Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Simple Wisdom or Stupid Stereotypes?

Well, I now know how grandmas are supposed to look and feel. Will I be ready? I am currently a step-grandma but am not sure that counts. When the time comes, however, I believe I will be prepared thanks to the marvels of  modern communication. Television and movies have taught me all I need to know about being a grandmother. I will be required to have gray or white, short, possibly permed hair, wear a flowered dress, support hose and stylish beige shoes with velcro closures. On rare occasions, I might even wear "slacks" and black laced footwear. There will be an apron firmly affixed to where my waist used to be. It will be removed when I am not busy baking cookies or tending to my plants. I will be somewhat feeble, unless I had the foresight to purchase the "Freedom 55" plan, in which case I will be living in the tropics, playing tennis in a skimpy white outfit while wearing my bladder control undergarments. My pill collection will include a suitcase full of drugs that have a few minor side effects. I will know this, because I will be reminded daily while doing what seniors do, watching the news. Some of these side effects can include headache, drowsiness, weakness in the joints, brittle bones, hearing loss, backpain, heart burn, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, loss of appetite, increase in appetite, numbness in the extremities, loss of hair and teeth, and will not allow me to drink alcohol or use any heavy machinery. Apparently, vacuuming is out. Try to stop me from drinking! I notice these ads never say "Do not eat okra while taking this drug."

I trust that all the aforementioned information on being a grandma is accurate because, having been a member of the teaching profession, I have been amazed at how educators are often portrayed. Firstly, don't even bother to go into the profession unless you are an opinionated, shreiking, middle aged woman who wears glasses or if you are a nerdish man in a suit or lab coat...who wears glasses. The exception is the phys ed teacher who is always clothed in a tracksuit and whistle. That individual doesn't require glasses to make his/her charges do 50 pushups or run 20 laps for whatever their most recent offense. The classroom teachers of course are there to be tricked, taken advantage of or mocked. Often, they are made to look foolish and uninformed during a parent-teacher conference. Then there are the shows where a teacher single handedly turns a group of knife wielding truants into model citizens...very realistic.

I realize that there are many more stereotypes on t.v. It's just that these two areas have hit close to home. So why are these particular individuals portrayed in this manner? I'm not certain. Perhaps it's to make them readily identifiable to the public. For example, a hip youngish grandmother who attends Zumba classes, dances to the beat of the "Black Eyed Peas", rock climbs and plays Wii games might not be viewed as being as credible in the role. On the other hand, the image of a woman quilting, knitting or crocheting while sitting rocking, in a darkly curtained, doily covered living room, awaiting the visit of her family immediately screams  "GRANDMOTHER" !  As for the teachers, I suppose it's the same sort of thing. Although I must say that one more recent show portrays educators quite differently. Do we now see them as they really are...youngish, narrow minded, rude, obsessive, argumentative, petty dictators with social emotional issues and no regard for anyone's opinion but their own? I'm not sure which is worse, the writers' and advertisers' depiction of the grandmas, or their images of teachers.

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