Something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately are my personal default settings. By this I mean, what does my mind automatically think of when I read something, hear something, etc. I think that everyone has defaults, and a lot of them are common among individuals in a society. For example, when I pick up a book to read, unless explicitly told or indicated otherwise by the author, the characters default to Caucasian. Its something that I have pondered before, but I was reminded of it when I read this post on a blog that analyzes female characters in fiction/film/TV. It was pretty eye opening that some animated films failed the simple test of whether 2 female characters conversed about something other than a male character. Man that’s sad. That’s what I mean by default: main characters in these films are always male, while the female characters are relegated to side-kick, mother or love-interest. It would certainly be a novelty, something the film would be marketed for, if the main character were female.
These defaults apply to race, gender, sexual-orientation, and religious beliefs among other things. I don’t believe that they are quite the same at stereotypes, because they don’t necessarily deal with characteristics of a certain group of people or idea, but its similar I guess. What I have personally noticed most are the patriarchal-based defaults. Men are the head of the family, the churches, the government. Americans (myself included) can barely wrap their heads around the idea of a women being president. When you picture a CEO, a surgeon, a scientist, isn’t it usually a man? And those aren’t even the stereotypical “male” jobs like police and firefighters (or policemen and firemen). When couples go to buy houses and cars, who does the salesman (oops, I mean sales person) address regarding the financial nitty-gritties of it? People definitely default to men as the person in charge.
One of the funnier defaults is one my fiance has: all cats are girls and dogs are boys. Is this because cats are seen as feminine (think the crazy cat lady) and dogs are more masculine?
I think its very interesting to go through your day being aware of what defaults your mind is going to, and maybe trying to switch them up. I’d also be interested in what defaults other people can think of.