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Peter Stipe – The Trouble with Stereotypes

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Peter Stipe

I try not to stereotype people either in my writing or in life.  To make assumptions is risky.  To think that a person must be this way or that because they are male or female, young or old, of a particular ethnic group or occupation is never a good idea.  People are people.  We are all different.

I thought about this a lot this past weekend while watching the Superbowl.  Yes, I love my sports, and being from New England I am passionate about the Patriots and Red Sox.  There is a common stereotype about the people who watch sports.  It begins with gender but it goes deeper.  Too many people who are involved in the arts, male or female, take a position that sports are crass and that athletes are dumb.  On the other hand, too many athletes believe that the arts are for sissies.  Neither appreciates human performance excellence in the other arena.  This is narrow-minded.

I am a writer and also involved with visual arts.  I recently ended a term on the board of the Yorktown Arts Foundation and I have artwork on display in On The Hill Gallery in Yorktown.  When I was younger I was deeply involved in track and field and distance running.  I’ve competed at a high level and I’ve coached some exceptional athletes.  I don’t believe there is a reason why someone can’t love both athletics and art.

In my novel The Art of Love the reader meets Aaron a successful sculptor who works with welded steel.  As the story develops, the reader learns that Aaron played football in high school and is still a huge sports fan.  One reader challenged me on this.  “If Aaron is a talented artist he wouldn’t care about football.”  I answered, “Why not?”  Aaron has other shortcomings and those become a part of the story.  But why assume that a burly welder who uses his welding skills to make art could not be a sports lover?  A different stereotypical question might be why would a football-loving welder care about art?

The two protagonists in The Art of Love, for all their complexities, lack that depth, that mix of many interests.  Neither Patrick nor Mary seems to care about sports or much of anything other than their own narrow lives.  Patrick is obsessed with his painting and Mary studies all the time.  And they love each other.  Maybe if they had lived more rounded lives they would have been more accepting of different ways to live.  Maybe that acceptance could have saved their relationship.  That’s not the way I wrote them.  I drew on the stereotype of artists and academics as people who lack the perspective that comes with involvement in different fields.  That’s part of Patrick’s and Mary’s problem.

Peter Stipe is the author of Finding Our Way; a collection of short stories, and The Art of Love, a novel.  www.Peter   Facebook: PeterGStipe

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