What is a Stereotype?
A stereotype is a generalization of a person or group of people who share the same perceived characteristics. Stereotyping is often used in a negative way and can be very insulting to those being stereotyped.
There may be some truth in some stereotypes but this truth has usually been warped or completely transformed to suit the needs of the person using the stereotype. Furthermore, all stereotypes are all examples of prejudice through carelessness, laziness, ignorance or malice.
Many stereotypes are quite silly and harmless and there are many examples of them in popular culture, however attitudes change over time. It wasn't very long ago that racial and sexist stereotypes were a popular part mainstream culture in English speaking countries but this has become a thing of the past and is now unacceptable in polite society.
Other forms of stereotyping can be sinister and used to demonize groups of people and take away their humanity. This is often done using caricatures, which highlight the worst aspects of the alleged character flaws of the target. On the flip side stereotypes can do the opposite and highlight the perceived best characteristics of a group of people.
Stereotyping as Propaganda
from World War II
Malicious Racial and Religious stereotyping
People are not born with prejudice, it is something that is learned from a variety of sources within our culture. As mentioned before, making quick decisions about people is not only normal, but very useful. Problems can arise when our decision making processes have been skewed by learning 'bad habits' and we come to the wrong conclusions.
To make matters even more complicated our cultural programming can teach us to become the stereotypical characters that our cultural collective has chosen for us. For example, young boys and girls in western cultures are designated the colours blue and pink when they are babies. These babies grow up thinking that 'blue for boys' and 'pink for girls' is a natural state of affairs rather than a cultural construct. This is, of course, quite harmless but think of how other choices are made for with regards to gender.
Some common Stereotypes
Women are weak and can’t do men’s work
Girls can’t play football
Women can’t drive as well as men
Men can’t show their emotions
Women are neat and clean
German people have no sense of humour
English people are hooligans
Irish people are always drunk
Thai people always smile
Chinese people only care about money
Americans are loud and brash
Black people are good at sports
White people have no rhythm
Asians are smart
Jewish people are miserly
Latin people are lazy
Blondes are all dumb
People who wear glasses are clever
Children don’t like healthy food
Punks are aggressive
Football players are stupid