According to the Oxford dictionary, by definition a stereotype is…
… ‘A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.’
… ‘ A person or thing that conforms to a widely held but oversimplified image of the class or type to which they belong.’
Whilst on NCS (National Citizen Service) we were asked to think about stereotypes and what the word meant to us.
One guy in my group thought that stereotypes are fine, that they weren’t harming anyone so no-one would need to be protected against them. However, his idea of a stereotype was that if someone was wearing a t-shirt with a bands name on it that they must like that band.
For me, this example was more of an inference than a stereotype; And, at the time, it did make me feel kinda angry that people could think in such away about stereotyping people; that they thought it was harmless. But then thinking about it, people won’t always think about stereotyping in the way that myself and many others think of stereotyping.
For me when I think of stereotyping I think about the way someone treats someone because of the stereotype about them. Or I think about times that myself or friends have been cat-called when walking down a street or about when someone calls a woman a slut because of the outfit they are wearing or when anyone treats anyone differently because of what they’re wearing or what they look like. To me, stereotyping is what society has led people to believe about a particular ‘group’ of people. As a woman, it particularly leads me to think about how woman are treated in society. When people ask me why I would call myself a feminist, when in my country women and men pretty much have a similar pay and when so many women are leaders in my country, I would say because we are still treated differently in society, we aren’t all treated like people.
But it seems to be so similar with men too; the stereotype or social expectation that men can’t cry, that men are supposed to be really strong, that men are supposed to be interested in more ‘manly’ things like cars and football. That too must surely be so tiring, living up to what society thinks is the right thing to do? It deprives people of being able to be themselves.
For women these stereotypes make us think we are supposed to be weak, so I guess that’s why the movement was called ‘feminism’ in the beginning. Because all though the stereotyping is just as bad at least society think that men can be strong. Society doesn’t give women the belief that they can be strong too.
Stereotyping can affect how people see themselves, if they look a certain why or like wearing certain clothes that ‘fit’ into a ‘group’ that’s stereotyped they may feel pressure to be in that ‘group’. For example if a guy likes to dance, people may stereotype him and say that he is gay when that might not be the case. If people say and think that often enough he might start to believe it himself. Stereotyping can put people into groups. Another example might be that if someone has certain facial features that are associated with criminals, like in the biological theory about criminal behavior,then they may become criminals because of that pressure from society that that is who they ‘should’ be. There was even a report about the increase in criminal activity when that theory was published.
The real shame is that there is and probably won’t be a way to deal with this problem because it is the ideas and thoughts of people over centuries that have led us to where we are. It’s each individual person that has the power to empower others and not stereotype; to not assume things about people by just looking at them. Even about that band t-shirt, maybe they have never even listened to that bands music. Maybe they just thought the t shirt looked cool.
This post was a bit deeper than my other posts because I feel like its quite an important subject but this is only my opinion and what I think about stereotypes. Loads of other people have different views on it which is bound to happen because we all experience different things and can only experience our own lives, no one else’s. So feel free to share your thoughts about it, i’d be interested to know other peoples thoughts on the subject.
Thanks so much for reading 🙂
Lets all empower each other to be the best versions of our unique selves!