ASH AMBIRGE

Author, CEO & Founder

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Why Stereotypes Piss Me Off (And How They’re Ruining Your Life)

In: Feeling Dead and Uninspired

A Little Story From My Childhood

We were only in the 6th grade. I had been friends with Becky since I moved to the area in the 1st grade. She was my first friend, as a matter of fact, which is why when I walked into the locker room to change for gym class and I heard my new friends–the “cool” crowd–picking on Becky, taunting her and insisting she still played with unicorns, I had to defend her. Despite the fact it was only 6th grade, it didn't make cliques any less real; I should know since I was a member. But it was in that moment that I saw how I could use that position to do good.

I rounded the corner and interrupted their catty laughter: “You should talk, Veronica–wasn't that a Barbie collection that I saw at your house last weekend?” Their laughter halted and it was apparent that no one knew how to respond. “Lay off Becky,” I warned. “She's cool.”

At that time, I was one of the “popular” girls–I had a middle school romance going with Vince, after all–so they backed down without much of a struggle. It prompted me to think, however, what happens to all who don't have someone in their corner?

Pick On Someone Your Own Size

Whether it's an innocent young adolescent girl, or a poverty-stricken family, or a member of a minority, or perhaps a new immigrant, people every day are getting picked on–both directly and indirectly–by those in a position of power. The motivations vary, but more often than not, those people likely don't have someone backing them up–they're left to defend themselves against a world that can be cruel, to say the least.

Worse, oftentimes those getting marginalized are being marginalized not because of something they've done, but because they fit a certain stereotype. The American-born Latino who gets called a wetback and is looked upon as stupid, dirty, lazy, or immoral. The Jewish person who is automatically labeled as greedy nit-pickers. The Italian who is joked with about being violent, ignorant or otherwise associated with the mafia. The African American who is perceived as a trouble-maker, drug user or gang member.

Stereotypes teach us, via implication, how we're supposed to perceive and treat others. The problem with that, however, is that stereotypes aren't real; they're merely an unfortunate, overgeneralized, oversimplified association. What better way to dehumanize someone than by reducing them to a handful of traits? By using stereotypes to guide our opinions about others, whether consciously or unconsciously, we are marginalizing not only them, but ourselves. We're alienating ourselves, via misguided logic, from the people that make up this planet–and all of the incredible relationships, new experiences and learning opportunities–because we've allowed stereotypes to dominate our beliefs.

Stereotypes Are Everywhere–And They're Royally ******* Things Up

Yet, stereotypes don't just affect human relations. While the stereotyping of humans is likely the most prominent–and most detrimental–we tend to develop stereotypes across all aspects of living. One in particular that stuck with me just the other day, as we held our meet-up in Chicago, was something that writer Nina Yau brought up:

“Growing up, I loved art, but my parents warned me not to take it on as a career, unless I wanted to end up a starving artist. Instead, I went to school for business.”

The starving artist.

Oh, how hearing her talk about her long lost dreams being put aside, all in the name of a stereotype, added such a solemn note to my day; the common belief being that if you become an artist, you will be poor.

The implications here are so, so many, namely that those who pursue creativity as a career can be typecast as economically naive, foolish or irresponsible. Imagine all of us out there who have surrendered our passions to this belief, mistrusting our instincts, and instead gone out and gotten that safe day job? Society seems to separate art and business, hence perpetuating the starving artist stereotype, as well as perpetuating the number of lonely, overworked, uninspired, dispassioned souls out there, who are merely the victim of an attempt to be responsible.

For us, responsible erroneously does not mean being responsible to ourselves (and hence following the paths that secretly make us light up inside); rather, responsible means being responsible to the arbitrary economic and social standards that have been set forth to us by society. And this seems to be exactly where we all go wrong.

Stereotypes can be damaging on multiple fronts, but when it comes to that of selecting a career–and, consequently, selecting what your life will be on a daily basis–stereotypes can be the ultimate sabotage.

Many argue that stereotypes are stereotypes because of a set of statistics that back them up, and therefore are based in truth; however, what most people fail to realize is that stereotypes don't conclude anything about a person, nor a career. You cannot possibly know the outcome of something until you engage with it–it's as simple as that. You can try to predict through stereotypes–sure–but in doing so, you're more likely to do more harm to yourself by marginalizing yourself from a world of opportunity that could have otherwise existed. But you'll never know, because instead of finding out for yourself, you listened to everyone else.

