Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stereotypes: Point/Counterpoint (by anons)

Alright, here's a little point/counterpoint regarding stereotypes.  These are posts from two separate sources that I'm fitting into this format.

I hate stereotypes in our society from all white people can't dance to all tall people play sports. Stereotypes are common things that happen in our society today.  All of us has had a point of time where we stereotyped someone or some group for their actions or the way they looked.  Although i don't think this problem can fully be eliminated I think we can start taking better steps to better the situation, such as learning more about other groups so we won't have certain assumptions of their way of life.  I feel if everyone tries to make a difference with this problem it will bring a great outcome.

Stereotypes are one of the most blessed things in life.  Of course they can be used for bad purposes, but we would never be able to function without them.  Stereotypes help us make quick judgments about the people we deal with so that we can more effectively navigate our world on a daily basis.  If I ask a professor where the University Center is and she tells me, I have the stereotype that she will tell me the truth.  If I was a Jew in 1930s Germany, I would be safe to avoid non-Jewish Germans because of the stereotype that non-Jewish Germans do not like Jews.  As a female it is better for me not to walk home alone at night because of the stereotype that men may not treat me well in that circumstance.  If I didn't have any stereotypes and tried to evaluate each person on her own before I came to any conclusions, I would be spending quite a bit of time doing that evaluation, and I could be putting myself in unnecessary risks.  Stereotypes can also help us understand large groups of people too.  If we got rid of stereotypes, we wouldn't be able to come to conclusions about groups of people like women are generally more caring than men or the elderly are wiser than the young.  Without stereotypes, we couldn't say those things.


  1. @Counterpoint- You are confusing stereotypes with either preconceived notions or, in blessedly few cases, facts.

    One dictionary defines stereotypes as: [a]standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment. So we see that a large part of any stereotype is uncritical, oversimplified and prejudiced. You can't simply redefine the word away and then say that it's something entirely different.

    You have a system of relatively firm suppositions, well-developed habits and memories of prior actions that help you navigate your life. Those don't really fit the definition of stereotypes as the rest of the world knows them. Sorry.

  2. It does seem like the counterpoint is not completely focused on what a stereotype actually is, as in, the argument is somewhat irrelevant.
    What I think though is that most, if not all, stereotypes are based on some truth, and it is OK to keep them in mind when meeting/interacting with new people. However, if one merely follows a stereotype without keeping in mind that it's completely possible the stereotype just doesn't apply at all, then there's a problem, because sometimes it really hurts to assume that someone is a certain way, based on a stereotype. Just about anything is possible when it comes to people and their behavior.
    Sometimes stereotypes can help, and sometimes stereotypes can hurt. For example, I'm a female at the bars with a girl-friend, I might want to keep in mind the stereotype that all men who want to talk to me are just looking to hook up with me later. So while I might avoid being taken advantage of by sticking to that stereotype, I might also miss out on getting to know a really nice guy.
    There's nothing wrong with stereotypes - it's just a matter of how individuals use them, and everyone should remember that regardless of stereotypes, it all comes down to your own personal, critical judgment based on the overall situation, the unique individuals involved, the setting, etc. The stereotype should always remain on the back-burner, if anywhere on the stove at all.

  3. There's everything wrong with using stereotypes. Do you really believe that Margaret Cho is good at math, just because she's Korean? Do you believe that Colin Powell has a really big..., just because he's black?

    Your experience in bars is just that. Your experience. Maybe if you were meeting guys at church you'd have less trouble with their intentions.

    Stereotypes are wrong by definition. They're not intuition or experience or feelings. When you say, "Stereotype," you have described something that is incorrect. Your stereotypes may comfort you by making you feel that you understand someone else or their aspirations and intentions. All they really do is show off your closed mind.

  4. Of course I don't believe those things. And I wasn't talking about my experience in bars. I was talking about a stereotype I might think about if I were at a bar (or anywhere else for that matter...). Many aspects of society in general are what contribute to the stereotype that all men want is sex, and not necessarily my own experience. And with your comment, I feel like you're using a stereotype yourself by implying that guys at church are less likely to have primarily sexual intentions than guys at the bars. So what about guys at grocery stores? Or school? Or anywhere? I was talking about guys in general (not just ones at the bar).... the bar was used as an example because it's a place people tend to meet. I guess I could have said "restaurant" or "coffee shop" or "art exhibit".
    Anyway... A stereotype doesn't have to be "wrong" or "right". Stereotypes just exist. And they don't come out of nowhere. And it would be closed minded if I really stereotyped people...but simply acknowledging stereotypes does not automatically assume that I do this. Holy cow grumps.

