Sexism and Stereotypes
Sexism and Stereotypes
David Myers and Jean Twenge define stereotypes as a broad concept or belief system that at most does not mirror reality. According to the authors, a stereotype is an ideal present in a society, which is adopted about certain types of persons, groups or particular manners of doing things (Myers & Twenge, 2013). Stereotypes reflect the attitudes, expectations and beliefs people will have towards members of a given group. Sexism on the other hand is described as societal generalizations concerning gender differences, individual roles and characteristics. The authors explain that the gender generalizations are mostly negative and manifest mainly in domestic behaviors, occupations, personality traits and physical appearance (Myers & Twenge, 2013). The society applies the gender generalizations as basis of judgment on acceptable behavior, attributes and roles. When one acts differently or separately from the generalizations, they are perceived as outside the norm, which may result in discriminative responses.
Social psychology teaches that stereotyping is a concept that happens in the unconscious mind. Even if one is aware or unaware of the stereotyping that surrounds him or her, the generalizations are present in our society. As an Arab from Kuwait, more so a Muslim, I was once stereotyped to be violent during a constructive argument. While engaging in the friendly political debate, a fellow classmate was quick to imply my arguments are extreme. In essence, the student was pointing to extremism, which is the notion that Muslims are violent and radical. This was an incorrect assertion concerning the Muslim faith and Arabs as extremism is not unique to either of the two groups. Terrorists that employ radical interpretations of Islam are negligible compared to the entire Muslim population.
The statement is false and true at the same time. As Tiffany Jana (2014) in her talk states, “The society we enter already has established belief systems. Therefore, one is given some form of privilege straight from birth.” For instance, as a boy born in the Sate of Kuwait, one benefits from the privilege given to the male gender. However, some forms of social concessions are achieved (Jana, 2014). For example, the lower class individual struggling against poverty can benefit from societal concessions by amassing wealth. By becoming wealthy, the poor individual now becomes privileged. Given some forms of privilege are automatic while others are earned, it is correct for the speaker to state that we perceive privilege as an ideal we either posses or not possess.
Numerous factors determine the degree of privilege that an individual is given in a particular society. In my case, there is gender, social class, and level of education. Despite being significant, the stated factors do not change or shield one from the experience of oppression. Different is the intensity of oppression one experiences. Education is the best tool for helping the less privileged as it enables people to become aware of the unconscious stereotyping ideals they spread. Education empowers the mind thus enabling an individual to challenge and contradict oppressive and discriminatory belief systems. This can be in the form of positive attitudes and behaviors or improved access to socioeconomic resources. As a male, I can take up more female roles such as household cleaning as a function of challenging gender stereotypes. People need to change in accordance to changing times in order to pursue and capture a more equal and liberal global society.
Jana, Tiffany. (2014). ‘The Power of Privilege’. TEDx Talks, Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0acvkHIiZs
Myers, D. & Twenge, J. (2013). Social psychology twelfth edition. New York: McGraw Hill.
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