No matter what, I beg of you–please, please, please don't do that. Stop listening to what everyone else says, and what everyone else wants you to do. Trust in yourself. Trust in your instincts. Trust in your ability to make things work, even if they do go awry. You don't need everyone else's validation or permission to do what it is you want to do. When it comes down to it, all you need is your own.

May 31

2016

“Ding, Ding, Ding! You Can Have Fun Now!”

May 31, 2016

I’m going to England tomorrow. By which I mean I’m stepping inside a long metal torpedo and sitting my fat ass down on some murky blue pleather for an exact distance of 5,429 miles across a cold, dreary ocean that always makes me wonder things I shouldn’t ever wonder. Like: Would I actually remain calm […]

In: Feeling Dead and Uninspired

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May 3

2018

Listen: Do What You Crave Without the Guilt. Travel to Italy. Enroll in That Workshop. Make Your Art Every Afternoon. And Hurl Yourself Into the Unknown—For This Is The Best ROI That Money Can Buy.

May 3, 2018

My almost-mother-in-law gets really fucking nervous when I travel—especially when I bomb off to South America for a month by myself to drink ALL THE WINE and celebrate ALL THE BOOK DEALS. But she doesn’t get worried in the typical way a mother might; not the way my own mother would have been worried, which would […]

In: Feeling Dead and Uninspired, Feeling Disillusioned With Life

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Jul 30

2010

On NOT “Following Your Dreams”

Jul 30, 2010

You know, this whole “follow your dreams” thing is getting a little old, right? Coming from me, that’s probably surprising. But the problem is that so much of it is fluff. So much out there encourages you to start “living the life of your dreams,” while frolicking on a big white puffy cloud and nibbling […]

In: Feeling Dead and Uninspired

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May 18

2017

When You Feel Like a Hot Mess Full of Walking Contradictions and WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT IS YOUR LIFE?

May 18, 2017

You don’t have to choose, you know. You can be intelligent…and sensual. Extroverted…and introverted. Complex…and simple. You…and someone who’s evolving into someone else. Sometimes, in an effort to finally define who the fuck we are, we start putting ourselves into the little boxes voluntarily—the same ones that we spent our earlier years trying to escape. […]

In: Feeling Dead and Uninspired, Feeling Disillusioned With Life

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Jun 9

2017

The World Isn’t Your Mommy

Jun 9, 2017

You know what’s crazy? There’s not actually a team of people assigned to your life, sitting around monitoring your blood work, and your bank accounts, and the health of your relationships, jotting down notes, circling areas of concern. There’s no supervisor. No one checking your progress. No one setting quarterly reviews. As a result, we […]

In: Feeling Dead and Uninspired, Feeling Disillusioned With Life

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Nov 22

2012

Lust, Turkey Gizzards + A Ladylike Toast

Nov 22, 2012

I blame my bleak and very unpromising cooking skills on Thanksgiving, you know. You’d think I would have gotten better from helping my mom prepare such a yearly feast for me, her and my dad. (Mashed potatoes were my sworn duty. Probably because they’re mashed, requiring heavy amounts of manual mashing child labor. Not to […]

In: Feeling Dead and Uninspired

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Apr 30

2018

If You Feel Like a Big, Fat Imposter Who Doesn’t Deserve Anything and Worries About EVERYTHING, Read This. It’s a GOOD Thing.

Apr 30, 2018

I’m writing this from a place that could almost be mistaken for the Italian countryside, were I not surrounded by lizards and toucans and bullfrogs the size of a fucking dinosaur. Rather, I am high up in the hills of Central America overlooking the Costa Rican valley from my squishy, pancake lounger—it sort of reminds me of […]

In: Feeling Dead and Uninspired, Feeling Disillusioned With Life

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I'm a Bad Influence on Women

Hey, I’m Ash! Twenty years ago I was a small town girl growing up in a trailer park in rural Pennsylvania. Fifteen years ago, I lost my family and everything I knew right as I became the first to graduate college. Fourteen years ago, I found myself leaving everything behind for a new life in the city where I could be “normal.” Ten years ago I realized normal was the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me. Nine years ago I quit my job in advertising and pursued my dreams as a creative writer. Eight years ago, I built a 6-figure business doing what I love using nothing more than the Internet and my voice. And now, today, I’m the founder of The Middle Finger Project, an irreverent media co. that helps other women find their voice and teaches them to use it to build whatever the f*ck they want to. With a book coming out with Penguin Random House in February 2020 (YASSS, WE’RE A PRODUCT IN TARGET!) I’m proud to be a bad influence on women and guide them into doing something disobediently brave with their life and their career.

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