Social Question

JeffVader's avatar

Why have prejudices & stereotypes got such a bad reputation?

Asked by JeffVader (5416points) March 30th, 2010

From a survival perspective prejudices & stereotypes are basically essential. They allow us to identify dangers, to quickly categorise people so we can process the information far quicker. However calling someone prejudiced is a bad thing, when did this happen & why? Additionally, people are always saying things like ‘that’s just a stereotype’ as if that means it has no value, why is this? When & why did important survival tools become a bad thing?

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71 Answers

cazzie's avatar

We don’t live in caves any more. Our social structures have become more complex, so judging someone on a skin colour and disability no longer lends itself to our survival or benefits our social group. Quite the contrary.
By making quick decisions about something or someone, we might be missing out on opportunities that we now need to take advantage of in our more complex society. Information, contacts, specialised skills…. you can’t tell that by looking at someone and quickly judging.

j0ey's avatar

I guess it becomes a problem when individuals are judged WRONGLY because of how a “population” they may or may not be apart of is perceived to act.

Basically we just get in trouble when we get it wrong….and even though most stereotypes have some truth behind them, and nine times out of ten applying them to an individual is valid. Its the one in ten times that make us a bad person.

So to cover their asses, people pretend that they are not prejudice….When in actual fact people are, and like you said, it is for survival reasons usually, that we have that instinct to not trust or not go near certain people because of what we have previously learnt.

But I guess stereotypes and prejudices have a bad rep because they are associated with hate crimes.

cazzie's avatar

@j0ey I’m interested in these sterotypes that you believe are valid 9 times out of 10.

sakura's avatar

You have to be careful with this one, I think. There is a difference between prejudices and stereotypes. Prejudices influence our judgment of people often in a negative way.

Stereotypes are how people percieve a person and care often based on some element of truth, ‘a take’ on how a minority of people may behave from a certain area so to speak. They are often used in a jovial way.

Prejudices seem to run more deeply and are often used as an excuse to exclude certain people from society.

Many people claim not to be prejudice but I do feel we all are at some point in our lives, due to human nature of just not liking someone!

I wouldn’t say that it is natural instict to not like or have a prejudice against someone, that’s like going back to Victorian times when they used facial measurements to determine whether or not you were a criminal!

People usuall have an instant reaction to someone, but I would hope that in this day and age that is more to do with personality rather than the colour of their skin or the way they look.

j0ey's avatar

@cazzie….i just said that to make a point.

susanc's avatar

Survival tools accommodate to conditions. Xenophobia’s less
practical in an increasingly globalized world. It still scares us to meet people who are unfamiliar – but in another 100 years we won’t even know that people who can’t dance very well were once thought to be barely human.

j0ey's avatar

@sakura….but it is a natural instinct to avoid someone that looks like they might beat the crap out of you…..as soon as you have a negative thought about someone based on a past experience with a “similar” looking person, you are stereotyping.

I’m not talking about ALL Asians do this and ALL aboriginals do that.

cazzie's avatar

@j0ey I’m confused. Your point was that sterotypes are 90% valid. Can you please tell me which ones you had in mind? Or now, are you ‘covering your ass’ as you put it.

JeffVader's avatar

@cazzie I must say I’m inclined to agree with @j0ey on this one. This is a silly example so don’t tear it apart, but I watch a TV show called Crimewatch every month, a bit gratuitous I know. & they do a segment called the rogues gallery, basically it’s like their 10 most wanted of the month. & almost every time I can pick out who are the perverts, & who are the violent criminals simply from looking at them.

sakura's avatar

@j0ey gotcha! I suppose I do get flutters if there is big burly person that looks a little rough walking down the street but I just try to smile and not look uncomfortable.. after all they may be a big softie for all I know!
True story – My sister in law was walking through our local park when she spotted a large group of teenagers sat next to the play area, she immeadiatly thought Oh no be brave and just walk past. As she approached she noticed some were wearing earings, had tatoos, very gothic ‘hard’ looking types, she became increasingly worried that they may do or say soemthing unpleasant as she walked past. As she go closer one of them waved, not wanting to antagonise them she waved back, only to discover one of them was my brother!! She felt rather silly feeling so afraid!!

j0ey's avatar

@cazzie….I said that to make a point…..

but just for fun I will come up with an example.

