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STEREOTYPES

A "stereotype" is a generalization about a person or group of persons. We develop stereotypes when


we are unable or unwilling to obtain all of the information we would need to make fair judgements
about people or situations. In the absence of the "total picture," stereotypes in many cases allow us
to "fill in the blanks." Our society often innocently creates and perpetuates stereotypes, but these
stereotypes often lead to unfair discrimination and persecution when the stereotype is unfavourable.
Stereotypes are defined in a number of ways. Consider these definitions of a stereotype:
1. A simplified and fixed image of all members of a culture or group (based on race, religion,
ethnicity, age, gender, national origins).
2. Generalizations about people that are based on limited, sometimes inaccurate, information
(from such sources as television, cartoons or comic books, minimal contact with one or
more members of the group, second-hand information).
3. Initial predictions about strangers based on incomplete information about their culture, race,
religion, or ethnicity.
4. A single statement or attitude about a group of people that does not recognize the complex,
multidimensional nature of human beings .
5. Broad categories about people that fail to differentiate among individuals, peoples, and
societies.
6. Identification of easily observable characteristics of groups of people.
Stereotypes can be either positive or negative, but they are all unfair and misleading. In general,
stereotypes reduce individuals to a rigid, inflexible image; they do not account for the fact that
human beings are complex and multidimensional, with unique attributes. Stereotypes suggest that
people or groups of people are the same, when, in fact, they are quite different. Stereotypes about
human beings tend to dehumanize people, placing all members of a group into one, simple
category.
Although generalizations, the basis for stereotyping, represent a natural part of the learning process,
when they are directed at human beings, they can be dangerous and harmful. When we stereotype
people, we prejudge them; we assume that all people in a group have the same traits. This form of
blind categorization leads to false assumptions about people and causes misunderstandings,
hostility, abusive behaviors, conflicts, discrimination, and prejudice.
For example, if we are walking through a park late at night and encounter three senior citizens
wearing fur coats and walking with canes, we may not feel as threatened as if we were met by three
high school-aged boys wearing leather jackets. Why is this so? We have made a generalization in
each case. These generalizations have their roots in experiences we have had ourselves, read about
in books and magazines, seen in movies or television, or have had related to us by friends and
family.

In many cases, these stereotypical generalizations are reasonably accurate. Yet, in virtually every
case, we are resorting to prejudice by ascribing characteristics about a person based on a stereotype,
without knowledge of the total facts. By stereotyping, we assume that a person or group has certain
characteristics. Quite often, we have stereotypes about persons who are members of groups with
which we have not had firsthand contact or fear.
Civil societies can only thrive when damaging stereotypes are broken down. The difficulty is that
stereotypes are sometimes hard to recognize because they are fixed beliefs. Learning to identify
stereotypes is one of the first steps we must take to build a civil society. All of us face peer pressure
when confronted with a joke which puts down a certain minority. It takes courage to raise
objections to these jokes and pejorative names and to actively fight the prejudice and bigotry which
they foster. It is important to stand up against injustice, and fight the discrimination, stereotypes,
and scapegoating which have served as the precursors to persecution, violence, and genocide. After
identifying stereotypes, we can work toward eliminating them from society. When stereotypes are
eliminated, it will be easier to acknowledge and appreciate individual differences. When we live in
a society that is open to cultural diversity and that values the contributions of all society members-regardless of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, race, life styles, and belief--we will be one step
closer to living in a civil society.

Facts About Gender Stereotypes:


Gender stereotypes occur when you apply generic attributes, opinions or roles toward either gender.
Gender stereotypes are apparent everywhere in our society, especially in the media. Companies
display ads and commercials to gear toward the common belief of gender stereotypes. They portray
women in housecleaning and child rearing roles to sell cleaners and baby products. They sell beer
and cars to men by showing women in revealing outfits, or a sweating man out in the yard working
hard on his lawn. These gender stereotypes are used to sell the products to the people they believe
would use them most, showing them in the "situations" they would most likely be in.
Common Gender Stereotypes:
There are many gender stereotypes used to define each sex.Common attributes and roles include:
Gender Stereotypes associated with Women:
o Submissive
o Emotional
o Quiet
o Neat/Clean
o Clumsy
o Artsy
o Housewife
o Child rearing

Gender Stereotypes associated with Men:


o Aggressive
o No Emotions
o Loud
o Messy
o Athletic
o Math and Science Oriented
o CEO
o Money Maker
Problems and Possible Solutions in using Gender Stereotypes:
The problem with using gender stereotypes occurs when we find ourselves making assumptions
about members of our own, or the opposite, sex. If a teacher believes in the gender stereotypes of
boys not crying, she could become angry at her student becoming emotional during class. If a
woman believes in the gender stereotypes that girls should not play sports, she would be upset at
her friend for taking up sports competition.
These situations can lead to the "victim" becoming unsure of themselves and second guessing their
reactions or intentions.
There are many books, pamphlets and education available that focus on dispelling gender
stereotypes and bias in our children. We are being encouraged to push our girls into more science
and engineering classes and jobs. We are told to buy dolls for boys and trucks for girls. We are
asked to use non-gender terminology when speaking to children. While it is imperative that we
teach the younger generations to avoid and dispel gender stereotypes, I also believe that adults need
to look at their own behavior and roles as well. Fathers need to spend more time at home, instead of
at the office. They need to have tea parties with their children and help clean up around the house.
Women need to show that they can discipline and be aggressive in various situations. Children learn
by example and we need to be setting a good one!
Stereotype-Breaking Actions:
Stereotype breaking actions are actions that one party can take to prove to their opponents that they
are better in character than the opponent assumes. For example, one party may visit the opponent
personally, and be more reasonable, more friendly, more agreeable, or more helpful than the
opponent expected. When this happens, they are likely to revise their enemy image at least a little
bit, concluding that some members of the opposition are reasonable people, or even that the
opponents, in general, are more reasonable than they thought they were. Anwar Sadat's first trip to
Jerusalem was a stereotype-breaking action. No one in Israel thought he would come at all, and
when he did, he was much more reasonable, and much more personable than most Israelis expected.

