The Deception of Stereotypes

Have you ever been told not to do something because “It’s a man’s job”? Or maybe you’ve been raised believing that crying is for girls. Some people also believe that Asians are not friendly and feel superior towards other races. Others will never hire a Latino American out of the belief that they are lazy. We see these types of generalizations every day and if one generalization is recurrent over a long period of time, it becomes a stereotype. That’s why nowadays all blondes are stupid, even though we know that it was Princess Diana who said you should “carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” So stop labeling people because some day you might fall under some category too, and you won’t feel very good about it if the label doesn’t represent you. The only time when it’s acceptable to use a stereotype in your everyday life is when you want to break the ice with someone. Even then, make sure you are not offending anyone. Try to label yourself instead of others, because that will give you a taste of your own medicine.

Male – Female Stereotypes

Many women think most men are slobs. Even on TV commercials you can see how one detergent can clean the entire wrecked man’s apartment, including the hairy bathroom and pet hair from the couch cushions. But that’s not true for all men, because we all value our hygiene equally. There are women who are just as messy as the men in the stereotype, and they are usually thought to have a man’s lifestyle. According to this stereotype, women tend to clean their habitat better and frequently because of their ability to sense foul smells more easily than men. Keep in mind that women don’t go around the home sniffing for bad smells and if the fridge starts smelling bad, men and women, both can sense the smell equally. Some men use this stereotype as an excuse to make their wives clean the house, but in these modern times the cleaning responsibilities should be divided equally. No one washes clothes manually anymore and there were machines invented to do all household chores in the most effortless manner possible.

Another stereotype for men is the motto that crying and pink are for girls, or girly men. It’s true that women are more emotional, they use the left side of the brain more than most men, but that doesn’t mean that men’s left brain is shut down from birth. Men have feelings too and they get hurt just as girls do. When we are sad we all feel the sadness in the same way, not more and not less. In the past, up until the 19th century, it was very honorable to see a man cry. It meant he either did something very great or his family’s integrity is at stake. It meant that men are men, whether or not they have feelings and how they show them. It was a sign that one is comfortable with his masculinity and he feels no need to neither enhance it nor shut it down. The color pink was and still is considered to be very girly. Here again comes the conclusion that a man’s machismo is not measured by the clothes he wears, but the attitude he displays. Remember that it was girly once for men to have long hair, but nowadays you may find men with long hair on the sexiest men alive lists.

In the era when men and women lived in hunter-gatherer societies, there were men’s jobs and women’s jobs. Men had to go out, hunt all day to make the bonfire more bountiful, while women were left behind to take care of the children, sick and elderly, and gather fruits and veggies. But nowadays things have changed. Men don’t have to hunt anymore for food and they don’t have to expose themselves in the wilderness. They can buy food from the grocery store on the corner and they don’t have to skin of animals to make shoes or blankets. Women don’t have to protect their kids from wild beasts and there are hospitals and doctors to take care of the sick. We live in small households, not in tribes, which shortens the list of things we need to do for others and our environment as well. Since we can put the threatening wilderness factors aside, the world doesn’t seem so manly anymore. A woman can easily change the light bulb without a man’s help. She can hunt if she finds the sport suitable, she can be a lawyer, a judge, a cop or a president. Men don’t have to shy away from their dreams either. There are many famous and handsome, not to mention rich, hairdressers, designers and models, enjoying their lifestyles even though some may consider them to be feminine.

One stereotype that can actually be true is that women talk too much. When it comes to women, they are more verbal. They like to talk about their feelings, how something happened, why it happened, their reaction, the others’ reactions, what they were wearing and what they plan on wearing. Women like to share and give, because that makes them connect with their feminine side more easily. Men on the other side like to do things more than they like to talk about them. In their day to day lives, men are more solution driven, they are more methodical and they like following the line. But the fact that we have so many successful women in the world suggests that women don’t go through life just by schmoozing around. Women think creatively. Studies have shown that while conversing, women use both brain hemispheres, while men keep the action going in the dominant part of the brain. That is why women may be better negotiators, PR’s, politicians and everything else that requires a lot of talking.

As you can see, the stereotypes regarding masculinity and femininity are constantly changing and they will keep changing as long as there are new generations developing, and telling the world what is in and what is out. The leading role is no longer determined by the private parts but only on the ability of the leader. If you are a woman, chances are big that you will have to prove your spot in the office more than you would have to if you were a man. If you are a man who happened to adore his pink shirt, some stubborn people will still give you the look. Nonetheless, don’t forget that we are making the history as we go, so don’t back down from anything if you are following your heart’s desires, because at the end, you will see that it’s easier to be yourself than trying to be someone else.

