Stereotypes: A Big Problem in Our Modern Society
I personally hate stereotypes. I dislike the fact that people think I should act one way because of my sex, personality, or nationality. I hate that people think I should like sports because I am a man. I hate that people think I should be priest because of my personality. I hate all of this because people are creating a concept of me based in what they see, but not in who I really am.
Stereotypes are a big problem in our society. It puts labels about how a person should act or live according to their sex, race, personality, and other facts. This could affect individuals who perhaps like different things or do different activities, but feel ashamed of doing so because of stereotypes. Stereotypes like all men like sports or women are not as strong as men, are among the most common in our society. Stereotypes have created a distortion of how every individual should be. We as part of the generation Y should know how these stereotypes could affect us as individuals. We should learn not to judge and prejudge about people because of what we think they should be like, and should change our point of view about the stereotypes that are deeply rooted in our society.
The negatives effects that stereotyping causes in people are many. Some of the negatives effects are harm, poor performance in different activities, and even health problems. According to the article “Long-term Effects of Stereotyping” published in psychcentral.com, Rick Nauert argues how people can be affected by stereotypes even after being exposed to them. Nauert based his arguments based on a study of the University of Toronto that shows how people get hurt because of stereotypes, and how it could affect their performance in different task. “People are more likely to be aggressive after they’ve faced prejudice in a given situation. They are more likely to exhibit a lack of self-control. They have trouble making good, rational decisions. And they are more likely to over-indulge on unhealthy foods” says Michael Inzlicht, who led the research. This demonstrates how individuals are affected in a negative way because of negative stereotypes.
But not only bad stereotypes cause negative effects in individuals. Good stereotypes can also be harmful and cause new problems. They are even worse because people are not aware they are causing harm. In the article “Why stereotypes are bad even when they’re ‘good’”, published in the website guardian.co.uk, Oliver Burkeman explain how good stereotypes could create another problems such as sexism and racism. This can be harmful to many individuals. Burkeman argument is based in a study by the Duke University that discovered that positive stereotypes can be harmful in different situations without people realizing they are doing so. In this study the participants were exposed to fake articles related to black people. The first article was positive and showed that black people are better at sports. In this first article the participants didn’t realize this was a stereotype. Next the participants were exposed to a negative article about that black people are more prone to violence. “When asked to estimate the probability that a hypothetical series of people with typically African-American names might commit a crime, people exposed to the positive stereotype rated that possibility as higher than did those exposed to a negative one. The positive stereotype (“good at athletics”) apparently led to stronger negative beliefs about black people than the negative one (“prone to violence”)” (Burkeman). This demonstrates how good and bad stereotypes are equally bad because it causes prejudgment and leads to bigger problems.
Stereotypes create a misconception of how people are and how they live in other cultures, religions, or countries. This misconception could cause problems such as discrimination. This is a big problem in our multicultural society. In the talk “The danger of a single story”, published in TED.com, Chimamanda Adichie argues that knowing a single story of a person or a country can cause misunderstanding and create stereotypes. She uses the example of when she first came to the US to study. She says that a woman felt sorry about her because she came from Africa, and even ask her if she could listen her tribal music. Chimamanda tells us how she felt struck by this because she is member of a middle class family in Nigeria and she doesn’t listen to tribal music. This demonstrates how people are influenced by a single story of a country or a person, and are no aware of many other stories that could change the perception of them. “Now, what if my roommate knew about my friend Fumi Onda, a fearless woman who hosts a TV show in Lagos, and is determined to tell the stories that we prefer to forget? What if my roommate knew about the heart procedure that was performed in the Lagos hospital last week? What if my roommate knew about contemporary Nigerian music, talented people singing in English and Pidgin, and Igbo and Yoruba and Ijo, mixing influences from Jay-Z to Fela to Bob Marley to their grandfathers. What if my roommate knew about the female lawyer who recently went to court in Nigeria to challenge a ridiculous law that required women to get their husband’s consent before renewing their passports? “(Adichie). What if we see in other countries, cultures, or religions not only what we belief, but also other stories that could change our perception. It is important to learn from each other to understand and avoid stereotypes that could be harmful.
Stereotypes are creating problems in kids. These problems can affect children in many ways. We can see the negatives effects in many areas such as the academic area. In the article “Awareness of racial stereotypes happens at an early age, has consequences”, published in berkeley.edu, Carol Hyman show us how stereotypes could cause problems in people from early ages. He support his claim based on a study of the University of Berkeley that shows how racial stereotypes make the children perform poorly in school. He mentions how we could solve these problems. Hyman says that school should “Change the way tests are described”,” Eliminate stereotypes and prejudice”, and “Adopt classroom practices to reduce competition”. If we want new generations to be successful we need to do something to change it.
