Stereotypes Exist Because They Are Grounded In Truth Has anyone ever said that ‘unicorns exist in real life and that they have seen them’? Or that they ‘felt hot while it was snowing’? Or that ‘cats can bark like dogs’? Clearly there is no truth to these statements. This is simply because unicorns do not exist in real life, you cannot feel hot if it is snowing, and that cats simply cannot bark like dogs. Life cannot exist without water, what goes up must come down, and similarly any statement which is accepted by thousands of other people must have some hint of truth to it.
As Kanazawa says “Many stereotypes are empirical generalizations with a statistical basis and thus on average tends to be true. If they are not true, they would not be stereotypes” (“The Scientific Fundamentalist”). Although some people argue that stereotypes are just over generalizations, and that people use them to perceive the stereotyped groups’ characteristics, most stereotypes are true as what is generally accepted in society must be somehow grounded in reality. Moreover, many stereotypes have been proven by science, and conducted psychological studies such as stereotype threat.
People who believe that stereotypes are false, argue that stereotypes are just over generalizations. They argue that stereotypes represent just a small minority of the group being stereotyped against. They give the example of the stereotype that “all blondes are dumb. ” And state that while some blondes may be dumb, not all of them are, in fact many are quite smart. They say that one’s hair color has no effect on ones intellectual capability. While this may be true for some of the stereotypes, many of the stereotypes actually represent the majority of the group being stereotyped.
So although there may be some stereotypes that are false or depict over generalization, most of the stereotypes in fact are based on assessments and actions of the majority of the group being stereotyped. Furthermore, people who argue that stereotypes are false state that people continue to cling on to stereotypes because it is quick and comfortable. It allows people to think they are gathering information about other people, without having to stop and actually spend time understanding the person or groups true personality. They claim that because of this many of the people or groups are misunderstood.
However, what these people do not realize is that many of these stereotypes quite rightly show some of the traits of the group or individual being stereotyped. An example is the stereotype, ‘Jews are adept money handlers’. The fact is that this stereotype is true to quite a great extent. According to ‘The Weakonomics’, “you see an overwhelming representation of Jewish people within industries that revolve around the exchange of money… Not only have they dominated finance… ” (“Why Do We Associate Jews with Money? ”). While some of the Jews are either lawyers or doctors, most of them are in a field related to finance such as banking.
In fact most of the people in top positions related to finance are Jews like the treasurer of the United States, and the Secretary of the Treasury. In fact most of the people running the American Treasury happen to be Jewish. Another example is the stereotype that Asians are smart and studious. Some people say Asians are smart because they are taught differently in their home country, others claim that Asians are smart because they are very studious, and still others say that Asians are studious because they feel academically at a loss when they come to foreign places to study and to compensate study harder.
Whatever may be the reason, the truth remains that Asians are smarter and more studious than most of people. Thus, while some stereotypes might contain some discrepancies, most of the stereotypes show the truth about the group being stereotyped. Stereotypes do not just come out of thin air; they were based on actual observations of people or their actions. An event must have occurred to have that formed these stereotypes.
For example according to Meltzoff, Cvencek and Greenwald, the stereotype that boys are better in math then girls forms almost as early as second grade when boys start to associate with math and start doing better than girls in the subject (766-799). In fact all of the stereotypes have evolved from an origin. The stereotype that ‘blacks are good at sports’ came about because in almost every sport there is a black athlete who dominates the others. As sports sociologist Ben Carrington points out, at the beginning of the 20th century, whites were considered to be superior to blacks intellectually, aesthetically and even physically.
However by the 1930s, this logic began to change as blacks started to be viewed as physically superior to whites in matters related to sports (Interview of Carrington, University of Texas). Another example is the stereotype that ‘Italian men are very romantic’. This stereotype exists because of the Italians’ constant flirting with girls and their traditions which involve kissing a girl on her hand as a greeting. As Megalio says, Italian men “tell you that you’re beautiful and really mean it, feed you to show their affection, cry rarely but genuinely and work hard in honor of the woman they love” (“Why Women Can’t Get Enough of Them”).
Another example is the stereotype that ‘Italian men have an unhealthy obsession with their mothers. ‘ According to Pike and Allen; married or not, one in three Italian men sees his mother every day (The Guardian). Thus, stereotypes are formed based on history and statistics, but in order to survive they must be regularly reinforced. While there might be some stereotypes that do not apply to the majority of the group being stereotyped against, or are exaggerated truths, many of the stereotypes have in fact been proven by science.
For example, according to Susan, quite a lot of gender stereotypes have been proven to be true by science (“Gender Stereotypes That Science Says Are True”). These stereotypes include ‘Women Love to Talk’ and ‘men are comparatively color blind’. As per the stereotype women love to talk, Susan talks about how the areas of the brain responsible for language are larger in women than men, and how the female brain processes language in both hemispheres of the brain (“Gender Stereotypes That Science Says Are True”).
Moreover, regarding the stereotype ‘men are comparatively color blind’, Susan talks about how the gene for seeing red is carried by the X-chromosome, and men have one X-chromosome while women have two, which puts men at a disadvantage at seeing the color spectrum (“Gender Stereotypes That Science Says Are True”). Another example is the stereotype that black people can’t swim. In the first of its kind survey by USA swimming, it found that nearly 60% of black children have not been given aquatic training. (Quoted. in msnbc).
Therefore, as we can see from the examples given, many stereotypes have actually been proven by science to be true and are hence more than just exaggerated truths. Lastly, another way in which stereotypes are true is the fact that they actually reinforce stereotypical behavior. This phenomenon is known as stereotype threat, whereby an individual is constantly exposed to negative images of his/her racial or ethnic group, this person starts to accept the same social and personal characteristics of these images as self characteristic.
In fact psychologists, Steve and Aronson, conducted several experiments in which they proved that the phenomenon of stereotype threat does exist. When female participants were primed before a test of not being as smart as their male counterparts, their scores were significantly lower as compared to when the women were led to believe the tests did not reflect these stereotypes(“A threat in the air” 613-629). The same experiment was run again using African-Americans and Americans with the same results (“Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance” 797-811). Thus proving that the person acts like the way he/she was stereotyped to be.
Stereotypes might be flattering or insulting. They might have positive effects or negative ones. But at the end of the day the fact remains that most of the stereotypes are true because they are grounded in actual observations of people, they have been proven by science, and because of the concept of stereotype threat. As David Cronenberg says “All stereotypes turn out to be true. This is a horrifying thing about life. All those things you fought against as a youth: you begin to realize they’re stereotypes because they’re true. ” Therefore, just as smoke cannot exist without fire, stereotypes cannot exist without truth.
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Meglio, Francesca Di, “Italian Men: Why Women Can’t Get Enough of Them”?. Our Paesani. Web. 12th march 2012. <http://italiansrus. com/articles/ourpaesani/italianmen. htm> Pike, Rebecca; Allen, Carmel. “Mamma mia”. The Guardian. 14th May 2002. Web. 12th March 2012. < http://www. guardian. co. uk/world/2002/may/14/gender. uk> H. Susan. “6 Absurd Gender Stereotypes (That Science Says Are True)”. 10th May 2010. Web. 12th March 2012. <http://www. cracked. com/article_18529_6-absurd-gender-stereotypes-that-science-says-are-true_p2. html> “Nearly 60 percent of black children can’t swim”.
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