Group Stereotypes

Unfortunately, many young people still believe that skinny is sexy. For this label to be even sadder, many people think that thin people don’t eat. This brings us to the question of discrimination of heavier people, who despite their weight are just as pretty as skinny people. Like all other stereotypes, this one too is used to describe a person. The weight stereotypes are describing far beyond the actual body mass of the person, by labeling that person’s personality. If you are thin you must be spiteful, arrogant, domineering, confident and superficial. If you are overweight, then you must be lazy, insecure, willful, passive and probably very nice to talk to. These personal traits have little to do with one’s weight, as they can be all developed by choice. Many times being overweight is a result of a thyroid ailment, where the person must live on half the calories a thin person would consume in a day, to keep their health condition regulated and still gain weight more than they should. Other times, a thin person may have a fast metabolism that allows them to eat whatever they want and how much they want, without gaining any extra weight.

Every mother anticipates this stereotype to arise when her kids reach their teenage years. This is the stereotype that suggests that all teenagers are rebels. It can be partly true, depending on your point of view. If you have dreams to see your kid become a doctor, but as they grow up, they discover they have a musical talent, and they decide to go to a music academy, you might take that as rebelling. But it’s actually not. Each one of us starts to develop a certain character during our teenage years. We decide what type of music we like, what kind of clothes to wear, who to hang out with and what our perfect mate looks like. Those years are very tough on everybody in the family, because one kid is not just a kid anymore, but aiming toward adulthood. The first life lessons are learning are during these years, the first hearts get broken and then mended. As adults, we have already inspected the ground we are standing on, we know what we like and look for. Teenagers are trying everything out for the first time, which to us seems like rebelling.

Another stereotype about children is that they don’t like eating vegetables and fruits. It’s true that the child’s sensory receptors are more sensitive and receptive than ours and your kid will probably refuse to eat Brussels sprouts because their taste is a little too strong. But for the rest of the healthy foods, there is no rational reason why your kids won’t eat them. Our kids usually copy us in everything we do. When they see how much we enjoy our fried chicken, fries and chips, they tend to like the same foods because we are the closest assessable indicators of what is good and what is bad. So if you want your kids to eat healthy, you will have to leave the chips and dip for your alone time, and start eating more green.

From kids and teenagers, let’s switch to the elderly. In many modern societies the elderly are considered a burden. For many, they are old, clueless and know nothing about the world we are living in. Some might even go as far as to say that the health system is spending too much money on preserving the health of those who are way past their prime age and have little chance of getting better. This statement is wrong on so many levels. First of all, think about your role in society when you are 80 years old. Would you like to be considered a burden after working more than 40 years, raising children, paying college tuitions and staying awake every night when your kids were sick? They don’t say that wisdom comes with age for nothing. Keep in mind that your 80 year old neighbor has been in this world way longer than you. He or she has seen depressions, inflations, changing of governments and famous assassinations. What you read in books and on the Internet, these people were alive to see, feel and experience. There is nothing better than conversing with someone way older than you, if for nothing else, you will at least have the chance to feel truly young and thriving.

In most societies, people who work in finance are considered boring. In fact, their boring job makes them search for fun more than any other employee. Spending all day with numbers is not easy or exciting, so their free time is where they learn to break loose and enjoy their life. If you are a writer people always assume that you are either depressed and a loner, or you have an intimidating and crazy disposition. Politicians on the same manner are always the evil guys. Most of them seem that way, but that comes with the job. They are trained to be cold and rigorous because they have jobs where their emotions and personal life must be excluded from their behavior if they want to be successful. We see them as evil because they made us lose our jobs, failed the economy or changed the healthcare system, which is a partly justified decision. But then again, this stereotype too is very subjective, because you won’t feel that way if you have close friends who are involved in politics because you will know them personally. Lawyers also fall under this category, but not as evil but as greedy. We consider them as money grabbing individuals, when they are only charging for their services, same as doctors and auto-mechanics. The reason why we think of them as greedy is because they charge too much for their services. Remember that in most countries the legal fee is determined by the law, not the lawyer, they just finished the right college.

Another group that has always been stereotyped is the one where all foreign people fit in. According to Americans, foreigners don’t speak English and you might hear someone raising their tone, repeating words slowly to make a foreigner understand better. The source of this stereotype is the fact that all people who were not raised in America will have a different accent than the authentic American. If you went to France and learn their language, you will probably speak French more correctly than most people there, but to French people you will still sound funny. This is because the language you will learn is the language that is grammatically correct, used in books, not in conversations with real people. While your French fellow citizens might be talking entirely different language, based on their age group, social circle and their personal speaking style. Just like in America.

Homosexual Stereotypes

There are many stereotypes around gay people. The first false conclusion straight people have made about homosexual men is that they are bad at sports. Because it’s one of the manliest sports, we will mention the rugby player Gareth Thomas, but there is also John Amaechi in basketball, Thomas Berling in football, Brendan Burke, a son of a former Toronto Maple Leafs manager and an ice hockey player, among many others. On the other hand, there’s also the made-up assumption that gay women are very good at sports. There was even a study made to prove that gay men have lower testosterone levels, while gay women have high testosterone levels, which made the first category bad at sports, while the second, very good. Keep in mind that there are perfectly healthy heterosexual men, who have their testosterone levels in the normal range and are still not interested in sports. And there are also many straight women who are excellent athletes and made records in the sports history without a change in their testosterone levels.

