Last night I was fooling around on YouTube as I often do, & in the process I discovered what to me is a new band: Motionless in White. If you’re not familiar with them, they are a metal band based out of Scranton, PA & are fronted by a guy named Chris “Motionless” Cerulli who draws inevitable comparisons to Marilyn Manson. As I always do when discovering a new band, I starting Googling the band & its lead singer, looking for interviews & such to familiarize myself with the band & to better connect with their music. I soon discovered that despite the rather gothic appearance of the band, the lead singer is actually “straight edge” & is well-renowned for the fact that he has never smoked, drank, or used drugs & has no interest in such things. In case you’re thinking this must be one of those Christian or pseudo-Christian metal bands, let me assure you Motionless in White is anything but that. (On the other hand they are not Satanists either despite what some might naturally assume based on their appearance & the sound of their music).
What struck me the most about this band is not only their unique sound but the lead singer’s ability to break stereotypes. This led me to ponder my never-ending fascination with people who break stereotypes, whatever they may be. As the Nigerian novelist, poet, & professor Chinua Achebe said, “The whole idea of a stereotype is to simplify. Instead of going through the problem of all this great diversity – that it’s this or maybe that – you have just one large statement; it is this.” Indeed the world is very complicated & it’s not so shocking that society has created stereotypes to try to make sense of such a complex world. And yet, the result of such stereotyping is that we often miss out on the joy that can be found in embracing the complexity of this world & the people around us.
As some of you may know from reading previous blog posts, I grew up in a very small town in Virginia. One of the saddest things about small towns is that stereotypes are so ingrained into the fabric of society that one can quite easily feel stifled in such places. Over the past eight years since I graduated from high school I’ve often pondered the irony of how I graduated with some 140 odd students, the vast majority of us having been together in school since kindergarten or at least 3rd or 4th grade. The result of this is that we all assumed we knew each other & often assigned each other to stereotypical roles & groups without much of a second thought. The reality is that most of us knew next to nothing about each other, only what we THOUGHT we knew because we’d “known each other forever.” I suppose this phenomenon occurs everywhere to a certain extent, but I daresay it’s worse in small towns where stereotypes can often be magnified due to the naturally insular nature of such places.
In any case when I went to college I was immediately gratified by how so many people I met broke a lot of the traditional stereotypes I grew up around. One of my best friends in college was a girl who had been an athlete in high school, yet she loved classical music, opera, & classic literature. What also gratified me was finding that everyone I met didn’t naturally assume I was a boring nerd who couldn’t possibly be interesting, funny, or attractive. Instead of being regarded as weird or dull because I’m naturally intelligent, people often seemed to find this intriguing. How gratifying!
As I’ve matured as an adult I continually find myself attracted to those who break stereotypes in one way or another. Whether it’s a football player like Arian Foster who writes poetry & studies philosophy or a rock star like Chris Motionless who eschews drinking & drugs or some of my elderly patients who have iPads & are very adept with technology, I’m naturally drawn to those who somehow “break the rules” of what they’re “supposed” to be like because of their age, race, gender, or profession.
At the end of the day, I consider myself fairly average. When I say that I just mean that I’m not someone you’d look at twice in the grocery store, & yet I like to think I break a few stereotypes myself. Today I thought it would be empowering to list a few of those & in doing so encourage my readers to think about the stereotypes they break in their own lives. So here are a few ways in which I break the “rules of society.”
- I love rock & roll & metal but I have no tattoos & no piercings, aside from standard earrings. I am not opposed to such things, but I just have no personal interest in them for myself. When I go to rock shows, I’m often one of the only people without tattoos or piercings & who isn’t dressed in all or mostly black. For some reason or other, I am often immediately assumed to be a “nice girl” & thus people are often shocked to find I like such heavy or “dark” music. I resent the implication that people who value compassion & kindness can’t enjoy rock music, so I always enjoy the look on people’s faces when they find out some of my favorite bands are FFDP, Godsmack, & Halestorm.
- On the other hand, when I go to country concerts, I’m always one of the only people not wearing cowboy (or should I say cowgirl?) boots. I’ve never owned a pair & don’t care to. There’s nothing wrong with them; they’re just not my style.
- Despite the fact that I grew up in a very rural area, I have only been fishing once & have no real interest in going again. I’ve also never been hunting or “mudding” & don’t particularly care to try either one.
- Despite living in the South my entire life, I do not like sweet tea or gravy.
- I’m an introvert who strongly prefers the city to the country. When you really think about this, it’s actually quite logical because the anonymity of the city is far more suitable to an introvert like me who detests the idea of constantly having to make small talk. In a small town everywhere you go, you see someone you know & thus feel compelled by some social construct to converse with them.
- I’m strongly considering becoming a mom in the next year or two (or three), but I love heavy metal & have no plans to stop listening to this music just because I have kids.
- Sex, drugs, & rock & roll is a phrase that exists for a reason. But as much as I love this kind of music, I’m married to my first & only boyfriend, have never experimented with drugs or smoking, & drink alcohol only in moderation. (Additionally there is a hell of a lot more to rock & roll than just sex & drugs, & if you don’t think so, you’re missing out on a lot in life.)
- As much as I hate wars & violence, I am a strong supporter of gun ownership. There are a whole host of logical reasons for this, but this isn’t the time or place to go into all that right now.
- I was a straight-A student in both high school & college, but I never once stayed up all night (or even half the night) studying for a test or final exam.
- I’m a female who loves science & math, yet I also love literature, music, & history.
- I’m a humanist & thus I don’t believe in moral absolutes, but despite what some people might think, I DO have moral & ethical standards for how I live my life, & I will teach them to my children someday.
- I identify myself as a feminist because there are still plenty of places in the world where women do not have even basic human rights, but I do NOT hate men & I don’t think men automatically have an easier time in life.
- I have no idea what happens after death (to be truly honest, NONE of us does because we haven’t been there), yet I volunteer with hospice & seem to have a special talent for caring for patients & their families at the end of life. Where most see only grief & suffering, I see a chance to make someone’s final days as painless as possible, to give that person a peaceful exit from this world, & to assist the family throughout this entire process.
At the end of the day, I think we all break at least a few stereotypes in our lives, even if we’ve never given it a lot of thought. Because stereotypes can be so damaging, I think we all could benefit from taking a few moments to think about what kind of stereotypes we break in our own lives as well as to examine the prejudices we might hold towards others due to common stereotypes in our society.
To end this post, I’ll leave you with a few quotes about stereotypes that I find very empowering & perhaps you will too.
“Reducing a group to a slur or stereotype reduces us all.” ~ DaShanne Stokes (author & human rights activist)
If you’re struggling to fit me into a box . . . Then build a bigger box!” ~ Serina Hartwell (novelist)
P.S. If you want to check out Motionless in White, I’d strongly suggest starting with Reincarnate off of their latest album of the same name: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVQC3bx_AXs