The Danger of Stereotypes

How stereotypes shape our views and perspectives.

The Wealthy West Coast And Southern Belles

Other regions of the United States that are affected by stereo types are people from the West Coast, The Mid-West and the South. Just as New York and other states in the North East are sometime negatively looked at by stereotypes, so are these other areas of the country.

When the West Coast is thought of, many of us refer to California and mostly Los Angeles. From that, an instant thought is bleach blondes and plastic surgery. If you think about it, how are we forming these stereotypes? What is leading us to these conclusions? Most of where our ideas come from today is the media. New reality shows are being created all over the country. When it comes to a stereotype that is being forced upon those who are from LA, why are we thinking that? All of the Real House Wives shows are putting a spin on an area of the country. There is a Real House Wives of Orange County and of Beverly Hills. These two places are most commonly known as wealthy areas. Where is the evidence to negate the false information given to us each day by the media? Another reality show based in California is Keeping up with the Kardashians (imdb.com). This gives us another example of the spoiled and rich culture that doesn’t hold true for the West Coast.

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If you think about it, many people that live in LA are people working hard to try to pursue their dream whether is in music, dancing, or acting. These people are being handed favors and have to strive every day to get one step closer to achieving what they want. A few years ago there was this show on MTV called Dancelife (mtv.com), it is shows like this that show the hardships and struggles many dancers have to surpass in order to achieve their dream. This show was a way of showing how a dancer in LA struggles to find work and how they must attend audition after audition. Katy Perry wrote a song called California Gurls, in this song, she sings: “California girls, We’re unforgettable, Daisy Dukes, Bikinis on top, Sun-kissed skin…” (Perry). This song plays into the stereotype given to girls from California.

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The south deals with mixed stereotypes. First there is the “Southern Belle” which are young women often associated with the darling southern accent, a winning smile and always cheerful (urbandictionary.com). Southern Belle’s tend to be wealthier than other southerners. Other southern stereotypes are that you live on a farm, you are home schooled, your family is poor and all southerners ride horses. Again, many of these stereotypes are based off of what we learn from the media. Yes, most of these are assumed based of movies such as Sweet Home Alabama or The Blind Side. Both of which are movies in the south and portray families differently (imdb.com). Popular movies, television shows, books, magazines, newspapers and even YouTube videos shape our society today. In some cases, they spread a false stereotype that takes away from the people who are associated with it. These stereotypes can be harmful and spread extremely fast through the use of the internet today.

I think in order for our society to grow away from the use of stereotypes, we need to stop listening to these reality shows that give us one part of a society or of a region. Today we are very quick to judge others after we find out where they are from, what race they are or how much money they have. This society needs to work on stopping that habit before it goes any further.

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Shit New Yorkers Say

The North East: Boston, Connecticut & New Yawk Stereotype

Stereotypes don’t just apply to college students and races of people but they apply to people that live in different regions of the United States. I can say from person experience that when an introduction is made and a person is not from the same place as you assumptions are immediately created. Major stereotypes based on the region you are from in the West Coast, East Coast, South and the Mid-West (Novak). Like other stereotypes these are not necessarily true.

I go to a university in the Mid-West; the majority of the students that attend this school are also from the Mid-West. I am from Long Island, New York. Based on recent reality televisions shows such as Jersey Shore, The Real House Wives, NYC Prep and many more, there are many new stereotypes created about people from this area. One day I was talking to a group of my friends and we were saying what our first impressions of each other were. Two of the impression that I gave off was “that bitch from New York” and “she must be rich, doesn’t pay in-state tuition and she lives near New York City.” Both of these impressions are not true. Yes, I do live an hour from New York City but my families wealth is an incorrect assumption. The person that said I was a “bitch” took back what she said and corrected herself by saying I was one of the nicest people and she was really glad we became friends. Shows such as Jersey Shore are creating incorrect views of people that live in New York and New Jersey (Friedman). From shows like The Real House Wives of New York, stereotypes are created that all New Yorkers are snobby and better than everyone else. (urbandictionary.com)