  5. Grumps, stereotypes are not wrong by definition. Where are you getting that from? By definition, stereotypes are simplistic generalizations about groups of people. Often when we hear about stereotypes, they are negative and bad, but that does not mean that ALL stereotypes are necessarily so. I agree with the counterpoint and the one anonymous commenter that stereotypes are unavoidable. We have general impressions about who men are, who women are, who various people are in certain professions. You simply cannot avoid them because without them, you wouldn't be able to function. The problem with stereotypes come in two forms. One, you can have a negative stereotype that typecasts a particular group of people. Good examples would be the deplorable stereotypes of Jews and blacks. Two, you can take any stereotype (even an innocuous one) and apply it rigidly to an individual as if that individual must display that stereotype.

    But if people use positive stereotypes to help understand the world in meaningful ways, I see no problem with that. We can't even help it. I have the stereotype that the Japanese people are resilient. It informs my understanding of how the Japanese might handle the recent earthquake and nuclear disaster. It is a stereotype about a group of people, not individuals. Thus, I find that stereotype perfectly acceptable.

    Show me that I am wrong.

  6. @Anon- I worried about using the church example and decided to let it stand. You've opened it up to a more diverse group of meeting places but kept the same stereotypical notion of what "All guys are thinking." Therefore, you'd be worried that guys in general would only be thinking about getting into whatever it is you want to keep them out of no matter where you met up with them. That group of all guys includes your Dad, Pope Benedict and the gay guy that works downtown. Let's assume that all guys aren't doing anything.

    @Xavier- Your notion that the Japanese are resilient works against those who might struggle in the face of overwhelming disaster since they could not "Just bounce back" from the tragedies of the past two weeks. It also lets you look down on those miserable Haitians who didn't have the resilience that the Japanese have in your worldview.
    Go back to my first comment for a definition of stereotypes to see that they are oversimplified, prejudiced and uncritical by definition. They are also insidious in that they let you claim to admire a group while having little respect for its members.

  7. Grumps, your definition of stereotypes is way too restrictive. A stereotype is not, by definition, prejudiced. Oftentimes, they are, but that is not necessarily the case. Case in point, one could say that Democrats tend to be pro-choice because they believe in the rights of the woman over a fetus. That is a stereotype. It would be wrong to assume that any particular Democrat is pro-choice, but the stereotype still stands. And it is unprejudiced - there is no judgment being made either in a condemning or praising fashion.

    I don't get why saying that the Japanese are resilient means that I must then believe that the Haitians are not. Care to explain the implication, because I don't get it. As I was using the stereotype, resiliency is a property of the people as a whole, and one could certainly say that that term applies of the Haitians as well as the Japanese.

  8. Xavier- that's Merriam Webster's definition, not mine. Words have meanings and you can't twist those meanings to make yorself feel better.

    Your example of Democrats is NOT a stereotype. It's a policy statement based on fact. You've torqued it a little but, for purposes of this discussion, we can ignore that.

    Stereotypes are used for comparison and judgement. If this is "this" then that is "something else." I'm tired of quibbling about definitions that are plain to see.

  9. I'm coming to this discussion late, but here are my comments:

    Humans use stereotypes to make broad judgements about other humans. It is a necessary survival tactic that seems to be built into the way we think.

    Stereotypes are usually based on observable facts, even if unfair to individuals. Some that come to mind are that jews are cheap, gypsies will steal from you, blacks are lazy, men are only interested in sex, mexican gang members will rape you (if you are a woman without someone or something to protect you), muslim men treat their wives and daughters like property, whites are prejudiced against blacks, asians work very hard at school, blacks are better at sports than whites or asians, homosexual men make better decorators and designers, etc.

    These stereotypes, while not applicable to individuals, have developed over time based on observations and experience. Everyone has stereotypes. No matter what you say, no matter how much or how loudly you protest, people will always use stereotypes.

    Before a stereotype fades into the ashcan of history, the stereotyped group must stop (permanently) exhibiting the stereotyped behaviors, which in most cases is not going to happen. Therefore, the stereotype will remain.