Some reflective thinking about stereotypes
=== by Bob Sutherland ===
One of my friends posted what he intended to be a simple joke on the timeline of his Facebook account. It was something he had found on the Internet and decided to share with his friends.
Lo and behold another mutual friend of ours attacked him by commenting "Not funny, eh? This stereotypes people by religion and race."
A bit of an argument erupted in the comments section below the posted joke. Soon they quickly forget about the matter and moved on with their lives. Typical people, they think life is too short to waste time arguing with someone they know over some unexpected conflict.
My reaction upon reading their short argument was that the topic of stereotypes needs to be more deeply considered and explored. That is my reason for creating this web page.
After a few days of deep reflection here are some of my thoughts on stereotypes:
- Without our stereotypes we have no identity. We simply fail to exist. People around the world know us by our stereotypes.
- Without our stereotypes you, me and everyone else in this world just become one big blur of humanity. People may see the forest but not the trees.
- By giving children simple stereotypes to use as a reference the children can learn to differentiate between evergreen forests, deciduous forests, fruit orchards and jungles.
- The same thing is true about people. By giving children simple stereotypes they can learn to differentiate between the genders, races, religions, geographic locations, rich and poor, tall and short, safe people and dangerous people.
- Children learn to tell the difference between male and female public washroom doors by looking at simple stereotype drawings of a stickman (legs apart) or stick woman (legs together, wearing a skirt). Most of the time all of the children look like the stickman. They are wearing pants and stand with their legs apart. But with a bit of teaching it does not take long for the children to figure out who among their group should use the washroom with the outdated/unrealistic stereotype drawing of a stick woman on the door.
- Now remember, stereotypes are learned. They have some sort of social, cultural, historical and/or biological basis. Stereotypes are used to classify people into groups. Stereotypes represent something people think they know or an impression they have regarding a group of people.
- If there is a problem in that you do not like the stereotype that has been associated with some group of people do not react by trying to ban all stereotypes. Instead put your effort into educating people to create, learn and pass on to their children and friends a better, more positive stereotype that they will now associate with that group of people.
- Stereotypes do change over time as people become more educated and informed about the target group. You can play a role in influencing people's stereotypes about yourself and others.
- Stereotypes are important. A Chinese person opening a Chinese restaurant has a definite advantage over a Scottish person opening a Scottish restaurant when it comes to attracting potential customers in my neighbourhood. This is in spite of the fact that I live in a community where citizens claiming to have at least some Scottish ancestors far outnumber the citizens with Chinese ancestors.
- Canada's national identity is based on the stereotype images we have of ourselves. The same applies to other countries and the stereotypical images the population and leaders have of themselves.
- One of the benefits of hosting the Olympic Games is that a country gets an opportunity to showcase and modify their national stereotype to a more modern image of themselves in front of an international audience. The artistic performances during the opening and closing ceremony shows are often focussed toward achieving this goal.
- My personal identity and behaviour are influenced by my feelings of association with various groups and their stereotypes.
- Being able to share a sense of humour and laughter with others requires having ideas in common with them so you both understand what is funny. This means you must share some level of education, intelligence, culture, language, experience, history and stereotype images of the world around you.
- As a person I am just a typical example of some stereotype. For example, I once heard a female coworker describe me as just another "meat and potatoes eating man". She considered her own diet based on salads, pasta, exotic fruits and chocolate treats to be far more exotic as she tried to conform or become representative of a different culinary stereotype. Unfortunately for her the single grocery store in the isolated community where we were living at the time catered to my stereotype diet but seldom had the things she fancied in stock. The store manager's recommendation in response to her many pleas and complaints was that she should change her stereotype and reduce her frustration by simply stop reading the food fashion articles of woman's magazines.
- People are naturally inclined to want to be unique individuals. Socially we want other people to pay attention to us and think we are special. As a result we often feel a sense of disappointment if we are told that we are just another typical example of some stereotype.