at the back of my closet. I bought it for a themed band concert in high school and couldn't bear to throw it away.

Irony
Yup.
Best definition ever: Mr E Man was hanging out with some drunk British girls in Mexico (before he met me I hasten to add) and they accused all North Americans of not understanding irony.
Mr E Man: "Gee, you're right, I've never really understood the concept. Please could you explain it to me?"
Drunk Brit: "Well, it's sarcasm"
MEM: "No, it's not the same thing"
DB: "Yes it is"
MEM: "No, they're different"
DB: "Well what's the difference?"
MEM: "Sarcasm was me pretending not to know what irony is. Irony is you actually not knowing what irony is".

Living by the water
Sounds great, doesn't it? Why is this A White Thing?

Sarah Silverman
She's pretty damn funny all right.

Dogs
Who's a good boy? I will have a dog one day. When I'm working from home or something. In the mean time, the adoption of a cat has been successfully negotiated and the search will begin after Easter. Photos will be posted when available.

Kitchen gadgets
Come to momma. Populating the registry was my favourite part of the whole wedding planning thing (I didn't get to sample caterers' goods, Mr E Man did that part).

Apologies
I'm English. And I live in Canada. Apologising is a way of life.

Lawyers
WTF? No. Unless they happen to be my brother-in-law and work for the UN.

Juno
Haven't seen it yet.

Japan
Erm, I like sushi... Actually I would quite like to visit rural Japan, but it's not all that high on my list. Maybe I can get sent to a conference or something.

Natural Medicine
No, I'm a scientist. Besides, whoever developed Ibuprofen made those days bearable. Before that I was incapacitated, curled up on the sofa with a hot water bottle and moaning softly, for at least 2 days each month. Big Pharma is OK by me.

Toyota Prius
They are soooo cool. A lot of Vancouver taxis are switching to hybrids, and all the drivers I've talked to just love them. Mr E Man's car is only 6 years old and still running well, but when it's been run into the ground we're definitely going to get a hybrid, or whatever greener technology is best at that time.

Bicycles
Extensively documented on this blog!

Knowing what's best for poor people
Erm, a social welfare system? Is this another one with an American bias?

Expensive sandwiches
Yes, that would be my first choice on the days when I don't bring my own lunch.

Recycling
And composting too, for extra points no doubt.

Co-ed sports
I really, really suck at team sports. Drunken football or cricket on the beach is the only post-school exception to my self-imposed ban.

Divorce
Yikes, let's hope not!

Standing still at concerts
Not totally still. I sway a bit. But only if the band's good.

Michel Gondry
Who? (Seriously. No idea).

Mos Def
The only people to emerge from the Hitchhiker movie with any credit were Douglas Adams and Stephen Fry.

Difficult breakups
Oh yeah, I just loved those months of crying in the toilets at work and feeling like my personality had been removed and replaced with that of a complete stranger. Awesome.

Being the only white person around
It's certainly a rare and interesting experience for a girl from York!

Study abroad
I actually made a conscious decision not to move away from the UK, where an undergraduate degree takes 3 years and a PhD no more than 4. There's a whole other post in there somewhere.

Gentrification
It would be really really nice if this happened in our neighbourhood!

Oscar parties
I don't even watch the ceremony.

Threatening to move to Canada
I have no idea what colour this one should be - I mean, I did move to Canada, but not for the reasons implied by this entry. I just really really liked Vancouver.

Bottles of water
I do indeed have two Sigg metal bottles - one for work and one for the gym.

Musical comedy
When it's good, it's very very good!

Multilingual children
Again, no plans to have kids. But if I did they would definitely be bilingual. You can't get above a certain level in some careers here if you don't speak both official languages - e.g. the civil service, the military etc. Plus it opens up careers with the European Union, which requires at least 2 different languages in all employees. I'd be daft not to teach my kids French. Besides, both my parents are French teachers and they'd kill me if their grandchildren turned out unilingual.

Modern furniture
I'm a fan, Mr E Man is not. He's a carpenter and has very high standards - it took us forever to find an acceptable dining table. Other rooms are full of donated Ikea furniture. The house will probably be a mish-mash for many years to come.

The idea of soccer
I don't like the idea of soccer, I just love football (as I will always insist on calling it). I grew up watching it and will always be a fan. I think this is another North American idiosyncrasy.

Graduate school
Been there, done that, got the thesis. Not an arts degree though.

Hating corporations
Nope. Most of my wardrobe comes from the Gap, and I don't even have any serious beefs with Microsoft or Starbucks.

Bad memories of high school
I've got 'em. Do I like them? I guess it is a bonding opportunity when conversing with other geeks!

T-shirts
There's nothing I like more than freshly laundered dark denim jeans and a nice well-fitted long sleeved t-shirt.

The Wire
Not my cup of tea.

Shorts
Only for cycling in in summer.

Outdoor performance clothes
C'mon, this is Vancouver. It's practically compulsory to wear fleece and Gore-tex in the pub.

So how did I do?

43 Yes, 24 No, 13 Partial and 7 Don't Know / Not Applicable.

I would say that my nationality, education, gender and class influenced my answers more than my race. I really don't see why t-shirts and sushi are supposed to be "White Things". Maybe even the definition of a racial stereotype is different in different cultures? Would a white North American female see this list differently? How about a straight black male Canadian? Or a gay Asian-American man?

Anyway, the list makes me laugh and I'll continue to read it. Wearing a t-shirt. With a cup of tea in hand, Gomez playing in the background, and maybe even some sushi.

Sorry.

10 comments:

  1. I don't know how to view this website. With dry irony seems the best approach but I cant help but wonder how much outrage if there was an equivalent for people of colour or of specific religion. "stuff black people like" would likely harken to a number of negative steriotypes and cause no end of hassle. As I'm feeling particularly pissy this morning I will say that I find the website in dubious taste, but I do like your response. Guess what, it turns out that white people don't conform to one steriotype either!

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  2. CAE, I agree, they tried to pigeonhole the white American boys. I am white, and most of my answers were a no. Even my husband, who is a white American boy, said no to most questions.

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  3. I think that blog is super funny. It nails my peer group perfectly. Well, maybe I'm slightly old for some of it, but I get it. I went to college with the people that blog satirizes. Actually, I've often felt like a bit of an outsider among those people, so maybe that's why I think it's so funny.

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  4. The natural medicine one is strange. I just noticed it, flicking down the list again. How can it be something just white people like when Chinese herbal medicine is very popular, and many African tribal remedies like Hoodia are being investigated.

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  5. I don't think these things are supposed to be liked only by white people. I interpret it as things that a lot of white people like in an insincere way, to impress their friends or fit in.

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  6. EcoGeoFemme, I think you nailed it. e.g. the entry on white people liking "the idea of" soccer.

    Propter, you're right, if this had been about any ethnicity other than my own I wouldn't have touched it with a barge pole!

    ScienceGirl, I just saw your post on this - it's funny how these alleged stereotypes break down when you're not an American man! (Or even if you are!)

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  7. "Asian girls"

    White people like me...woohoo!!!! :-)

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  8. Yay you! But are you more or less popular than Barack Obama?!

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  9. Well, I'm an Asian-American woman, and I answered "Yes" to a majority of these. The targeted demographic seems to be "yuppie liberal who grew up in the 80s"...

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