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These shows are making a new stereotype that we are trashy people with fake tans. I was introduced to a friend of a friend and he asked where I was from and I said “Long Island,” he then proceeds to say “you’re really tan.” This is just one example of the false opinions many people have. Shows like Jersey Shore aren’t just giving residents of New York and New Jersey a bad name but also this show is created a stereotype that all Italians are like this. From this stems the stereotype that all people from Long Island are Italian. The regional stereotype involves much more than just how you act, talk and dress. The stereotype of being from New York also brings about other stereotypes which are hard to break people of. Many people I meet say, you don’t have a New York accent and that is because not everyone speaks the way imagined. Just because you are from Long Island or New York City doesn’t mean you are going to “waaaaalk, taaaaalk and drink cawwffee and waaaater.” Yes every region has a different accent but the accent associated with New York makes it seem trashy. From reading other online blogs, I was able to gather information that some people either think Guido or Hamptons when thinking about people from Long Island. Guidos being the people associated with show like Jersey Shore and the Hamptons being rich, preppy, snobby people (skyscrapercity.com).

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Recently, New York and the surrounding area have had a lot of publicity. Many reality and popular television shows are being based in New York. Other New England States have stereotypes as well. Some stereotypes associated with Connecticut are that everyone is rich and preppy (yahooanswers.com). After further research, many of these stereotypes come from the Stepford Wives (IMDb.com), which portrays these people to have perfect lives. Similar to New York, Boston has the stereotype of the accent. I have friends from school that live there and I have family that lives there and they don’t say everything with a Boston accent. Many people base opinions about others from where they are from. Most of those stereotypes are not true and the occurrence of these opinions are giving the area a bad reputation.

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The College Student

Throughout recent history college students have been categorized as full time partiers (Curry, Colleen).These young adults are driven by ulterior motives than graduating with decent standings. Instead, these students seek to fulfill the college life and are motivated purely by the next chance to become obliterated and score more than just hard liquor. A common misjudgment about these undergraduate students is that along with being drunk, they are also sexually active. These common stereotypes suggest that while prioritizing, students rate social life higher than education. In this case, it seems that students are attending college simply to live in a community where it is socially acceptable to live a shameless lifestyle.  Society implies that sleeping all day, drinking lethal amounts, hangovers and one-night stands are all regular occurrences within this carefree setting. However, if these accusations are true, this wild social life is costing the average student sometimes more than forty thousand dollars a year. These common stereotypes pose the question: is a college education worth the tuition or is this money wasted on uncontrolled partying?

Another common stereotype suggests that throughout college one encounters hundreds of diverse people. Therefore at any college there is an outstanding assortment of races, ethnic backgrounds, political and religious views, as well as moral obligations driving students to act certain ways. Because this description proposes all types of people are represented in every undergraduate student body, another assumption becomes evident. There are five distinctive personality types that every college student will encounter: the amicable athlete, the frat boy, the high hippie, the activist, and the virgin (“Summary of 99% of the People You Will Meet in College”).

The amicable athlete is typically attending college full ride on a sports scholarship. This six-foot male often sports his team apparel provided by the school. His social group consists of many other athletes, although due to his cordial personality, students around campus all claim to be acquaintances. Acknowledging the fact that he is in for an easy ride, this athlete is all about enjoying himself. Due to his high athletic standing he is extremely sexually active.

Similar to the amicable athlete, accept without a sports scholarship, the frat boy is left to captain a club team. Most commonly on the weightlifting team, this male hits the gym at least twice a day. His two outfit choices are a sleeveless tank revealing as much muscle as possible or a collared polo for his frattier side. This student typically day drinks at least five times a week and has mastered beer pong. His well-toned body and overly confident personality often land him a one-night stand. When he cannot convince a girl to spend the night he is often surprised and angered. This frat brother is high tempered and aggressive.

The high hippie favors Birkenstocks sandals, tie-dyed t-shirts, and anything made from pure natural hemp. He or she often has dreadlocks and can often be spotted skateboarding to class or pondering alone beneath a tree. This student favors hookah bars and marijuana. Smoking from a young age, the high hippie can easily identify which household objects are most resourceful while making a bong. Often times this student can be seen playing hacky sack with other hippies.

