Stereotypes

By: Robert Kruchio



Stereotyping is an issue that affects people’s perception of nearly every group of people they are unfamiliar with including ethnic groups, cliques, and gender. Stereotyping hurts society as it reduces the perception of complex groups of people to preconceived notions that may or not be accurate, and effect the decisions made based on the misinformation. Such decisions inevitably lead to discrimination from a fear of the unknown, which is inherent to all human behaviour, particularly when a notion is biased or unfavourable of a particular group (Grobman, 1990). Similar to stereotyping is ethnocentrism which is the rational that one’s own virtues and ideas are superior to those of others, and can have similar consequences.

There are a whole host of ways stereotyping incarnates, including notions of ethnicities such as Native Americans, Asians, Africans, East Indians, and Caucasians;  cliques such as jocks, druggies, geeks, goths, latinos, gangsters, cheerleaders, skaters, and rockers; and gender stereotypes of the role of males and females. While addressing each individual one would go well beyond the scope of this report there are common causes of stereotyping, discrimination, and the bullying. Instead this will focus on where stereotypes appear in society, how they are propagated, and strategies to bring awareness to them in the classroom.

In a world full of technology advertising becomes more and more common; impressionable youth are constantly exposed to ideals and opinions without even being aware of it which shape their ideas and interpretations of people. A few of the many common stereotypes often portrayed in advertising are the degradation of visible minorities, women viewed as sex objects, and money being the ultimate source of happiness (Sterotyping, 2009). These messages are presented through mediums such as magazines, television, and the internet in audio and even more so visually. Typically these advertisements will present a product with subliminal messaging that indirectly makes many statements about how people should act, what they should buy, and what they should think. By the age of 17, an average North American student will have watched 22,000 hours of television, and seen 350,000 commercials (Chavanu, 2009).

The traditional portrayal of the female is an aesthetically pleasing woman, well groomed and thin. Their role in society is often displayed a wife and mother with a clean house beautifully furnished, and with a happy family just with the help of the “quicker picker upper”.

Unfortunately for society, the media benefits from the propagation of stereotypes where they rely on the quick identification of a group with an idea so they are best able to get their message across effectively (Media Sterotyping, 2009). While the effects of stereotyping are amplified through media, there is an internal mechanism for the response. Experiments have shown that other species, such as chimpanzees, are able to express some forms of “value judgements” of other primate species (Im, 2006).

As a teacher it is important to bring awareness to students that stereotypes are hurtful to the victim, and can have long lasting consequences mentally. Research has found that stereotypes place undue stress on minorities, who feel they must work harder to keep up with others that do not experience the same pressure (Im, 2006). Minorities in this situation feel that they must work harder to prove themselves against those who do not face the same treatment.

From an educators perspective it is crucial to raise awareness of stereotypes, where they are found, and the reality behind them. An effective technique was used by Bakari Chavanu, where he gave his class articles from a popular teen magazine and had them analyze the actual articles apart from the advertisements. It was determined that more than half of the actual magazine was actually advertisements, and the articles were carefully crafted information-advertisement combinations. This technique allowed students to objectively look at the information they receive, even when they are not conscious of it. It also makes them think critically about the influence other media has on their judgement. The technique produced great results, with the students shocked and appalled at how they were being taken advantage of.

Another approach is to have students examine a number of case studies and answer questions about the stereotyping that occurs. With different examples they are able to find something that they can apply to their own experiences, and with this connection it will allow them to better understand the problem and how to prevent it (Kreidler, 2009). It is important to connect the action to how it makes the victim feel, and instill a sense of empathy in students. With a connection to the consequence it makes it less likely for discrimination and exclusion to occur, similar to how a bullying situation is handled.  

Stereotypes most commonly result from a lack of information about the actual subject, which result from experiences shared by friends and family, seen in movies and television, and read in books (Grobman, 1990). Promoting awareness and education about minorities, ethnic groups, and other stereotypes is an effective method of counteracting the effects of this discrimination. The reality is that people fall into many categories and cannot be classified by a cut and dry interpretation based on limited information. It is important for educators to take the initiative and through different activities show students the truth.

If stereotypes are left unaddressed in the classroom it can have many consequences, including bullying and discrimination.





References

Chavanu, Bakari. Seventeen, Self-Image, And Stereotypes. Retrieved March 12, 2009 from:

http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/14_02/sev142.shtml

Grobman, Gary M. 1990 Stereotypes and Prejudices. Retrieved March 12, 2009 from:

http://remember.org/guide/History.root.stereotypes.html

Im, Felix. Sept 15, 2006. Do stereotypes affect school performance? Retrieved March 12, 2009 from:

http://media.www.thecampuspress.com/media/storage/paper1098/news/2006/09/15/News/Do.Stereotypes.Affect.School.Performance-2280155.shtml

Kriedler, William J.  (1997) .Dealing with Stereotyping, Prejudice, Discrimination, and Scapegoating.

Educators for Social Responsibility

 

Media Stereotyping – Introduction. Retrieved March 12, 2009 from Media Awareness Network:

http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/issues/stereotyping/index.cfm