“someone standing in a dark alley with tattoos, long hair and a beard is not someone you will go to and ask for directions….WHY you may ask? Because you have learnt in the past that this person may possibly beat you to death”

That is the stereotyping im referring to.

sakura's avatar

I think the thing that worried me most about the question was

“From a survival perspective prejudices & stereotypes are basically essential”

prejudices and stero types are not in my mind an essential part of life.

Just reading your last post… where did that sterotype come from? How do you know that the guy with the long hair and beard isn’t a fell walker who has an amazing sense of direction?

FutureMemory's avatar

@j0ey someone standing in a dark alley with tattoos, long hair and a beard.

You’ve been hanging around my neighborhood or what?

cazzie's avatar

@j0ey I’ve never been beat up by that kind of guy. I have been beat up by a policeman, though. (off duty, in training)

j0ey's avatar

@sakura….and thats when you would be wrong and you are a bad person. But for safety sake, you are willing to be a bad person.

haha everyone that says they do not stereotype….think about the kind of people that you dont let your kids even look at when you go out.

And dont pretend that you dont know what I mean.

JeffVader's avatar

@cazzie Here you go then. Do you let your kids visit the creepy old guy who stands in his drive watching them walk past on their way to school every morning? Or do you tell them to keep away?

sakura's avatar

@j0ey mmm I’m not quite sure what you meant by your last response? ...and that where you’d be wrong and you are a bad person? Surely you aren’t suggesting that we should judge people by how they look all the time?

@JeffVader I wouldn’t let my child visit the old man on the corner, because I don’t know him and my daughter would have no reason to visit him, not just because he is creepy looking! (I concede to the fact that him wathing the children go by could be considered creepy, but how do you know that he didn’t lose a child and he is thinking of what his child would have been like going to school etc..)

Some times you have to give people the benefit of the doubt there is nothing wrong with a bit of politness and respect. How would you feel if someone said to you you look like a pervert stay away form my daughter/son with no justification apart form the fact you look a little weird!?

Isn’t that how Hitler started on his power trip of a campaign? Just the little start of hatered/ fear could spread like a nasty infection and become a full blown prejudice?

sakura's avatar

side note my sister got raped by an off duty poilceman and his mate, who both looked VERY conventional and clean cut, it didn’t make them any less nasty or brutal than her best friend who has tattoos, skin head and looks like brick s==t house

gemiwing's avatar

Prejudice is obvious- it’s not a good policy to discount people because of a group you perceive them as belonging to.

Stereotype- go for it but eventually you’ll look like an ass.

cazzie's avatar

@JeffVader We don’t have a ‘creepy guy’ that watches the kids that go to school. I did live next door to a full on schizophrenic who mumbled to himself all the time. I had to tell my step son, when he asked, that the man was ill and that trying to say hi would be a waste of time and that he just wanted to be left alone. He had a Zionist rant that would shake you in your boots. He wasn’t a pervert or a violent guy, unless you were the Pope (which he got put into protective custody during a Papal visit) .... It’s better to know these people than NOT know them.

JeffVader's avatar

@cazzie I know I shouldnt have, but I couldnt help myself giggling about that :) Thank you! I cant think of any logical opposition to that argument.

Fred931's avatar

They were often used with the mindset of malice back before discrimination was frowned upon, and they are still occasionally used to inflict harm today, but to a much lesser extent, thankfully.

cazzie's avatar

@JeffVader I know.. we smiled and giggled a bit when we saw him about too… He was very odd. But we knew who he was and what his problem was. Here’s another story you might like. I went to pick up my step son from school one day. He was playing outside. He must have been about 8 at the time. I asked him how his day was and he said he’d made a new friend and was playing football with him. I asked him to point out this new friend, and he pointed across the courtyard and said, ‘that boy, there, in the red sweatshirt.’ I smiled widely. He pointed to the only dark skinned boy on the playground (this is Norway.. remember) and rather than seeing his skin colour, he saw the colour of his sweatshirt. I love this kid.

