I was sent this article by a friend in a group text accompanied by "ARE YOU A POINTY OR A ROUND!" Eager to be part of the labeling of our friends that immediately followed, I read the article. I found myself learning more than was necessary about the author's family dogs. Then the article asked if I understood the distinction the author was outlining with this comparison of canine personality traits. I did not get it.
Eventually there was a list of celebrities with definitive classifications of "pointy" or "round." Wanting to be a certain way is "pointy." Not caring about types is "round." Again, I didn't get it. I struggled to put my traits squarely in one of these two categories (pun intended). It was almost as if my personality was more complicated than this strict dichotomy allowed.
This is not the first time I've been asked to sort myself into one of two options. I'm sure many readers relate. There are quizzes online, in magazines, created by friends that constantly sort certain characteristics into groups A and B--including the ubiquitous Type A and Type B personality classifications. Monica or Rachel , Feminist or not. I saw the same either/or mentality in the Ken Burns documentary Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
Many of the commentators in the clips we watched in class discussed how Stanton and Anthony were opposites. The painted the women as the two options for womanhood. Stanton was married and just kept having children. Anthony was devoted to the work. It invited the question, Are you an Anthony or a Stanton?
But what if I'm both? What if I am committed to working for a cause I believe in, but equally committed to whatever type of family I choose to surround myself with? It seemed absurd to me to pull out these characteristics about these women and pit them against each other. They were both obviously more complicated than a simple category can convey. We are all more complicated than a strict dichotomy. Let's stop stamping out that complexity with dumb categories.