Saturday, May 17, 2014

Random thoughts about discrimination and stereotyping

Stereotyping can nevertheless lead to discrimination. In the absence of total information about a person, we assume a few traits in him or her just because s/he is African-American or Asian, young or old, tall or short, blonde or brunette.

The assumptions can be true of false, but are made nevertheless, when we are not exactly sure of who or how they are exactly. For example, not all African American men are 6’1” and not everyone is a basketball player; however, when we hear African –American male, we assume they are all tall, and they are all interested in basketball. Or, alternatively, when we hear professional basketball player, we automatically assume African-American and hence tall. Here, a few examples of African-American men who were taller than 6’1” and professional basketball player have created a genre where everyone else with similar traits are stereotyped into. 

Again, physically attractive female, especially blondes, are stereotyped as unintelligent and shallow. Without digging into her background or personality, attractive blondes are considered materialistic and basically ‘dumb’ regardless of her education or qualification.

The idea of a ‘dumb blonde’ has been stereotyped in movies, music as well as literature. There is a separate genre of joke based on them. All these have led us to believe that all attractive blondes are stupid. This is stereotyping, and is pretty harmless at times, until we seriously regard them as dumb and express it to them. For example, we consider all attractive blondes in the workplace inefficient and pass snide comments, or even deny them promotions or jobs. This is where stereotyping turns to discrimination.   

In many fields, African-American men of a certain age have been stereotyped as prone to violence and crime. This may be statistically correct of some African-American teenagers to be associated with crime, as with teenagers who are White, Hispanic or Asian. However, discriminating against African-American teenagers based on this knowledge and denying them jobs or educational opportunities without knowing the background of that specific individual is unfair and wrong.

Discrimination against a race or group that is different, this way, gives rise to racism in a society, which is an unreasonable and unhealthy treatment of people.
TV and media have flooded us with various types of stereotypes about people from various walks of life. There are some very common stereotyping which later on give rise to severe gender discrimination:

Men are physically and emotionally stronger than women
Women aren’t as intelligent or as efficient as men
Men are the breadwinners and women are the homemakers
Women and girls only care about their physical appearance
Girls are not interested or good at sports

These stereotypes were perhaps created with a certain person or a few people in mind, but that does not mean that all women or all men are the same.

Sexual stereotypes suggest that all gays are feminine, have a very distinctive speech pattern and are generally employed in the fashion industry or the Media. On the other hand, all lesbians are manly, rude and prefer manly jobs such as a contractor or a builder. Again, all men who are feminine are thought to be gay; and all women who have a masculine trait in them are supposedly lesbians.

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