JeffVader's avatar

@cazzie Kids can be quite wonderful cant they! I think he deserves a little treat :)

j0ey's avatar

@cazzie that story warmed my heart :).....and thats not even sarcasm. Nice kids like that make up for all the little shits out there.

cazzie's avatar

Geez, shucks, guys…. I just hope that people do think twice before jumping to conclusions… but I guess if they are thinking twice… they aren’t really jumping anymore, are they. Perhaps living with my step son has given me a different outlook on things. He’s not as he appears at first glance either, so I’ve learned to look a bit deeper. Avoiding situations you find frightening is one thing, but being frightened about things you need not fear seems foolish.

josie's avatar

They became a bad thing when people began to clump themselves into self interested groups for political purposes, usually when these groups regarded themselves as oppressed minorities. In such cases, it is only to their benefit if we regard the group with respect or sympathy. So part of packaging these groups was to insure that the negative stereotypes were not regarded. That way, they get the best of both worlds-the political clout of being recognized as a “group” but individual immunity to the emergence of stereotype. The classic case of having your cake and eating it too. Thus, social propaganda made stereotyping unacceptable. And people actually bought it. But lets face it, although some stereotypes are made up, some are generally true. It is conceptually irresponsible to ignore the true ones. By the way, notice the current stereotype that all people who oppose the administration are racist. I would presume that everyone who thinks that stereotyping is a bad thing are vocal critics of the current stereotype that anyone who does not like the current president simply must be a racist. I doubt it though.

The_Idler's avatar

I see a person from behind with a comb-over. I assume it is a man. 9 out of 10? Evil stereotyping!

JeffVader's avatar

@The_Idler Hahahahaha…. at least you hope its a man :)

dpworkin's avatar

Active pedophiles are generally the most liked people in their neighborhoods; the most fun, the most open and pleasant, the ones who have cool games, and kids hanging out all the time. A “creepy stranger” wouldn’t be a very effective child molester.

wonderingwhy's avatar

I certainly can’t answer when, but as to why stereotypes are considered a bad thing, I would say largely because they are too frequently used in a negative way, without logic, and to great extremes. Additionally they may easily lead to (or be based on) prejudice which is bad because it relies on and a priori beliefs often further tainted by illogical preconceptions.

It’s easy enough to use stereotypes when providing aid or assistance because it can often cost more than the value of the aid to ensure the need of each individual but frequently stereotypes are abused with the purpose of excluding someone from some opportunity or withholding resources. What further complicates things is that stereotypes, by definition are “simplified” ideas applied across a group without individual considerations, which can all to easily be formed hand in hand, by, and in like fashion with prejudices.

The key here is that prejudice is based on a priori thoughts and ideas and that stereotypes are based on generalizations. Bad because both are much too likely to be rife with flaws and misunderstood/misapplied “knowledge” and frequently portrayed as fact.

jo_with_no_space's avatar

I’m along @cazzie‘s way of thinking – they had their uses when we were trying to establish patterns in the world, ie. what was safe to eat, what would kill us, who was an enemy, etc. They have a very easy place in our brains, and stereotyping is something that all of us pretty much do, sometimes without meaning to.

In our current day and age, it is arguable that we have by now fairly well-established ideas of what is safe for us to eat, drink, etc. The point of stereotypes being a problem is that many of would agree that they are very LIMITING – people espcially do not tend to fit neatly into any one single category, and to think of them as such reduces the other important elements of their character.

For example, I say to someone,” @JeffVader is such a typical man” ... you could justifiably be pissed off that you are being reduced to your gender, that there is nothing else in your character other than what’s in your pants, etc… and so it goes.