In complete contrast to the high hippie, there is the activist. The activist can be male or female and desires to be part of every campus organization. He or she holds a board position in many of these groups. Although very active on campus, this student does not typically interact with others unless for something that can be printed on his or her resume. This student typically achieves high standings with the school and gains acceptance to anything requiring an application. Trying to prove worthiness, this student also tries to make a cause or club for any problem that arises.

Now that he is at college this student assumes he will be more sexually active

Lastly there is the virgin. The virgin typically comes from a small, religious town. Sheltered by their upbringing, this student has never encountered sexual activity, alcohol, or any other drugs. This student typically spends much time worshiping their religion and focusing primarily on schoolwork. Eventually dorm life will change this naïve teen, and he or she will agree to try a typical college experience. The first time out this student will blackout and become sexually active. After going out once this student will typically become a crazed partier.

Another misjudgment about college students is that males attend college for a degree in a future profession while females focus on marriage. This common stereotype is often referred to as a Mrs. Degree (urban dictionary). As a result females are typically underrated for their skills and knowledge and categorized with the inability to be independent. Many view women as avoiding any real responsibility. The Mrs. Degree insinuates that upon marriage females take full responsibility for children, ultimately becoming a stay at home mother. Attending college to find a husband assumes that any knowledge gained while attending a four-year college will be worthless upon graduating.

Stereotypes in the Media

Something to consider: How do we form the stereotypes that seem so common to us today? Where do we see the correlation between race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion and the general idea that is associated with them? One obvious answer to this may be our peers, coworkers, or others we relate ourselves with. But then we must ask, where did they get these ideas from?

How about the media? It’s public, widespread, a global connection, and not to mention popular. Whether we’re talking about television shows, movies, news coverage, printed or virtual literature, or the internet, in today’s society we cannot overlook the looming stereotypes. They can even be where we least expect them. For example, children’s movies! This may be the last place we expect explicit stereotype displayed to a young and impressionable audience. Yet, here they are! Check out the video below for some direct examples of race stereotypes in Disney movies.

You don’t need a race assigned to a character in order to make an association. For example, they Siamese cats are explicitly Asian and portray many negative stereotypes – “slanted eyes, buckteeth and very heavy accents and are depicted as sinister, cunning and manipulative” (Brunette, Mallory, and Shannon). Visit an article by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) for more examples and explanations.

Disney movies are not the only places where these stereotypes are portrayed! Take a popular show that is often referred to as the “show about nothing.” Well, I guess we can’t say it’s about nothing as we witness more stereotypes being openly and admittedly enforced.

Here I began to wonder…how much of an influence does the media have in how we shape stereotypes? A survey was created with seven simple statements, to which the responders had to either strongly disagree, disagree, somewhat disagree, have a neutral stance, somewhat agree, agree, or strongly agree with:

  1. The media (including TV shows, radio, and print, etc.) influences how I view groups of people based on religion.
  2. The media influences how I view groups of people based on gender.
  3. The media influences how I view groups of people based on sexual orientation.
  4. The media influences how I view groups of people based on race or ethnicity.
  5. I hear stereotypes being made on a daily basis.
  6. I make stereotypes on a daily basis.
  7. I believe I fit the stereotype that the media places me in.

Approximately 40 people from ages 15 – 65 participated in the survey, creating the following results regarding the first four questions (click to enlarge graphs):

These results shocked me! Overall, more people disagreed (including strongly and somewhat) than agreed on a majority of these issues. We had one singular person strongly agree with only one statement – “The media influences how I view groups of people based on race or ethnicity.” I was expecting a distribution that is skewed right with more people agreeing with the statements. But just wait! How about those last three questions? Let’s look at a few more graphs…

These results lean overwhelmingly towards agreement: stereotypes are heard on a daily basis according to every responder but one! Note also that the majority of people who agreed, strongly agreed. The recurrent question is, where are these heard? From the above questions, media may not have played as large of an impact as previously believed.

With all the people who stated they hear stereotypes on a daily basis, I guess most people just don’t join in with them! There are still a higher number of people who overall agree than overall disagree that they make stereotypes on a daily basis. However, there is a higher number of disagreements than what I would have expected considering the previous results.

