Stereotypes

discussing stereotypes has resulted in the following conclusions.

Critical Assumptions:

  1. Stereotypes are false.
  2. Stereotypes are negative.
  3. Stereotypes are externally imposed.

Stereotypes are neither false nor true, but are the result of the ossification of value judgments into apparent facts. Quite often the foundation of the stereotype lies within fact (ex: a woman is usually found in the home, cooking, raising children, etc.) now, while this is not true for all women, it has in the past been true of most women, therefore it is based in fact. However when the statement becomes ‘A woman’s place is in the home’ a stereotype has appeared. Why? A value judgment has been made. ‘A woman’s place is in the home’ is actually saying that the proper place for a woman (also improper for a man) is in the home. It is a statement of what ought to be, not necessarily what is. This value codification into fact ignores the reality of change in roles and associations. The value judgment inherent in a stereotype is what makes it false, because values are subjective.

Stereotypes are negative. Well, most people agree with this, but there are examples of stereotypes that are embraced. The American cowboy for example. Rugged individualism, on the frontier, Manifest Destiny, a chance to make good, and the autonomy possession of a gun and the knowledge of its use entails, all offer an appealing example of the American ideal. People latch on to this romanticized image, because of the stereotyping, even though the actual life of a cowboy was very little like the western portrays it. perhaps the contemporary example is how people adapt themselves to fit a certain image be it techno-geek, euro-punk, scrawny-modelesque or what have you. Unfortunately an image is just that, not reality. so we live as stereotypes. People see themselves within a type and embrace that. I feel that the need to do so is fundamentally negative however.

All that leads to the discussion of external imposition. While the value judgment of the stereotype is created externally (ex: Irish stereotypes of violence, drunkenness, etc. were created by the British during colonization) the people these judgments are applied to must either ignore them and hope they go away (ineffective) or internalize them and adapt. This internalization can have two major effects. The stereotyped group/person can live with it. Or use the stereotype as a weapon to fight itself. (ex: some rap that uses nigger in a way that throws its loaded significance right back into the faces of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy). It takes alot of courage to be able to do this, quite often it can backfire.

I’m sure i’ve just written that loaded with value judgments, so i’m stereotyping stereotypes. hypocrite!