Western women and beer drinking
We have been to a small village in the hills, close to Bombay, called Matheran. Many Indian tourists go there, not many foreign tourists. When we walked in the village, my friend Jojanneke and I, we met Magiel, a Dutch guy who lives a 100 metres from my house in Utrecht in the Netherlands (it's a small world :-)) He works for a bank and he has been send to India for half a year to teach Indians to work with computers. One night we drank a beer with him in a local restaurant. Then Jojanneke said: "Actually we shouldn't do this, Indian women don't drink bear, so when people see that Western women drink beer, they think they are whores, so now we are making a bad impression on the people here."
That's strange, I thought, because Indian men connect beer drinking to protistution in their minds, because they look at us in a negative way, we start to feel as if we are whores, while we know that we are no whores. We know how we live our lives, we know that we live normally and many many women in the west drink beer but are no whores. Jojanneke wanted to show the local people that we are good decent people because we don't drink beer. I would like to explain to the local people that we are no whores, despite our beer drinking (which won't work of course, to take away all the prejudices that exist in that local community.
But it's important to realise that, that people can invent as many negative images about me as they like, but that it doesn't change the way I really am.
I agree that I should adapt to the local habits, if women don't drink in bars in Matheran I shouldn't do that either in principle, at least not too much / too often.
I only wanted to describe this situation as an example of how people put others in categories, how they put negative, generalized and unreal labels on people their heads. They assume things without checking it, the replace real persons by images they have invented in their heads. I thought this was a good example of what Levinas means that you should welcome the other instead of to objectify / totalize him.