This question was added onto the survey out of pure curiosity, but I believe it represents more meaningful information that the rest of the questions. A majority of people disagreed to the statement “I believe I fit the stereotype that the media places me in.” Also not that not one person strongly agreed to this statement! Stereotypes are just that – stereotypes. They are beliefs formed by generalized ideas of a group and consequently assigned to one person. With a majority believing that they do not fit into the stereotypes that the media sets out for them, there is obviously something flawed with how we, as a society, think of other groups of people.

Be it religion, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, we cannot fall into the thinking of the media. Over and over again we get trapped into one mindset that is admittedly wrong yet never rectified. Perhaps we do not realize the media’s role in how we think or act towards stereotypes – or perhaps we simply refuse to admit that we do recognize this and we constantly go against our better judgement in taking part in creating and reinforcing stereotypes.

For more information, views, and examples on stereotypes in the media, visit one of the following scholarly articles: Thinking About What We SeeThe Influence of Exemplar Versus Prototype-Based Media Primes on Racial/Ethnic Evaluations, or Deconstructing Lesbian and Gay Stereotypes in the Media.

Miami University of Ohio

It is safe to say that all students at Miami University are affected by common stereotypes about the student body. These assumptions are reflective of the academic and social environments created within the Oxford community. Once something is seen as socially acceptable, it seems that the original generalization soon becomes encompassing of an even larger percentage of students. This is enhanced as student’s surrender to trends based on a need to follow the social norms outlined by peers. Although in many cases standards popularized by a specific community create negative misjudgments, it seems that Miami students almost take pride the in the stereotypes defined by many college networks.

Miami’s classy red brick buildings, tree lined sidewalks, and open greens create a picturesque campus and the perfect scenery for it’s most common stereotype: “The J. Crew U”. This title is not only an image, but also a lifestyle. The students at Miami University are primarily Caucasian, Christian, and Conservative. Dressing with a style that reflects these views, most students suggest an upper-middle societal class upbringing. Based on this formal society created by their peers, students confess to holding themselves to higher standards. These principles suggest that dressing down, even for an eight am lecture, is simply unacceptable. Although students follow this social norm, not all students agree with the preppy image. One Miami student tweeted “it sucks that I go to a school where it is socially unacceptable to wear sweatpants to the library”. Many other students admit to changing their views and attitudes as well as improving their wardrobe based on the stereotypes associated with Miami. Even though many students disagree with Miami’s trademark image, the majority of the student body continues to follow the classy trend in more aspects than just their appearance. It is clear that many factors contribute to the “J. Crew U”, but the leading reinforcement for this label is still the staple outfit for both genders: a tucked in button down, fitted, belted pants, and boat shoes; a classic J. Crew outfit.

Stereotypes of Mexicans and Illegal Immigrants

Mexican’s, similar to white people, have many different stereotypes associated with them. These stereotypes originated when Mexicans started illegally crossing the border from Mexico into the United States. The Mexicans were trying to escape Mexico from all of the drug trafficking and terrible living conditions. They wanted to come to the United States and live the American Dream. Anthony Dwarkin tells us how unfortunately when they arrived here they found it to be near impossible to find a high paying, steady job because no company would hire an illegal immigrant, they were forced into manual labor often working for “under the table payment”.

Since the majority of Mexicans coming to the United States at that time were illegal immigrants working in manual labor, this is where the stereotype that all Mexicans are landscapers or construction workers came from. Also, that all Mexican women are housekeepers and maids. This is seen in the novel, Tortilla Curtain, when Candido searches for work at the labor exchange and often ends up landscaping or in construction. Similar when America finds work she is cleaning lady. Candido and America never made enough money to successfully move into an apartment and had to reside living down in the canyon. Since neither the occupation of most Mexicans does not pays very well, many Mexicans cannot afford a good standard of living, which is where the stereotype that all Mexicans are poor and dirty originated.

This is often the stereotypical job of a Mexican male in the United States.

