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Sophie Rolf – Adieu Cliché: because cliches are strongly connected to injustice and discrimination

There is more than only one cliché I want to say goodbye to. In almost every chapter of my life I had to deal with various clichés that were sometimes witless, sometimes subliminal. Born and raised in Bavaria, though now living in Berlin, every now and then I’m confronted with the prejudice that Bavarians are conservative, traditional and enjoy a lifestyle of Munich Schickimicki. Indeed it is true that rich, arrogant or conservative people do live in Munich, but the very same can be said of Berlin. Or here goes another one: Doing my master in the humanities I have to justify myself on a regular basis. In contrast to the natural sciences “humanities scholars only read old and outmoded books which is totally senseless because it won’t help our society” and in addition, they won’t get proper jobs anyway. Only because the solutions are not served up on a silver platter as they are often in natural sciences, it does not mean that they do not provide important insights to help understand the world. Immanuel Kant once detected that there is a coexistence of understanding (natural sciences) and reason (humanities) that controls the mind and acts as a moral authority. Therefore the humanities are fairly important to keep an eye on the world and the society, aren’t they?

Yet, above all else, most of the clichés I’m exposed to are connected to gender roles. In theory, in all ethnographical and philosophical essays and books I’ve read over the last years; in reality at work, selling tickets at an exhibition venue. Thinking that the supposedly educated and intellectual visitors are more liberal is unfortunately a cliché in itself that I was taken in. It happens quite often that men aged 50+ question my authority, because they assume that a young female student has no in-depth understanding of art and culture. Rather often, the same men treat their wives like children shortly after.

Clichés are strongly connected to injustice and discrimination, hence providing us with a tool of unequal treatment.

After all my practical and theoretical experiences I want to say goodbye to clichés in general. Clichés are strongly connected to injustice and discrimination, hence providing us with a tool of unequal treatment. They help to perpetuate the status quo – sometimes unconscious but always decisive. In order to say goodbye to clichés we need to internalize the fact that all rules and all moral concepts are (hu)man made. MANmade since sciences have been a sheer men’s club over the past 400 years. The separation of the sexes for example is by no means a natural development that has existed already during the Stone Age. It is a patriarchal construct of the Enlightenment and was built for the benefit of the imperialism of white men. Unfortunately, its ramifications are deeply rooted in today’s society. For example, being called hysterical as a woman goes back to an elitist circle of male neurologists of the Hôpital de la Salpêtrière in Paris at the end of 19th century. They organised public demonstrations where women got intoxicated or hypnotized and had to perform hysterical attacks, regardless of wether they were actually sick or not. Men were simply left out of the equation as scientists assumed only women could succumb to this illness. Around the same time people started to be interested in geniuses and the highly gifted in order to distance themselves from others and feel superior. But this time only men could be affected.

The closest women could get to geniuses was to give birth to one or to marry one.

The closest women could get to geniuses was to give birth to one or to marry one. Thus, under this premise it becomes obvious that women struggle(d) more and were / are less successful in the creative fields. Those two examples may also be of significance in social development. Either way those cases show that our society and our thinking is designed by human beings and therefore by no means static or immutable.


It is time to let this awareness sink in and overthink clichés! In that way, existing borders to equality can be overcome. Adieu Cliché!


Love, Sophie

Love from WOMOM
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