One of my classes this term – in fact, one of the last journalism classes I’ll ever take – is a breadth requirement about how gender and diversity are represented in the media. This subject inevitably winds up pissing me off, especially when a group of 100 or so white college students are talking about it, but my options were either to take this class or one that assigned a lot more homework, and let’s be honest – I’d much rather be pissed off than busy.

In our first meeting of the class yesterday, we talked about stereotypes, a conversation which was punctuated with presentations about the evils of making assumptions about a person’s character based on how they look, such as this image:

We also watched a video comprised of various minorities addressing the camera – a black guy saying, “Why do you assume I’ve been to jail just because I’m black?” or an Asian woman saying “Why do you assume I’m good at math just because I’m Asian?” or a girl with bleached blonde hair saying “Why do you assume I’m a slut just because of how I dress?”

Now, maybe you’ve already picked up on the particular nugget of bullshit I found during class, but if not, I’ll point it out: The people in the left hand panels of the picture and the girl in the video are being stereotyped based on shit they choose to do, which doesn’t necessarily strike me as a tragedy.

Racial stereotypes are bad because you shouldn’t judge a person based on aspects of their outward appearance they have no control over. Believe it or not, there’s a reason why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – best case scenario, you’ve just spent $15 on a really shitty book, worst case scenario, you’re a racist.

I thought this book was about sunsets and apples. GOD WAS I WRONG.

But after the Holocaust, Japanese internment, and Apartheid, I really can’t feel sorry for the punk girl who gets stereotyped as a rebel just because she dresses in the style of a social movement specifically built around anarchy and rebellion. I mean, I guess I feel sorry for her because she’s an idiot. Is that the point of all this? Should we not stereotype all punks as needlessly butthurt morons?

The same goes for the bleach-blonde girl in the video who was so pissed that people assumed she was a slut, just because she dresses like a slut. I’m no fashion expert, but if your standard of dress leads so many people to assume you’re a floozy that you have to appear in a public service announcement to decry the injustice of it all, maybe you’re the one who has a problem, not society.

Unless you live in Utah, in which case please continue to wear that pencil skirt or tank top in public. You go, girl!

It’s difficult for me to get up on a soapbox about this sort of stuff, because I’m an upper middle class white male. 200 years ago I would probably have roughly as many rights as I do now – or more, if you count the ability to own another human being. I don’t want to sound like the guy who’s saying that black people are trying to make us feel guilty or women who dress provocatively deserve to be raped, because those things aren’t true and the people who say them are ratdick assholes. But I think there’s also a point where political correctness goes too far.

If I left my house wearing an orange prison jumpsuit with my hands covered in blood, I wouldn’t have a lot of reason to call people out for crossing the street to avoid me, nor would I be pissed off if people came to me with medical problems if I was lounging around near a hospital wearing a labcoat and tie.

How you dress determines how you’re perceived in society, thanks entirely to stereotypes. It’s why police officers wear easily noticeable uniforms – people see them and assume that because they’re wearing blue uniforms with badges they’re law enforcers, hence why their presence deters crime.

Stereotypes, bad as they may be on a racial level, are an unavoidable part of life. We, as humans, use sight to quickly judge and categorize the people around us as a means to make sense of the general nonsense that happens in our day-to-day lives. When we stereotype black people as criminals or Asians as geniuses, it’s a taboo thing that we need to learn to avoid. When we stereotype people who dress a certain way as members of a culture that decides to dress in that way, we’re doing exactly what we evolved that ability for – figuring out which people around us we’re likely to get along with.

Again, as soon as I say this I feel like I’m going to get called out by about a thousand people for being a racist or a sexist or something else that I’m not. All I’m saying is, the reason I don’t tell women that I played Dungeons and Dragons in high school is because I’ve found women tend to stereotype people who choose to play D&D as socially awkward, unhygienic dorks, and based on most of the D&D players I’ve met, they’re not entirely wrong.

Truman Capps awaits a torrent of hate mail from slutty punks.