The State of Stereotypes
During the 2nd half of yesterday's Wisconsin/Minnesota game, the ESPN announcers made a quick comment about how Minnesotans think people around the country see them and their counterparts from Wisconsin. 'Sotans thought the rest of the country saw Wisconsinites as freaks who wear cheese on their heads and that Minnesotans were simply a bunch of lumberjacks. (Side note: normally I listen to Badger games so I can hear the best football play-by-play man in the world, Matt LePay. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to tune in to him yesterday, although I did get to hear his call of the blocked punt later. ;-)
The exchange reminded me of an article I read the other day about how people all over the world are basically wrong about their national stereotype:
The English see themselves as repressed emotional bricks, Canadians think their average person is extraordinarily nice, Italians believe themselves to be fiery and passionate - but they're all completely wrong.
Every nation on earth has a firm stereotype of the "typical" local, but a major international study shows that stereotypes bear little, if any, resemblance to reality.
Character traits around the world are far more similar than we would like to believe - Canadians and Americans are pretty much alike, as are Australians, Kiwis and Brits.
Because Americans don't care about the rest of the world, we probably spend more time thinking about state stereotypes. Texans are all cowboys, Californias are all surfers, Kentuckians are all married to their cousins. You get the idea. Those stereotypes are just as inaccurate as the national stereotypes studied in the article above. Researchers want to know why we do it:
The findings are prompting researchers to ask why we are so determined to create artificial concepts about ourselves. Are we desperate to belong to a distinctive national identity, are we searching for perfection, or just too lazy to assess individuals on their merits?
Oh, I think it's about 50% because we're too lazy to assess individuals on their merits and 50% because it's fun. We may not be at war with other countries or states, but they're still rivals in the worlds of sports, business, art, etc. New Zealanders want to "beat those cowboys", not "beat those 'agreeable, excitement-seeking, disciplined people'."
But back to Minnesota. Do people from other parts of the country really think of Minnesotans as lumberjacks? I would never think of them that way. Here in the upper midwest, the stereotypes go like this:
- Minnesotans are oh so Scandinavian. They're cool, calm and collected
- Folks from Illinois are flashy and drive too fast.
- Wisconsinites are boisterous partiers
- The lower pennisula of Michigan is inhabited by east coast looking snobs. The upper penisula is inhabited by Bob & Doug McKenzie.
I'm so curious about things like this around the rest of the country and the rest of the world. Ann Althouse had a post a month ago about how Bavaria was the "Texas of Germany". While the rest of Germany may see itself as cool and efficient, Bavarians wear lederhosen, go to a Catholic church and probably know the "Too Fat Polka" by heart. (Hmm, why do I feel like I'd fit right in in Bavaria?).
I'm just going to dismiss concerns that stereotypes like this are dangerous. I think they're far too broad to be dangerous. In fact, my main concern is finding out what other regional stereotypes are. So, what do Texans really think of Oklahomans (and vice versa). Does New England have an oddball state? How do folks in North and South Dakota stereotype each other? Hopefully some of our readers from around the country will be willing to chime in to answe some of these burning questions.
Posted by at October 16, 2005 10:46 AM
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|# October 16th, 2005 6:31 PM Jib|
|Speaking of the "Too Fat Polka." You should go see the Gregg Wartgow Band at the Essen Haus sometime. Good old polka fun. |
|# October 18th, 2005 8:06 AM marcus|
|National Reivew, prior to the 2004 elections talked about the state of Minnesota & Wisconsin politics. The author there characterized Minnesotas as the land of Lutheran deer hunters and Wisconsin as the land of Catholic deer hunters. |