Stereotypes

In a group of individuals (a 'population') in which particular gender stereotypes prevail, even those individuals who don't believe in those stereotypes would find themselves acting in accordance with them. The reason: Stereotypes may be wrong, but they are a very efficient way of social dealing.

Consider a crude example. A college in which there is gender segregation to the extent that it doesn't abolish all interaction, but the slightest deviation from academic discourse is met with the suspicions of flirtation. We have a boy X and a girl Y. Since the stereotype is so prevalent, it is natural for X to assume that Y is a typical, conservative girl, and it is natural for Y to assume that X is a typical boy with no other intention than to make a pass at her, when in reality (in this case), both X and Y don't believe in these stereotypes and behave in very different ways when they meet with members of other populations where this stereotype is not present. For X, if he doesn't behave in the limits set by the stereotype, he has the risk of being misjudged as a flirt. For Y, if she doesn't assume X to be a flirt on an occasion of interaction between them, she has the risk of X actually being a flirt and being 'misused' by him. The risk forces both X and Y to make the assumptions which propagate the stereotypes. Stereotypes sustain themselves by posing a risk against those who don't believe in them.

For that stereotype to disintegrate in that population, there would have to be a first few casualities. X would have to make the assumption that Y is not a typical, conservative girl. Y would have to make the assumption that X is not a flirt. They would be misjudged, most probably; they would become casualities. But if they persist in their attempt to not see others through the lens of stereotypes, soon other individuals of that population who are only acting on stereotypes to be safe would start following their example, and the hold of stereotypes would break. Every liberty needs its martyrs.

Comments

Kunwal said…
stereotypes do not come out of nowhere. they have underlying assumptions based on experience/perception of many. they can be beneficial in dealing with uncertainty. (of course they also can become stale and untrue).

i do not agree with your conclusion. just because there are casualties it does not change [50|90|x] % of the reality*. in fact, the casualties will only reaffirm the majority cases of reality. and there will rather be a drawback. ("once bitten, twice shy")

a change in society does not require casualties. it requires change of belief, values and assumptions. if you have that, no casualties are necessary. and if you do not have that, then even X casualties will not change it.
of course casualties can be an impetus but it is more like a random walk which may lead to the desired change in society or somewhere else. after all, society is just a group of individuals who each react very differently in loss.

*if you say: "For that stereotype to disintegrate in that population, there would have to be a first few casualities." It means that you also assume that the sterotype is true to an extent. that makes me think: why get rid of a stereotype that with high probability is true?
rather what you wish for is a change in behavior, which is a consequence of the belief, values, assumptions.
Mayhem said…
You can't just pretend that you can live through your own rules in this society and emerge triumphant!

Face the crackshit! You are bound to pursue the very dogmas you loathe.

You can't change the mentality of people. People are people. And the society in which we live, we are bound to follow ther certain laid-down rules or otherwise risk the label of being 'too modern' or 'flirtatious'.
Ayesha said…
I personally believe that stereotypes can only be countered over generations.

The casualties that you speak of, are actually parents or people in influential roles in a child's life who can perhaps bring about a change in the social set up and conditioning processes as far as gender stereotypes are concerned.

Of course, there are rare social agents of change who bring about disruptive discourses in thought processes and belief systems but even to accept those change agents, the recipients have to be open minded which is, sorry to say, almost non-existent in our society.

On a personal level, it would be a constant struggle and people would have relapses, sooner or later.
There are very rare mutations of thought processes.
Salman Latif said…
I'd say the only thing that can permanenly upset the roots of such stereotypical behavious is education - as cited in another comment here, only a change in belief system, in mindsets of the society can result in the gradual eradication of the practice of such stale dogmas. That, of course, can't be accomplished by casualities alone - yeh, rather, they may be one part of this whole process.