Writing for liberation exercise: Combating stereotypes

In the story and creative world, there’s two fairly obvious things wrong with stereotypes:

  1. They tend to reinforce prejudice and discrimination, and reduce the particular group of humans down to just a few elements (but people are complex and aren’t just their appearance or intelligence or food choices).
  2. They are boring to read and don’t provoke critical thought

As gross or uncomfortable as it may feel – start by writing a list of 5 – 10 common stereotypical characters you can think of from the book and entertainment worlds. Then, take each of these and turn them on their heads – not only reverse or counter the stereotypes, but add layers of complexity and interest to the characters. Here are a few examples I came up with:

Dumb blond female: A female medical complaints investigator with short blond hair and a constantly concerned facial expression. She is chatty, likes to get up for early morning walks, and lecturers students on medical fraud three days a week. In her early 60s, she’s just starting to get a bit tired, after decades of 70-hour weeks.

Religious Muslim: Abdullah is starting out as a journalist. Born in Palestine, he now lives in the US, and while he’s been writing short opeds for free for a few years, he’s now keen to be paid for his articles on innovations in the sports industry.

Athletic Black man: X has always been in a wheelchair, though he feels like his Asperger’s syndrome is more of a challenge in life. He is a games programmer who also enjoys musicals, memorising all the songs and dialogue.

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