The_Idler's avatar

I say to someone, “She is a woman, so she will enjoy these flowers I have bought her,”
or, “He is a Pakistani, so I will not make him a bacon roll,”
or, “She is 20 and has a lip piercing and dreads, so I will not buy her a ticket to the Opera”.

Yeah because stereotyping is useless and ‘wrong’ in the modern age…

Just_Justine's avatar

The mind likes to organise things. I reckon these frames of reference come from constant reinforcement from certain groups. Whether we adhere to this reinforcement is our own decision.

UScitizen's avatar

Because those “in charge” (media, etc,) are using societal pressures in an attempt to control how you, and I, think and act. They wish to mold us to their image.

Arp's avatar

The sad truth is, stereotypes often prove themselves true… We just need to learn to go against these primal instincts and get to know a person before we judge them.

cazzie's avatar

@The_Idler Those things you speak of are innocuous generalities. Bringing someone flowers, assuming someone doesn’t eat pork because of the country they’re from (always ask, I’ve learned) or purchasing a gift based on looks alone…hmmm.. unwise, but mostly harmless.

What we’re talking about is stereotypes that keep sections of the community apart because of fear, aren’t we? Or judgement calls based on stereotypes that actually are harmful. As to what is legitimately harmful, is a matter of much debate. For Example:

Stereotypes are used, BIG TIME by advertisers and marketing people. Probably why I detest it so much.

I just want people to think a bit more for themselves. To learn NOT to take things exactly as face value…. to take the PERSON into account they are dealing with, rather than make assumptions.

I hate cut flowers. I think they are the amputees of the flora and fauna world and they make me sad as they slowly die on my table. I’d rather be given a living plant or wine

wonderingwhy's avatar

@The_Idler She’s allergic to flowers; He’s not muslim; She’s seen Rigoletto seven times. try again.

cazzie's avatar

Here’s another real life example: I started in accounting working the front desk of a small firm in small provincial town. I had to keep the clients happy if they couldn’t be seen right away. So.. cups of tea and coffee and smiles and chit chat. Sometimes I was busy, so if people came in without an appointment or if they were employees of clients.. I’d let it ride. (sometimes this pissed off my boss) One day, there was a chap that came with a patched old jacket, messy hair, pants that looked like he’d slept outside. I was new at the firm and I felt people looking at me and watching to see how I’d treat this guy who looked like a hobo. He was a really nice guy, with a quite smile and respectfully waited. He had an appointment with my boss, so I treated him as I was told. I stopped what I was doing and made him a cup of what he wanted. After he left, my boss came out and said… ‘You know who that was?’ I said the name that was in the book. ‘You were nice to him, though, weren’t you?’ ‘Yes.. cup of coffee… chatted… ’ My boss said, ‘You wouldn’t know it from looking at him but he is one of the largest farmers in the area and has been an important client for many years.’

Judging a book by its cover is no longer helpful.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@JeffVader: “Stereotypes got such a bad reputation” because groups don’t like having their flaws pointed out accuracy and truthfulness be damned.

CMaz's avatar

Prejudices & stereotyping are fueled by political correctness.

So many (some) want everything to be ok. That at times is not realistic or real.

But as the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Make enough noise, people are more apt to appease, then to accept it for what it really is.

The_Idler's avatar

Uh, I’m just pointing out useful and reasonable examples.

What, do you think I don’t realise stereotyping does a lot of bad? Do you think I am “pro-stereotyping”?
fucking hell

What’s the point of pointing out the extremely unlikely but obviously possible alternatives?
Do I have to explain that this actually demonstrates how stereotypes ARE useful?
Obviously it’s best if you can ask, but sometimes you have to make a decision based upon previous experiences with persons or objects exhibiting similar properties (every day).

If I buy the woman some flowers, the Pakistani some lamb curry and the hippy some tickets to see Easy-Star All Stars, whilst you say you would’ve bought her something, but you thought she might be allergic to literally everything and “didn’t want to stereotype”, you give the Pakistani a bacon roll and say “didnt want to stereotype” and buy the girl a ticket to the opera and say “I didn’t want to stereotype”, who is gonna have three friends at the end of this?

