An approved topic for the Regent's exam is to "discuss a stereotype that you once believed but that later proved inaccurate." Stereotyping is defined as "a generalization about a group of people whereby we attribute a defined set of characteristics to this group based on their appearance or our assumptions."
Stereotypes are definitions - we define a certain group by their "group" actions, or perceived group actions by using extended definitions. But are stereotypes always bad? Sometimes we use stereotypes to help us quickly identify and make sense of the world around us. They allow us to make predictions about what to expect from those stereotypes. It costs us relatively little psychologically, we don't have to deal with, or don't have to modify our behavior, because we know how those stereotyped are going to act. But most of all, they are beliefs that are shared, otherwise we wouldn't stereotype in the first place. So stereotypes are superficial, giving us just enough material to get us into some serious trouble. When we let assumptions, or stereotypes, rule our behavior that is when we can get into difficulties.
But we love to laugh at stereotypes . . .
According to Andy Fram at James Madison University's breezejmu "Most people fit stereotypes to some degree. There used to be plausible credibility for denying such horrible accusations. You used to be able to say, 'I wasn't any stereotype. I definitely wasn't a bro, I sure as hell wasn't no smelly hippie, I was my own person.' But then they invented hipsters and you couldn't get away with that anymore."
College humor offers us a definitional visual essay of Hipsters.
So why is it okay to laugh at this stereotype? Is it because Hipsters self-identify as such, because they cultivate the Hipster brand/look?
Another common college essay prompt asks students to "Write an essay in which you define yourself in terms of your race or ethnicity." Does this mean that stereotypes are valid, or unoffensive, if they are autobiographical; when we are asked to define ourselves because of our heritage, family, or community?
We form stereotypes when we run across a broad sample of specific behavior, or presentations of such. Do you think the media has some responsibility for the stereotypes we share? (Remember it takes a whole society to make sense of stereotypes).
When are stereotypes useful? When are they hurtful? Do you think the stereotyped Hipster will prove inaccurate, or do you think it is something those Hipsters are proud of? Can you think of other stereotypes that people are proud of? Can you define yourself based on some stereotype you are proud of?