Humanities and Writing
February 27, 2008
Stereotyping a Stereotype
Junot Diaz’s “How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie” seems to play into and highlight the racial stereotypes that affect the way Americans see each other; however, Diaz is in fact working to show that even people who believe they understand the full extent of stereotypes, especially men, find themselves subordinate to the ones they are stereotyping. In this story, Diaz shows how female stereotypes actually control the actions of a males seeking intimacy. The man will revert to basic instinct and base his decisions on a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person. The short story focuses its instruction on the ultimate goal of reaching physical intimacy with a girl, but illustrates the definitely different courses of action necessary to take depending on what ethnicity the target girl is. This is where Diaz proves that even by mastering the “predicted” behavior of females through racial stereotypes, the male while appearing to have control of the situation is actually lower than the female.
The text has an almost aggressive tone is used to show that the author clearly knows what he is talking about in terms of girls. This tone adds serious credibility to the author and makes the instruction all the more believable. Instead of using phrases such as “I would recommend,” “I think,” or “I believe,” Diaz uses the imperative and says “Clear the government cheese from the refrigerator,” “Leave yourself a reminder to get it out,” and, “Hide the pictures of yourself with an Afro” (Diaz 143). This forceful use of language is more believable and it creates a sense of power, superiority, and confidence in the reader because he is apparently taking instruction from an expert. After all, the reader using these instructions is looking to maximize his chances of getting anything from a “Kiss,” to a “Girl just [giving] it up right then” (Diaz 147).
Diaz first points out that the reader should be aware of his own social class and ethnicity. The last thing the reader wants to do is foil his chances of achieving intimacy with his date by ignoring potentially embarrassing pictures or icons of a lower social class that would not impress the girl. Such things as the notorious “Government cheese” or the “basket with all the crapped-on toilet paper” definitely want to be hidden away (Diaz 143, 144). By doing these small things, the reader is putting himself at an advantage by leaving no room for the date to find weakness in him. If the date cannot find anything embarrassing, the reader is in control of the situation. According to Casey S. Torstenson in her article “You Don’t Know Me,” she says “To follow the advice of this story will, in all likelihood, get the [reader] closer to some form of physical intimacy, but this intimacy will be the result of a carefully manipulated… impression he creates for his date, rather than the more inherent and objective truths of who he truly is” (Torstenson). This statement means that by hiding anything potentially incriminating, the male has a better shot at getting intimate with the girl, but that he is defying the age old saying that every set of parents say to their kids, “Just be yourself.” Diaz proves my argument in this section because the reader, although seemingly in control of the situation, is forced to manipulate it in a way that is pleasing to the girl, not to him. Diaz does not suggest anywhere in the text that the reader should do what he might find appealing, instead, the only positive thing in the text for the reader is the ultimate possibility of a hook-up. If the reader manipulates a situation based on stereotypes (ie where to take the girl to dinner depends on what the color of her skin is) he is subordinate to the girl because he has to play his cards just right in order to get what he wants. The date is in...