Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Stereotypes

I've been thinking a lot about the pit bull owner stereotype over the last several months because, frankly, it bugs the crap out of me. We all hate being judged by total strangers based on superficial factors (like the color of our skin or hair, for instance), but before I had pit bulls (late high school, perhaps), my biggest worry was that my manner of speaking made me seem too nerdy. I spent an inordinate amount of time practicing "cool" speak so I could fit in with my peers.

Now I'm quite pleased to be able to say that I am, quite honestly, a total nerd. I spend most of my life staring at a computer screen, whether it be blogging, gaming, writing, or website-building. My husband complains I spend too much time checking my email. I was WoWing for the better part of Memorial Day. I bought quite a few Christmas gifts at ThinkGeek.com (binary clock?? awesome!). My master's degree is in technical communication. That's boring stuff like writing software documentation, folks.

Yes, I defend my nerdly status viciously because it forces people to stop and examine their own prejudices when they find out that this nerdy, brainy, hard-working, talented goody-goody is also a proud pit bull owner. To most people, pit bull owners are drug dealers and criminals. I am a technical writer and used to be a bookkeeper/office manager. Yeah, that's right, I used to balance books for a small business. What a criminal! The only drugs I touch say "Advil" on the side (once a month, friends).

The stereotypical pit bull owner is a scary thug, a young weightlifting minority punk in baggy pants, a "wifebeater," a gold tooth or two, and a backwards cap. This stereotype's pit bull is a burly, squatty, muscular dog straining and lunging against its heavy logging chain "leash." The pair swaggers down the middle of the street, intimidating. But here I am, a pit bull owner, but unlike the stereotype I am pale as bone china (pasty, perhaps), weigh barely 100 lbs soaking wet, wear business casual clothing (nice button-up blouse, pleated khaki pants, cute shoes), and of course, female. My pit bulls are relatively leash trained--at least, they don't strain or lunge and I use a normal nylon leash and nylon collars--and we don't "strut" anywhere. I'm admittedly lazy; we don't go for walks very often. I play fetch with the dogs in my backyard, and Dozer puts on a show for the neighbors by doing flips as he catches his Frisbee.

Contrary to the antisocial stereotype, my husband and I are on excellent terms with almost all of the neighbors (the exception being two houses where blatant dog neglect occurred; I'm sure the neighbors figured out who called animal control). We are all dog people in this area. I've acquired a reputation as the dog rescue point-of-contact. My neighbors know that I work with animal control to catch stray dogs and I foster the occasional puppy or dog (this week, a hyper rat terrier). Pit bulls come and go at our house and animal control makes occasional appearances to pick up stray dogs (and cats) that I corral. Someone who is unfamiliar with my work might accuse me of dog fighting after the second or third new dog disappears (successfully rehomed, in fact).

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but I must reiterate that it really ticks me off when people assume that all pit bull owners are scum of the earth. The pit bull stereotype is not my reality at all; far from it, I'm a normal American citizen just like every other American citizen, trying to live my life, work at my job, and play video games in my spare time. If I didn't have two pit bulls, I'd be just another face in the crowd. Come to think of it, it's because of my pit bulls that I am who I am today - a social, friendly, active, educated, ambitious, politically-conscious individual. But that's another story for another day.

2 comments:

Mary said...

Hi,

I just found your awesome website (truly one of the best of many great pro-pittie sites) and I just wanted to thank you for the hard work. I'm not yet a pit bull owner, but I will be as soon as my adoption is complete! Like you, I am as far away from the stereotype as you can get. Also a self-proclaimed nerd, I'm an attorney at a white-shoe law firm, although my passion is in children's issues. I live in a very dog friendly city, so I'm curious as to how my neighbors are going to react when they see nerdy, friendly me walking my bundle of joy through the 'hood. I've been preparing for this for months, so I think I'm ready and I really hope that my pooch and I can be breed ambassadors.

Anyway, just wanted to say hi and thanks!

Mac`s Gang said...

I guess I was also NOT a stereotypical Pit owner.
University educated,worked for the Canadian Federal Gov`t.
Very high security clearance.
No trouble with the law,just that one time when I forgot my licence,insurance and ownership on the table.
Let off with a warning by a nice officer because he fell in love with my Pit who was with me.
I will adopt again and it will definitely be a Pit.
I miss my guy but I`ll give another one a good home and will continue the fight against BSL in Ontario and elsewhere.