A few months ago my sister was in town with my eight year old niece.  We were talking about the college experience, as this was weeks before my daughter set sail. The conversation went something like this:

Sister: As long as you don’t join a sorority you’ll be fine. Sorority girls are all two faced and nasty and will stab you in the back. My ex husband was in a frat and whenever we met up with his college friends those girls were always mean to me. Every sorority girl I ever met was horrible.To my niece she said You will never join a sorority.

To be clear, on a political scale, my sister is far left….you can’t get much farther left. So this particular statement sort of stopped me. When her daughter was off with my daughter I asked her:

Me: What happens if you replace sorority with Jew? Or black? Or Finnish? Are those the statements you ever want your daughter to make about an entire group?

We all make generalizations and stereotypes.

We. All. Do.

If we don’t want group A to be stereotyped, then we conversely can’t stereotype group B.

We have to be really careful about the messages that we send our children. They pick up our bad habits just as easily as they pick up our good ones.

Before you make a blanket statement using “never” or “all” consider what you’re grouping together- are they really all the same? I’d like to say that all chairs have four legs. but I’ve seen three legged chairs…



35 thoughts on “They’re All The Same

  1. I consistently have a moment, when I use the words never or always, that I have to pause and make sure it truly applies within the context of whatever it is that I’m referring to. It’s too easy to use terms such as this and then they become generalized across a broader spectrum, rather that’s intentional or not.

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  2. I can understand people’s individual experiences and why they feel the way they do, but generalizations aren’t helpful. Nor are stereotypes. I don’t think that some people realize the power of words – to discredit others or how they may end up discrediting themselves 🙂

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  3. Your sister could have taken her experience and made it into a learning experience for her daughter. Tell her daughter “this is what my experience was like and the reason why I never joined x” and leave it open for her to make her on decisions.

    I’m more and more aware of this option in parenting as we navigate the teen thing. It’s tricky sometimes because we want to protect the kids from crap we experienced ourselves, but that approach, the judgemental way of saying ‘you will never’ is linear thinking and futile anyway. I mean, once they’re old enough to make her own decisions, especially while living away from home, they will do what they want anyway. And should. Guidance, and knowledge that you’re there to help them out if they want or need it, is where it’s at.

    Or something. 🙂

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  4. It is interesting that you are aware of your sister’s habits and traits so well. The other day at the Doctors and my annual visit…I like my doctor so much…and we talk and I mentioned some people whose world views upset me and her advice was to limit my time to them. I think she is right. Sometimes that is the best way to do it. I am sure your daughter is aware that this is her experience and savvy enough to realize her experience may be different.

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  5. I firmly believe this as well. I’m not one to use proclamations either, because once you walk down that road, you best stay on it.

    You were right to ask that question, because it’s true. As a human being with blood running through my veins, I read or hear something and have an initial reaction. Such as “Another commercial for Apple? Ugh! They suck!”. So of course, I process this into what becomes “Even if I never bought into the fascination, they must be doing something right.”

    Tempering your thoughts is like drafting an essay. It allows us to whittle them into a more finished and reasonable product.

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  6. Superlatives are generally overused and all encompassing. It seems as if this sort of talk has become more prevalent in even everyday conversation. You were right to worry about what your niece took from this interaction. I try to lead by example, I hope it is a good example.

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  7. That is one of my pet peeves: generalizations that dismiss whole groups of people we haven’t even met! I hate the idea of “red states” and “blue states,” or almost any kind of label at all…We need to treat people as the individuals that they are, period. I’m glad you picked up on what was really wrong with your sister’s statement, and discussed it late with your daughter. Sorority women, like any other group of women, are actually a very diverse group!

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