“innocuous generalities” is a euphemism for “useful and innocent stereotypes”.
You are talking about the bad kind, we all know about the bad kind, they give “stereotype” its knee-jerk bad connotations, but I was FUCKING OBVIOUSLY presenting the other side of the coin to ‘some’ people, who were like “stereotyping is bad, mm’kay?”

cazzie's avatar

@wonderingwhy Idler didn’t get it.

@The_Idler Our point is, making assumptions about people can be offensive. Haven’t you ever been in the situation where you’ve assumed something about someone because of ..what you knew about their family or where they’re from or how they look only to be completely wrong and embarrassed? and no need for the profanity. Read my link above.

Trillian's avatar

@cazzie “Our point is, making assumptions about people can be offensive.”
Go on and keep stroking each other and have a feel good session. I don’t give a rats ass if people like yourself get offended by anything that I think.
I’d rather be wrong than in the hospital. It has never put me in traction to apologize.
I work caring for MRDD individuals, and to pretend that they are not different, or that you don’t notice a difference is a load of crap and the Emperors New Clothes. We all are different, and there are things about groups that are typical to those groups. If you want to say that it’s a bad thing that I can notice, categorize and classify and make decisions accordingly, go right ahead.
You’re the one trying to end us as a head line. People will say; “Well why did she approach that group of escaped murderers?”

cazzie's avatar

Wait.. you’re just proving our point.
you wrote:
I work caring for MRDD individuals, and to pretend that they are not different, or that you don’t notice a difference is a load of crap and the Emperors New Clothes. We all are different.

I’m saying YES, we are all different. My step son, the one who doesn’t notice the colour of the skin of his playmate, he’s autistic. I don’t want people to try to treat him like he’s not different, but I also want people to see him for who he is, not any preconceived notions that they may have about autism.

And you’re not reading the context of my posts. I’m not offended by what you think, but I’m saying if people make assumptions about others, it could cause offense. I don’t care if you embarrass yourself. Really.

Unless those guys are wearing tags saying they are ‘escaped murders’ nobody should be asking that question.

Judi's avatar

The word has been associated with unfair prejudice and prejudice and discrimination have both been redefined as describing someone who makes negative judgements about people without thourough investigation of the facts.
In reality we legitimatley discriminate all the time. We discriminate against those with bad credit when we don’t loan them money. We discriminate against sex offenders when we don’t hire them in schools.
In order to not confuse the masses with word confusion, we use terms like “disqualify,” instead of “discriminate” or “prejudice” because those words are so associated with civil rights violations.

The_Idler's avatar

“Our point is, making assumptions about people can be offensive.”
Oh, really? I never thought of that, because I am a 2 yr old chimp.~
Not that we should assume that all 2 yr old chimps don’t make such considerations in their social interaction…
They might get offended.

Did I ever, at any point, say that making assumptions about people is never offensive? NO!
Did I acknowledge that making assumptions about people can be offensive? YES!

Did I explain how making assumptions is also an essential part of dealing with everyday life in human society, and are not always necessarily harmful or offensive?
Read my post above.

—————

Upon receiving a letter from my friend, saying how he will be bringing his Pakistani partner to dinner, which decision do you think is most likely to cause offence?
Assume he is Muslim, and change the dinner to not include pork.
Do not make an assumption, and serve him pork.

Now, who is almost certain to be completely wrong and embarrassed?
You, you, you!

Now do you think he’ll be totally cool with your explanation that you didn’t want to stereotype him, because assumptions is bad mm’kay?
Or do you think he will consider your behaviour utterly ridiculous, and be pretty pissed off that he now has to make do with a Marmite sandwich?

—————

I can’t believe you are responding to my examples of useful, non-harmful and inoffensive assumptions with, “what if they’re wrong?” and “Our point is, making assumptions about people can be offensive.”…!