The same was true of Mikhail Gorbachev's first visit to the United States. Gorbachev was very
warm and friendly toward the American people, and they were very much captivated by him. This
effectively broke down many people's stereotypes of Russians as hostile, cold, and aggressive, and
replaced those images with an image much more friendly and open.
In addition to making trips to the opposing country or group, other stereotype breaking actions are
possible as well. One must simply determine what the other side thinks of you or expects of you,
and then do the opposite. If you are expected to be closed to new ideas, express and interest in
listening to new approaches to the problem. If you are expected to be selfish and aggressive, take a
non-assertive stance and make a small concession that demonstrates good will and a willingness to
cooperate with the other side. The goal is simply to contradict the negative images that people
usually have of their opponents, and begin to replace these negative images with more positive
ones.

GLOSSARY OF IMPORTANT TERMS


alienation (n)
to be alienated (v)
attitude of superiority (n)
To feel superior (v)
discrimination (n)
to discriminate against (v)
ethnocentrism (n)
ethnocentric (adj)
generalization (n)
To generalize (v)
harm (n)
harmful (adj)
To harm (v)
hostility (n)
hostile (adj)
intolerance (n)
To be intolerant (v)
prejudice (n)
to be prejudiced against (v)
to feel prejudice against (v)
racism (n)
scapegoat (n)

a feeling of being separate, a feeling of not belonging


belief that one is better than others are
special treatment (good or bad) based on race, religion,
physical appearance, age, social class
belief that one's own group (culture, race, country) is
better than others are
a statement that does not include details or important
differences
physical or emotional pain
causing physical or emotional pain
anger, hatred, strong opposition
lack of kindness or understanding toward people who are
different
a negative, unfair opinion about a person or group of
people, usually based on limited information or limited
experience
belief that an ethnic group is superior or inferior to other
groups
A person or group who is given the blame for the
mistakes or failures of others, promoted through the use
of propaganda.

stereotype (n)

a very simple, often mistaken, generalization about a


group of people

traits (n)
xenophobia (n)
xenophobic (adj)

characteristics, features
fear or dislike of foreigners and strangers

COMMUNICATION ACTIVITIES:
1.- What are stereotypes and how do they affect peoples lives?

2.- Can you think of any events in history that were influenced by stereotypes and biases?
3.- How do people learn to make stereotypes? How might they unlearn them?
4.- How can the media (newspapers, television, cinema) help to reduce stereotyping?
4.- Do you think certain groups are more subject to stereotyping than others? If so, why?
5.- What do you think an individual can do to help reduce bias and stereotyping?
6.- One of the underlying contributions to sexism is the attitudes we have toward each other based
on gender stereotypes. List the social expectations and pressures to "fit in" to a limited repertoire of
values and possibilities for men and women.
7.- What does it mean to "Act Like a Man" in our society?
Possible answers:Macho, tough, stand up for self, in control, nothing stand in the way, don't back
down, muscles, rough sports, men stronger than women, don't cry, get mean, sexually aggressive,
strong, muscular, not nice or kind, be a leader and burp.
8.- What does it mean to be "ladylike" in our society?
Possible answers: Polite, fragile, gentle, nice, kind, don't spit, sensitive, cry all the time, good
manners, cross legs, shave your legs, passive, pretty, skinny, well dressed, don't fight, can't be
smarter than guys, followers, smarter than men, confused, loyal, depend on guy.
9.- Where do people learn these attitudes or get their ideas on gender stereotypes?
Possible answers: The media, television, magazines, movies, video games and any other medium
of information effects our attitudes and shapes our value system.
10.- In the USA the Healthy Relationships Curriculum (Educacin para la Ciudadana) helps
students deal with these influences to help them celebrate positive values and attitudes needed to
form healthy relationships. Is this statement True or False in our National Curriculum?

What kind of Stereotypes are identified with Specific Cultures?

What are the first three things which come into your mind when you
hear the words 'England' or 'the English?
Mine are fish and chips, rolling hills and sarcasm (click here for a definition of sarcasm)
On this page we have added what people around the world see as the stereotypes of the English.
The most common picture depicting a typical Englishman is a man wearing a bowler hat and
reading the Times newspaper. Bowler hats are now rarely seen in England. In fact I don't think I
have ever seen one being worn apart from in the movies!
When I think of the English, I think of .........

'Beer, honesty, Bulldog-type, Cricket,

cream teas, 'Big Ben, Shakespeare, pubs, beefeaters' 'Men wearing bowler hats, pin striped suite,
a newspaper under the arm and carrying a long unopen umbrella.'

'double-decker buses, ' Royal family, God Save the Queen, Union Jack, bad weather.'