Stereotype Threat

Defining Stereotypes:

The principles of social psychology define stereotypes as “the positive or negative beliefs that we hold about the characteristics of a social group. “ (Stangor, Jhangiani, & Tarry, 2011). I decided to share this definition because I found it interesting that the book tried to explain that stereotypes can be positive. To me, stereotypes are negative characteristics of a group that someone uses to marginalize someone. People use these phrases to bring someone down.

The assigned reading titles Prejudice and Discrimination explained how often times the stereotype is a positive quality of the group. But in most instances when the stereotype is used there is a negative connotation to it. I thought this was an interesting, and different from what I know. In what I have experienced and seen the majority of stereotypes were negative in meaning and delivery.

Impact on my Life:

It was really difficult to think of and pick only one experience that I have been stereotyped. I think the most impactful moment was when I was in 6th grade. As a child, I had a knack for building. I loved to put together electronics and create things. I was in Mr. Snyder’s Science class, and one of three girls in the class. We had a project where he asked us to build an item and bring it in (similar to a science fair but only for our class). Well, I built an electronic motor that caused a small fan to spin. I was so excited that I created this and couldn’t wait to show my classmates. I was sitting in my desk ready to show the class my creation. Mr. Snyder got to my desk, looked at my project and immediately told me to pack up my belongings and go to the principal’s office. I was shocked and confused and made the mistake to ask “why”. He proceeded to yell at me that I cheated because there was no way a girl could make this without cheating. He lifted up my project and dropped it on the ground. I began to shake and cry, packed up my bags and went to the principal’s office. My mom arrived at the school after the principal called her, and long story short – he didn’t come back the following year.

The “women can’t be in science” stereotype has been like an annoying fly following me around since I was a child. Each time I kill the fly, a new fly (buzzing the same comments) shows up.

I think this experience definitely impacted my life, but oddly, in a positive way. I take experiences like this and I look as it as motivation. Motivation to prove everyone wrong and fuel to push me to become as successful as possible. I think I was also extremely lucky to have strong women role models to look up too and who stood up for me when I was unable too.

Future Implications:

Everyone has their own ways of moving past these experiences of when they are stereotyped. I tried to use these experiences as motivation as much as possible, but sometimes I failed. Sometimes I let the experience bring me down, but that is when I eventually had to lift myself up. I do not have a magic formula on how to get past these experiences, but this is what I tell myself:

    • I could not be generalized, I am unique
    • One person’s comments weren’t going to change me
    • I am “one of many and not many of one” (to quote my Zia)

So, as I was researching ways to overcoming when you are stereotyped, I came across this website called “How to avoid being a stereotype”. As I was reading this article, I became very uncomfortable. For example, this is an excerpt from the article “How to Avoid Being a Gay Stereotype: Do whatever it takes to talk with a manly voice.  No more high-pitched stuff. Lower it, like, at least seventeen octaves to be safe.” (Killermann, n.d.). I feel uncomfortable even including this in my blog post. At the end of the article, they explain that the comments above were used as satire and continues by saying “We need to move past this idea that we know an individual based on their group memberships. It’s idiotic.” (Killermann, n.d.). I don’t agree with how the article went about making its point, but it did make me think.

 

References:

Killermann, S. (n.d.). HOW TO AVOID BEING A STEREOTYPE. Retrieved from its pronounced metrosexual: https://www.itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2012/06/how-to-avoid-being-a-stereotype/

Stangor, C., Jhangiani , R., & Tarry, H. (2011). Principles of Social Psychology – 1st International Edition. VICTORIA, B.C: BCCAMPUS.

4 Replies to “Stereotype Threat”

  1. I am so sorry you had that happen to you, that is so inappropriate. Thank you for sharing your tips for getting past being stereotyped, I particularly love the quote you shared.
    -SE

  2. I am so sorry that happened to you– how horrible! I love that you were able to overcome the stereotype that was imposed on you though. I can’t help but think of other girls out there who may have had similar experiences but resulted in their loss of interest in science. I hope that more representation of female STEM educators in the future will make sure that fewer girls have experiences like the one you described.

  3. First of all, thanks a lot for sharing your experiences. I am really happy that you took it upon you to overcome such instances in life and be more strong. I believe STEM will see a more well-round enrollment in the coming future. And hopefully, there are more female educators out there to make this a reality. I especially like the three things you tell yourself every time you come across such people or experiences. Thanks again for sharing.

  4. Hi Alexandria! Thank you for being so honest and comfortable enough to share your experiences in your blog. When I read a similar definition of stereotype, I too was confused about the positive connotation. I had never seen stereotypes as positive either. When I read your blog I did gain a new perspective on the idea of stereotypes being positive. Even though I still don’t necessarily agree with the definition including “positive characteristics”, I now believe stereotypes can be positive. They can be positive in the way we as humans chose to handle and react to a stereotype. Overcoming stereotypes and stereotype threat can have a positive impact on our lives. They can make us stronger and push us to work harder. Thank you for allowing me to gain this insight.

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