MY POINT IS,
IN SUCH SITUATIONS,
IF THE ASSUMPTIONS ARE WRONG,
NOBODY COULD POSSIBLY BE OFFENDED!

Now, saying “but assumptions can be offensive” is not disagreeing with me, so if you’re just going to say that, your post would be redundant, because I already said that, so you may as well post nothing at all.

squirbel's avatar

The Idler – everything you just said, and said previously in the thread is moot. It is moot because all of that kerfluffle could have been avoided by having a conversation with the person in question to discover what their preference is. Assuming ALWAYS is wrong.

I am a dark-skinned Puerto Rican woman, and having people believe I love chicken and watermelon is demeaning and is the fastest way for me to ignore you. That’s just one example.

The_Idler's avatar

@squirbel
“Obviously it’s best if you can ask, but sometimes you have to make a decision based upon previous experiences with persons or objects exhibiting similar properties (every day).”—The Idler (See above)

I wouldn’t assume that you love chicken and watermelon. That would be offensive.
I would assume that you would find such a stereotype demeaning, based on my previous experiences that most dark-skinned people would.
Is this a “wrong” assumption?

The fact is that, if you never assumed anything, if you never made a decision, based on previous experience of similar situations, without being 100% informed, you would never actually do anything.

Assuming that people with dark skin love chicken and watermelons is:
STUPID and OFFENSIVE.
Assuming that your friend’s 10 yr old child doesn’t want knitting needles for his birthday is:
NOT STUPID and NOT OFFENSIVE.

Val123's avatar

@JeffVader Now you went and stepped it. (And even if I had been the first one to post that’s what I would have said.) I’m gonna take a shower…

JeffVader's avatar

@Val123 Hehehe, things do seem to have heated up in my absence… :)

The_Idler's avatar

Well, yaknow, all the hottest girls are this stupid…

JeffVader's avatar

@The_Idler Hehe, I’ve gotta say, if ever I want to stir-up a shit-storm, I’m coming to see you first :)

Trillian's avatar

@The_Idler @JeffVader Why don’t you take this line of reasoning over to the question about parents being racist? I think it’s a pretty good example of a father possibly stereotyping….probably correctly.

cazzie's avatar

Someone here is very young.

JeffVader's avatar

@timtrilliandrewen It would fit pretty well wouldn’t it….. I did read that question, cant for the life of me remember why I didn’t stick me oar in!

josie's avatar

In my lifetime, being offended has become a sort of personal art-form for lots of people. Pretty soon, I think I may choose to be offended by those who are offended. How would that go down?

JeffVader's avatar

@anjosieen Offensively, most likely.

cazzie's avatar

I love that I managed to really offend someone by discussing this topic.

The_Idler's avatar

It’s because you stereotyped all those people, who use stereotypes, as being intolerant and idiotic.

This is a stupid and offensive assumption, as explained above.

cazzie's avatar

Keep chasing your tail, laddie.

The_Idler's avatar

Sorry, I must’ve missed your devastatingly logical riposte to my argument, amongst the innumerable, but irrelevant examples of bad stereotypes.

What exactly was your issue with my ideas, again?

In many situations it is stupid&offensive to stereotype or assume. You give countless examples of this, to what ends? I never denied this. I expressly stated this.

These examples do not detract from my examples, in which it is useful&inoffensive to make an assumption. Situations, in fact, where making an assumption based upon previous observations of people with similar properties is guaranteed to cause no offence, while not making that assumption could well cause offence.

Are you saying I shouldn’t assume:
– a 10 yr old boy wouldn’t want knitting needles for his birthday?
– a Pakistani wouldn’t want a bacon sarnie?
– a woman would expect me to hold the door for her?
– my friend would enjoy a beer I bought him from from the shop?
etc.
…....why?

So suppose the kid did want knitting needles, the Pakistani does eat pork, the woman doesn’t care if I hold the door and my friend didn’t feel like a beer.
Are they all going to be offended that I stereotyped them?
Am I gonna hear:
– “You are so prejudiced against 10 yr old boy knitting fanatics!”
– “You thought I was Muslim!? Outrageous! What an insult!”
– “I can open the door myself, you know!?”
– “What, do you think I’m some kind of alkie!?”
…....?