Unlike the white stereotypes the Mexicans and immigrants do not have separate class system stereotypes. The majority of the stereotypical Mexican illegal immigrant population is poor and some even homeless. This is seen in southern California area where many illegal immigrants have smuggled across the border and have no place to live and no money, which forces them to live along the side of the road. Many look on this living style poorly, especially the upper/middle class, who has little sympathy for them. As seen in the Tortilla Curtain when Delaney and his wife Kyra see the Mexicans on the streets leaving a bad image for their community and make it look like an inner city. In general, Mexicans do not have a very good stereotype and it is often degrading to them. Many people look poorly upon Mexicans, even if they do not fit into the stereotype.

This picture shows the common living conditions of an illegal immigrant or poor Mexican trying to live in America

The following YouTube clip is of the Latino comedian, George Lopez. He often makes fun of the Mexican stereotypes, which is ironic because he has a Mexican background. In this YouTube video, between 7minutes, 30seconds and 8minutes, 10 seconds, Lopez talks with Mila Kunis about how Miley Cyrus was caught smoking Salvia. Lopez questions how Miley got the salvia, and states that it should have been the Mexicans because they are always on the side of the freeway.

This leads me to the final stereotype that I will discuss, which is the stereotype that all Mexicans are drug dealers. This originated from the fact that there is a vast amount of drug trafficking in Mexico. Since drugs sell for high prices many of the immigrants found that they could make a reasonable living off selling drugs which they have smuggled across the border from Mexico. Specifically Tijuana is the main location of one of the world’s largest drug cartels. Below is a picture showing Mexicans smuggling drugs across the border.

Mexicans smuggle drugs into the United States through secret under ground tunnels.

Stereotypes of the White Culture

White people make up a broad category of individuals, specifically in the United States 74% of American citizens are white (2010 US CENSUS). As like any culture there are many stereotypes associated with white people. The cliché of the “picture perfect family” all the way to “white trash” comes to mind when people think about whites. When polled, according to John Hartigan, the majority of people said that whites were relatively non-dangerous and less likely to commit a crime than a Latino or African American person. Since white people are composed of many different international backgrounds there are different stereotypes of people within the white stereotype. In this blog I will discuss some of the most common stereotypes along with how they came about.

The upper/middle class white family, as seen in the Novel Tortilla Curtain, has a common typical idea associated with it. The thought of a wealthy, powerful, privileged family comes to many people’s minds when thinking about the upper/middle white class. These are often seen as the “picture perfect families”, residing in suburban-gated neighborhoods with the classic white picket fence, a mother and father with daughters and sons. These neighborhoods also have their own stereotype of containing “cookie cutter” houses that all look alike. The idea of most white families living in beautiful, expensive homes is translated into the Tortilla Curtain where Delaney and his family live in a neighborhood which is about to become a gated community to keep out trespassers.

Family picture outside of their nice home.

The white culture is highly associated with different class systems. Including the upper, middle and lower classes. Depending on how much money your family makes, and what types of the jobs the parents have, determines which class you fall under. The stereotype of all upper/middle class adults having jobs consisting of doctors, lawyers, and business executives appears to be relatively true. Although there are families with old money who do not have high paying jobs but have large inheritance. The idea that money equals power is where the stereotype that most whites are powerful came from, which leads them to believe in white supremacy. This thought of white supremacy is what contributes most to white people being the most racist culture, because we see ourselves as better than say black people or Mexicans.

On the flip side of the positive stereotype of white people is the “white trash” stereotype. The people primarily categorized in this stereotype include those living in poverty, poorly educated, homeless, frequent drug users, and most shockingly people who associate with African Americans or Mexicans. The term white trash is commonly combined with the slang derogatory word “wigger”, known as a white person who acts like a black person. Also a family of mixed races might be referred to as white trash. This “white trash” stereotype is what fills in the gap between the upper/middle class stereotype and the Mexican and illegal immigrant stereotypes we have in the United States.

This is a common image of what people think of when they hear of a typical "white trash" family.

The following youtube video is from the showtime comedy “Weeds”. It takes place in a southern California neighborhood. The opening song makes fun of the stereotype that all upper class white people live in an indentical house, drvie identical cars, and have the same jobs. Also similar to in the novel “Tortilla Curtain” when Candido works for Delaney and America works in a nice home for a white family as a cleaning lady, all of the characters in this show have Latino housekeepers, and landscapers.