Some groups of people, especially religious ones, believe that homosexuality is an abomination and a sinful life choice. Fights have been fought to prove many people that being gay is not a choice you can make, but a way you have been born, like being blonde, brunette or Asian. Homosexual units have been seen in hundreds of other animal species and nowhere are they treated as they are treated in the human society. Homosexuality is a “disease” of the 20th century. In the past, there were many homosexual couples and no one seemed to despise them or say that their love is a nuisance. There are ancient Egyptian papyri where two men having sex are depicted, but the emperor Hadrian was the first Roman leader who publicly declared that he was gay. After his partner Antinous drowned in the river Nile, he named a city in Egypt after him, there were statues of his lover all over his palace and historians wrote that he was weeping like a woman when he lost his love. In medieval times, church scholars and writers were writing entire passages describing homosexual scenes, even then, declaring them as sinful acts, but only because sex is forbidden outside of marriage in the bible.

Stereotypes in the Animal World

Of all other stereotypes, this one has the least credibility. It says that dogs are man’s best friend, while cats are from hell. Those people who had the pleasure to have them both as pets know that there’s absolutely no truth in this label. Cats and dogs, same as people, have their own personalities. They get mad, they get lonely, they get bored and they get aggressive. A cat can be friendly and cuddly, and a dog might get violent and kill his owner. One of the most aggressive types of dogs are actually very small and lovable breeds like: Pekingese, Chihuahuas and terriers, which excludes them from the man’s best friends list because they are known to attack members of their own “crew”. They are same as kids - their behavior depends on how you raise them. In the animal kingdom, the award for the falsest stereotype goes to the rabbit and his carrots. You can see a bunny munching a carrot in the Disney World, TV commercials, cereal boxes, frozen food packages and where not. Many people must think that carrots are their pet rabbit favorite snacks, but rabbits are not supposed to eat too many carrots. Fruits, carrots, cereals or even lettuce should be an occasional treat for your bunnies, not a regular diet.

Stereotypes in Cultures and Races

There are cultural stereotypes enough to fill another world outside of ours. There isn’t a culture in the world that is not labeled by a stereotype. Americans are stupid, fat and blind. Asians are hardworking, unfriendly and good at math and technology. Irish and Russian people are always drunk or can drink too much. All Black people are hostile, poor and violent. All Muslims, Arabs and anyone with a long black beard is a terrorist. All Jews are rich and greedy. English people have bad dental health. French people are good in bed. Italians love their family. Asians have small penises, while African Americans have the biggest private parts size. Rednecks, cops, blondes and dogs are all stupid, while black people are criminals and everyone coming from the Asian continent knows martial arts. The list can go on, but you already started to realize how silly this is. One personality trait cannot describe an entire country, race or group. One word cannot even describe one person accurately, let alone an entire population. It’s true that Asian people are hardworking. Anyone coming to a new country will be a hardworking individual until he achieves the goals he imagined. Blondes are not dumb just recently; they have been called that for centuries. To be more precise since the 17th century, thanks to a mademoiselle named Rosalie Duthe. She was a French courtesan who shared the companionship of many noble people in her time. A playwright was written to honor her stupidity, even though she offered kisses to anyone who can write something good about her. No one ever did, but the stereotype stuck to current times. There is an origin for every other stereotype, some are negative, others are positive, but in no way they are truthful.

Why do We Need Stereotypes?

Stereotypes were present in ancient times, they are still very popular and they will be in the future, based on the way the human race acknowledges differences. There are some positive sides in labeling people. For instance, you can simplify the processing time when you are in a complicated social situation. You can build your future connotation about a person based on the assumption you have had about them and their stereotyped group. But in all cases, whether the implication is positive or negative, stereotyping is not the best way to get to know the people around you. We only use labels when we are unable to obtain the information we need for the individual. We are used to be methodical and make the story when we see the entire picture, but when we can’t we try to fill in the blanks with stereotypes. Writers for example use stereotypes most often. But that is only because the character describes a certain point or atmosphere through the stereotype, and most importantly – it’s fictional. But for the rest of us, regular mortals, remember that discriminatory thoughts and beliefs have led to violence, wars and genocide in the past. If you want to know someone better, labeling them to have a peace of mind is the worst thing you can do for your social interaction. With stereotypes, you put people in a box and deal with them as they were objects. Where out in the real world, all people are made of flesh and blood, they are all under the same sun and they were all born naked. Some of us are lazy, others are hard-working, you may be overly stereotypical or like to put people in categories. Whichever the case is, Mother Nature decided that we are all worthy of being here.

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