How about if I didn’t make those assumptions, and I would be almost certainly be met with:
– amazed disappointment from the 10 yr old who doesn’t aspire to be like grandma
– “umm, I’m Muslim. We don’t eat pork. idiot…
– a raised eyebrow from the lady, to whom I did not want to cause offence with my courtesy
– a friend, who probably wanted a beer, but does not now have a beer.
is this somehow better than if my assumptions had been incorrect, how?

It’s called “making a safe assumption” and it is how society works.
Or would you have me call ahead, to make sure you wouldn’t get offended by my opening of the door?

Now answer all my questions in this post and I will understand your problem with my ideas.

cazzie's avatar

you don’t read well.

The_Idler's avatar

Nice, each one of your posts contains a little less bullshit than the last,
but I still can’t see your point in there…

Perhaps when you continue the trend to its logical conclusion and make a post with nothing in at all,
I might see….
…ah!

cazzie's avatar

Quoting one of my posts that would have saved you loads of time if you had read it:

Those things you speak of are innocuous generalities. Bringing someone flowers, assuming someone doesn’t eat pork because of the country they’re from (always ask, I’ve learned) or purchasing a gift based on looks alone…hmmm.. unwise, but mostly harmless.
What we’re talking about is stereotypes that keep sections of the community apart because of fear, aren’t we?

I was NEVER talking about general, harmless assumptions we make about people. You are making a big deal about assumptions and we were talking about sterotypes and prejudices that actually do harm. So, your rants seemed really needless. You want to waste more of your time on this?

The_Idler's avatar

You were discussing the harms stereotyping can cause to society, and I was, in the spirit of the original question, listing some examples where such behaviour can still be useful and also not offensive.

I then get a tirade of ridiculous replies which amount to “but sometimes stereotypes are wrong and offend people”.

Well yeah, but that was the context of my whole idea, “sometimes they are useful and inoffensive”, along with my examples, to illustrate to the people who said things like “stero types are not in my mind an essential part of life.” and “Assuming ALWAYS is wrong.”, that they can actually be useful and inoffensive.

It doesn’t matter if you give them a different name, my point remains and you agree with it. Which is why I don’t know why you thought I was talking to you in the first place, unless you are one of those people, who think all stereotypes are useless and harmful and assumption is always ‘wrong’?

cazzie's avatar

You were quoting me in your replies, so it seemed you were answering to me, which confused me, because I had said what I quoted in my last post. No, of course we make assumptions about people all the time. Sometimes it’s embarrassing, sometimes it’s completely harmless. (I’m actually quite good at guessing what fragrance people will like.)

Things are never black and white. wonderingwhy’s reply was pretty confrontational. I could see what he was getting at, but it was a sledge hammer. We do always make assumptions and then try to err on the side of cautious reason. It’s prudent. I couldn’t agree more. and then Trillian posted a few things… So, I don’t think I was clear on who I was replying to, either. I’m sorry if you thought my posts were a tirade. You certainly give better than you get.

I do think there is a difference between stereotyping someone and just assuming something because of their sex or age etc.. He did say, in the original question stereotype and prejudice. It certainly is on a sliding scale… the flowers and pork and taste in music.. on a scale of 1 to 10… certainly a 1 or 2 and we all do it… all the time. I think we can safely say we both agree on this, but I guess I’m stuck in the semantics of it. I wouldn’t call those things so low on the scale as a prejudice or stereotype. To me, those words are the 8, 9 & 10s on that scale. But… it’s semantics, isn’t it?

Imagine situation comedy if we didn’t have this issue. They’d have nothing to write about.

mattbrowne's avatar

Because they have the potential to hurt people’s feelings.

Val123's avatar

What @mattbrowne. There is a strong possibility one would assume, negative but untrue things about other people.

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