The Un-Stereotype: Fighting Labels On Disney Buttons

January 24th, 2013 | Categories: Uncategorized

Apparently, I am not the only stereotype fighter in the family. At Disney World this past November my kids inadvertently communicated an un-stereotype. Let me tell you about it.

My regular readers may recall that an un-stereotype is a message about a group that is counter to the stereotype for that group. I originally coined the term in a blog post about professional basketball player Candace Parker back in September.

At Disney World, employees throughout the park in random places distribute Disney buttons. The options include happily ever after, first visit, and happy birthday among others.

Disney Buttons

My kids didn’t like the boring orange “first time” buttons and opted instead for the purple Cinderella “happily ever after” buttons. Little did any of us know that by wearing these buttons, the kids were communicating an un-stereotype.

Apparently, these buttons provide Disney employees another opportunity to impress hospitality upon their customers. Unbeknownst to us, the buttons allow employees to label Disney World visitors. The benefit of this is that employees can tailor greetings to the guest. Instead of saying a simple, “Hello!” Employees can say “happy birthday!” or ask the more personal question, “So how old are you?”

Like other Disney World visitors, we volunteered to wear these buttons thereby providing a visual marker, much like race, gender, or rage, that Disney employees could use to label us.

So, what happened?

Well, it turns out the “happily ever after” buttons indicate the wearer is recently wed. Clearly, this was not true of my 3 and 5 year old children. But, we didn’t know that is what the button labeled my children. Even if we had, we wouldn’t have particularly cared. The buttons were purple and my children just love the color purple.

So, when Disney employees saw the buttons on my children, they started to say congratulations. Quickly realizing their error, the employees would ask if my kids were first timers or they would note in some other way that the pin was mistaken and the label incorrect. They would make clear that what they saw in my children was different from the original expectation they had based on their label.

In this way, my kids fought against stereotyping. After all, labels are fundamental to the stereotyping process. The employees were forced to react to my children by taking a double-take the same way people took a double-take of the Candace Parker photograph.

I am so proud that even my children at 3 and 5 years old could communicate un-stereotypes and fight stereotyping.

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