What Is Your Opinion of Stereotypes?
Bad? Good? Aren't they true sometimes?
A stereotype is a popular opinion an individual or a group has about another group (grouping in this case is subjective, based on some common trait shared). It is always about a group.
Sometimes it's the reputation that the group has acquired in the eyes of people, for doing certain things noticeably more than the general public. People take notice and start generalizing, even if majority of the group in question does not do whatever it is they are stereotyped upon. For example, "muslims are terrorists". Vast majority of followers of islam are very peaceful people who love their families and won't ever bomb or shoot anyone. On the other hand, vast majority of known terrorists are islamic,(see FBI most wanted list) and their propaganda is purely religious (jihad, the holy war). Terrorism is designed to generate much impact on the public mind with effort of very few individuals, and if those individuals claim they are doing it in the name of allah it's hard not to associate terrorism and islam, and, as a consequence, not to stereotype accordingly. And yes, it's a statistically supported fact of life that there are more terrorists per thousand people in the islamic world than in the christian or buddhist world.
Other times, it's just an image. The word "redneck" carries with it a certain image, albeit slightly different from person to person.
Stereotypes can be positive, too. In fact, the same group can have both positive and negative stereotypes attached to it. For example, "asians are industrious". They are also notoriously stingy and are bad drivers. The former, even though a stereotype, is actually quite true. Last I checked, asians lead in percentage of both undergraduate and post-graduate degrees by about 10pp. Europeans follow, then latinos, and negros are at the end of the list. Having much education is a good indicator of being industrious (or lazy) as it takes much effort to study that long. They are stingy, true, but that only applies to immigrants and comes from growing up in poor countries. Same goes for bad driving--these people never had cars and bought their first later in life.
As you can see, many stereotypes can have logic behind them. Few important things to remember, though:
1. They only really apply to groups. A group member is simply more likely than a member of general public to be similar to the stereotype.
2. The grouping trait (race, religion, nationality etc.) rarely can be proven to be contributing to stereotypical behavior. It's mostly just correlation, not cause-effect relationship.
3. Nothing about people is absolute. The words "all" and "every" or "none" cannot be used with stereotypes. Good expressions are "tend to be more..." or "do (something) more often".
How are stereotypes useful? Not all real guns are loaded, but you treat them with more respect than water pistols, at least until you make sure that the particular one in your hand is not loaded. It's all about chances.
If your goal is to stir the pot, you need stereo types ;)
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Stereotypes are a stupid excuse to lump people together. I like girls, so I'm a dirty dyke. I don't believe in God, so I'm a hypocritical atheist. I wear bright colored skinny jeans, so I'm emo. I say my opinion when needed, so I'm a bitch. I guaged my ears and peirced my lip, so I'm a masochistic attention whore. I hardly ever actually do my own homework, so I'm retarded. I ask my mother for money, so I can't take care of myself let alone anyone else. I may be Bi, but I'm not a dyke. I don't believe in God, but I'm not a hypocritical atheist. I wear skinny jeans, but I'm not "emo." Emo is a genre of music, so I can't be for one thing. I say my opinion once in a while, but i'm one of the nicest people in my group of friends. I guaged my ears and peirced my lip, but I didn't do it for attention or because I'm a masochist. I only ask my mom for lunch money, but that doesn't mean I can't take care of myself let alone anyone esle. Actually, I can take care of myself. I had to take care of my dad and myself for over a year and my dads worse than a 3 year old kid.
Stereotypes hurt people.
Side: stereotypes suck