What Exactly is a Stereotype?

Stereotypes

Stereotypes are overgeneralizations, or oversimplifications of particular characteristics of a group of people or things. It is taking what is true of one or a few people and assigning it to the whole of the group. They are formed, typically, out of a place of one’s encounter with particular aspects of a group’s culture. These experiences are then projected onto the entirety of the group without regard for people’s individual preferences

Stereotypes are often formed from peoples’ cultures, ethnicities, and religions. It’s important to know that most stereotypes are formed and used in a derogatory or negative context.

Why are stereotypes used?/ How are they used?

  • Stereotypes are used to align the reader’s perspective with a specific agenda created by the author.
  • Additionally, they’re used to connect with the audience, helping the audience to better grasp how they’re supposed to view and relate to certain characters.
  • Stereotypes are used in writing usually for comedic effect. Using the generalization of a people group for comedic purposes is not usually seen as flattering and can be taken offensively by the majority population.
  • Stereotypes can also be used satirically in literature to combat other stereotypes. Satire is using stereotypes, irony, or making exaggerations to make fun of someone’s views. A lot of time this is seen in political atmospheres. Most of the time, great writing will counteract stereotypes rather than reinforcing and feeding into them.
  • While it can be used stylistically as in the case with satire, I would advise against trusting authors at face value who write with a lot of stereotyping. Oftentimes, when not used as a stylistic tool, stereotypes in writing suggest a lack of originality and creativity within the writer.

What’s the harm in writing or speaking with stereotypes?

  • Disclaimer: not ALL stereotypes are offensive but the act of stereotyping is disrespectful in nature for the reasons we’ll look at now.
  • They’re highly offensive because they are telling the stereotyped group that their individual preferences are irrelevant and pale in comparison to their assumed generalities.
  • In writing, they are dull and boring. Relying on stereotypes in one’s writing suggests a lack of creativity or curiosity. Additionally, it suggests laziness in the author, seeing as they’re unwilling to come up with something less common.
  • Sometimes, a group of people will spread negative stereotypes from a place of fear in order to foster a sense of hate or distrust of another societal group.

Examples

All girls like to play with dolls when they’re young.

This statement is a stereotype and cannot be proven true. Although a good amount of young girls like to play with dolls, there are children in the world who do not like to do this. By asserting this generality on all girls, there is no consideration shown for each person’s individuality.

Many female authors used to and still publish under male pseudonyms for fear of not being accepted in their respective genres. This fear of rejection comes from what has become expected of the specific genres, action, fiction, psychological and more. Examples include the Brontë Sisters, George Eliot, L Frank Baum of the Wizard of Oz series, and J.K. Rowling. In addition to female authors writing under male aliases, some male authors have been known to write under female pseudonyms in order to attract female readers to their literature. Again, this all plays into the stereotypes associated with the different genres of how they should be written and for what audience.

Let’s end on a good stereotype:

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by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: October 18, 2019