Often people will encounter a stereotype at some point during their lives. Often times stereotypes are made unintentionally, however they can still harm those who have been stereotyped. While I witness many different stereotypes each day, there are three stereotypes that occur in my life more than others. When crossing paths with others I will often be unfairly stereotyped due to my blonde hair and my gender. I also witness stereotyping against my husband for his visible tattoos. The saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ crosses my mind often as I deal with the actions that occur due to stereotyping.
Stereotyping can sometimes harm the individual and cause many negative outcomes. While all stereotypes are generalizations, not all generalizations are stereotypes. Stereotypes are oversimplifications of people groups widely circulated in certain societies (About. com, 2013). A stereotype may be positive or negative. However many negative stereotypes can be harmful to those who are negatively stereotyped. A stereotype threat refers to being at risk of confirming, as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one’s group (reducingstereotypethreat. rg, 2009).
For example a person who is stereotyped to be not as smart due to their race may start believe they are actually not smart and will then not perform as well on exams when their race is emphasized, while any other time they may perform better. Mosser (2011) shows that often the fallacy of hasty generalization can lead to damaging stereotypes made on the basis of just a few examples. Stereotypes about women, religious groups, minorities, ethnic groups, and so forth are often based on this type of reasoning.
Drawing broad and very general conclusions based on insufficient evidence can therefore lead to harmful results, not only for the victim of the stereotype but also for the person doing the stereotyping (Mosser, 2011). One stereotype I have encountered since I was a little was the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype. Why I have been thought of as dumb based on the color of my hair has never made sense to me. Often this stereotype has been brought up in a joking manner made to tease me about a silly mistake I have made.
However even when said in the most loving and joking manner, it is still hurtful. The argument for my ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype is often made once I make a silly mistake or do not know how to do something that most everyone else knows how to do. They argue that my mistake must have been made due to the fact that I am a blonde. Some how I have always felt that people regard me as a dumb blonde before I may even have a chance to speak. When I am around people who tease me about being a dumb blonde I will try so hard to not make any silly mistakes that I often end up making more!
The error in reasoning with the dumb blonde argument is that my hair color has absolutely no effect on my IQ. A second stereotype that I am continually battling is a gender related one. I have been thought of as weak physically, mentally, and emotionally. The train of thought that follows with this is that I am a woman, my muscles are not as big, and my emotions are rampant due to crazy hormones. There are many incorrect assumptions with this argument. I may be a woman, but I am strong mentally, emotionally and physically.
My gender has nothing to do with my mental state or my physical strength. A third stereotype that I have witnessed is one that happens to my husband because he has some visible tattoos on his arms. He has been thought of as unprofessional and even as a ‘rough’ man because of his tattoos. My husband is one of the kindest, smartest and most hard working, professional people I have ever known. One time he was preparing a work presentation when an HR lady told him that he needed to go home and cover up his tattoos because he would scare off the possible clients he was presenting to.
She reasoned that people who get tattoos are rough people who often have anger issues and can be scary. She mentioned that a Hells Angel motorcycle club member she once met had tattoos and was a really rough and scary man with an unpleasant attitude. This argument is a hasty generalization. She felt that because she met one unpleasant tattooed man that all were that way, and that everyone else would feel the same. Many people have hasty generalizations when it comes to a stereotype. They meet one individual who acted a way and then they include everyone that might resemble that person in a slight way into that group.
Stereotypes may not always be negative, sometimes people may assume the best of someone due to a stereotype. However stereotyping can be hurtful and even threaten a person’s character. As the US News (2010) article states, people who felt they were discriminated against – whether based on gender, age, race or religion – all experienced significant impacts even after they were removed from the situation (Us News, 2010). It is best to judge someone for who they truly are, not based on past beliefs or beliefs of a group.