This problem is creating confusion in kids because they are growing up thinking that they should be one way because society thinks that’s the ideal. Stereotypes also are creating a false idea of how they interact with other individuals. Many of the stereotypes the children receive are through media. We can’t change this because is the way our society works, but we can teach our children to value other people for what they are, not what they appear to be. It is also important to teach our children to respect each other regardless of sex, sexual orientation, race, culture, religion, personality and more. It is important to teach them these values because they are the future of our society.
We as the new generation should do something to avoid this problem. We can start changing our perception of stereotypes. We should be aware that all stereotypes are bad regardless if they are good or bad because it causes prejudgment. We should learn to respect and understand other cultures, religions, and countries. This could avoid many problems such as discrimination. And more importantly we should teach newer generations to respect each other regardless of their differences. With all of this we can change our perception of the stereotypes that are deeply rooted in our society and make of this a better society.
Exceptions to the Stereotype Rule On Television
Television is forever known for imitating stereotypes and neglecting minorities. When and if we see minorities on TV, rarely do we see accurate reflections of them. The majority of television programs and movies cater to the well-known stereotypes we all recognize. Are there exceptions to this unwritten rule? In examining the TV shows I have watched in recent years, I believe there are some TV shows that do not cater to the commonly held stereotypes of minorities.
Native Americans are just one ethnic minority that is constantly misrepresented. Westerns tend to characterize Native Americans as savage and ignorant. I can’t count the number of times I have seen Native Americans portrayed as ruthless savages who have no just cause for attacking white men, scalping settlers, and raping women. However, one show, The Young Riders, has broken the mold and depicts not only the side of the white settlers but that of the Native Americans. The Young Riders is a program about the lives of six young Pony Express riders. One of the riders, Buck, is half Kiowa and half white. Several episodes concentrate on his loyalty to his Indian heritage. In one particular episode, the Kiowa Indians attack the Pony Express riders. Buck is seen discussing the matter with his Indian brother. His brother explains that the Kiowa attack the riders because they carry the white man’s word. Furthermore, he explains that as the word of the white man grows so does he, and thus he becomes a larger threat to the Indians. Consequently, in many episodes, Buck is often harassed because of his Indian blood. However, the other riders always come to bat for him and defend their friend no matter what his ethnic origin may be. The Young Riders was canceled about four years ago but while it was on, it served as an accurate reflection of the crisis between the white settlers and the Indians.
African-Americans are another minority that is usually misrepresented by television. African-Americans are most often portrayed as poor, uneducated, and very often as criminals. The Cosby Show is one program that moved beyond this unfair stereotype. The sitcom is based on a seven-member African-American household in which the father is a doctor and the mother is a lawyer. The Cosby Show was a sitcom and it did not focus primarily on the aspect of two African-Americans as affluent professionals. However, it did aid in disputing the stereotypes that African-Americans are either poor or criminals. When it first began, The Cosby Show was among only a few shows based on the lives of African-Americans. Today we see more and more shows centered around the lives of African-Americans. Many of these shows are sitcoms and do not always portray African-Americans accurately. We still need more shows about African-Americans that are more serious-minded and paint a true picture of their lives.
Although not an ethnic minority, the blue-collar working class is often a minority in today’s TV programs. Most shows focus on the professional elite, believing that the blue-collar working class is dull and boring. However, there are a few shows that dispute this theory. Roseanne, which has been on for more than seven years, is about a working class family that often has to struggle to make ends meet. There is nothing really extraordinary about Roseanne or her family. The show concentrates on real issues that blue-collar employees wrestle with every day. Grace Under Fire is a program that depicts the plight of a single mother who has to work in an oil refinery to pay the bills. She has overcome her problems with an abusive husband and alcoholism to come out on top. Both of these shows scrutinize the issues associated with blue-collar employees that are usually cast aside. Furthermore, both of these shows are about women, another minority in the television industry. It is infrequent to see a woman in the leading role. These two women have surpassed the stereotype that women are unfit for leading roles. These two shows promote not only the need for more blue-collar shows, but for more women to be cast in leading roles.
Television adheres to many of the popular stereotypes we have today. However, these selected shows are the exceptions to the rule. They all cast the stereotypes aside and reflect a true picture of the situation. Do we recognize these exceptions? If not, we need to start. They all deserve a standing ovation for their willingness to break with the ties that formerly bound them to the well-known stereotypes. We need to be more aware of what we are watching on television instead of blindly accepting what we see on TV as the absolute truth.
NOTE – This paper was written during my freshman year at Lynchburg College in February of 1996. It has been modified from the original version (modified in November 1997). The modifications only involved correcting grammar and changing wording in several places. As far as structure and organization are concerned, no changes have been made.
Created by Sheri Baber