Stereotypes are very different from legitimate cultural generalizations
that are based on careful scientific study or positive personal experience.
Stereotypes are social constructs
Characteristics of stereotypes
- they originate in & reflect the power relations in society because
they are part of a culture's ideology
- they foster values that reinforce group and individual subordination
- they marginalize people, treating them as "the other"
- they categorize people into groups whose members supposedly share
inevitable characteristics, most typically, negative ones
Logical form of sentence asserting a stereotype: All x's are y.
- stereotypes are categorical & general, suggesting the traits apply
to all group members
- they are inflexible or rigid, thus not easily corrected
- they are simplistic
- they are prejudgements not based on experience (They could be reinforced
by negative personal experience.)
- can be conscious or unconscious
example, complete the blank with an adjective
- All women are _____________.
- Black men are ______________.
- White women are ___________.
- Athletes are _______________.
- Lesbians are ________________.
Claude Steele on Stereotype vulnerability:
|I think much of what is mistaken for racial animosity in America
today is really stereotype vulnerability. . . . Imagine a black
and a white man meeting for the first time. Because the black person
knows the stereotypes of his group, he attempts to deflect those
negative traits, finding ways of trying to communicate, in effect,
'Don't think of me as incompetent.' The white, for his part, is
busy deflecting the stereotypes of his group: 'Don't think of me
as a racist.' Every action becomes loaded with the potential of
confirming the stereotype, and you end up with two people struggling
with these phantoms they're only half aware of. The discomfort and
tension is often mistaken for racial animosity.
New York Times Magazine,
back to P & D course base
Go back to Stereotypes in Context: Understanding stereotypes unit
Created by Kathryn Russell
SUNY Cortland - Philosophy
Last modified on 8-10-99