Arab-Israeli Conflict

Israeli-Arab Conflict

            The Israeli-Arab conflict primarily involves border disputes particularly over control of Jerusalem. Arabs and Israelis both hold bias, and often hateful, stereotypes regarding each other. The stereotypes in this region are ancient, and the tension between groups remains unresolved. These two sides have attempted to spread stereotypes to third parties in order to gain support (Suleiman). American policy has been influenced by stereotypes in the region.

Arabs are more oppressed than Israelis in the Jerusalem area (Suleiman). The land is currently governed by Israeli powers since World War II, and the land is recognized as Israel by world powers. The Arabs are often regarded as violent, barbaric, and anti-Semitic rebels or “terrorists” by Israelis because they have rebelled against the state of Israel (Diab). The Arabs are often considered uneducated laborers who are subject to the Israelis. Arabs are regarded as devious, untrustworthy, and unrighteous toward Palestinians.

These stereotypes have fueled the hate and bigotry present in the Middle East for numerous years. Currently, the tensions have been escalated to a more critical degree given the nuclear threats by Arab nations in the region. A great conflict between the groups is brewing. The only resolution to the situation seems to be eliminating stereotypes held by each group. The movie Promises confronts this issue from the perspective of children in Jerusalem.

I have constructed an anonymous survey in order to assess the beliefs of American Miami Students regarding the Arab-Palestinian Conflict based on their own religious and cultural biases. Each participant claims to have knowledge of the conflict. The Questions are as follows:

1. Who does the land of Jerusalem belong to, Israelis or Arabs, and why?

2. What should American policy be toward the conflict?

3. Do you know any common stereotypes of Arabs? Israelis?

Student 1 (Agnostic):

1. The land belongs to the Israelis because it’s Jerusalem, and it has historically been associated with Israelis.

2. America should stay out of the conflict.

3. Arabs: terrorists, invests themselves in small businesses. Israelis: Jewish

Student 2 (Christian)

1. The land belongs to the Israelis. Biblically, Israel was given to the Jews.

2. America should make sure that Jerusalem stays in Israeli control.

3.  Arabs: don’t like Americans. Israelis: think they are perfect

Student 3 (Jewish)

1. Israelis deserve Jerusalem because they were there first.

2. American policy should be pro-Israeli, but it should be handled in a non-violent manner.

3. Arabs are typically the peoples who are terrorists. (no comment on Israeli stereotypes)

The Fall of Rome

The Fall of Rome

“They [Mexicans] were like the barbarians outside the gates of Rome, only they were already inside, polluting the creek and crapping in the woods, threatening people and spraying graffiti all over everything, and where was it going to end?” (Boyle 311)

Rome falls as the Visigoths burn and sack the city

The Romans were starving, plagued, and frantic as the Visigoths prepared to sack and burn the capital of the once powerful empire. Rome was falling to the invading barbarians whom it once persecuted. Barbarians were classified as “any group not under Roman control” (Harl). In ancient Western European Civilization, Romans viewed the barbarians as insignificant second-class citizens. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall in order to keep the barbarians out of the empire, but the powerful military was failing due to insufficient financing. Tribes such as the Franks, Gauls, and Visigoths began closing in on the capital city (“Spartacus Educational”).

Romans held stereotypes about their barbarian counterparts; barbarians stereotyped Roman citizens as well. Romans believed barbarians were fierce, disloyal, uncivilized, and undisciplined (Mathisen). Romans held themselves to “higher” standards than barbarians. They believed that their society was more elegant and distinguished than the hostile and brutal barbarians. Barbarians were a threat to the distinguished Roman culture. Thus, Romans persecuted the foreigners. As the Roman military began to fail, the outsiders pressed in on Rome (Harl). Barbarians were enslaved and subject to any Roman citizen’s will within the bounds of the empire. Barbarians viewed their Roman conquerors as invasive oppressive foes (Mathisen).

Stereotypes during this historical period were as prevalent as they are today. The stereotypes of each culture were shaped based upon their outlooks on others. Stereotypes have fueled the motives of cultures throughout the course of history.

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