Stereotypes are oversimplified perceptions of people based on their characteristics. They are believed to be harmful because they involve making premeditated judgements and biases about others.
Common types of stereotypes include gender, race, sexual, social-class, (dis)ability, age, nationality, political, and religious stereotypes. These prejudices can get in the way of people getting jobs, lead to social exclusion, and create arbitrary in-groups and out-groups.
Below, we explore all 7 types of stereotypes and how they might impact people based on their inherent identity or self-identified characteristic markers.
Types of Stereotypes
1. Gender Stereotypes
A gender stereotype is an oversimplified perception of someone based on their gender or sex.
This involves making assumptions about what a man or woman can and can’t (or should and shouldn’t) do.
Gender stereotypes have been one of the most insidious types of stereotypes throughout history. Up until the early 20th Century, many women were not allowed to vote or participate in many professions due to limiting beliefs about their ability to participate in public life.
Today, gender prejudices continue to be harm both men and women. Often, women are rejected for jobs because of fears they might quit to have a baby, or a female doctor is instantly perceived to be a nurse by patience due to the workplace stereotypes ingrained in society.
Many men are also often discriminated against (often by other men) if they choose to go into feminized professions like nursing and teaching.
Here are the dominant gender stereotypes today:
|Dominant Masculinity||A man is expected to be assertive, take control, take a leadership role, and take on dangerous or physical tasks in service of women. Men who do not fit this stereotypical norm are often looked down upon by others in society as ‘beta men’.|
|Dominant Femininity||A woman is expected to be passive, sweet, shy, and quietly spoken. Some people think she should “act like a lady” and take a more active role in household chores than men.|
Read More: 17 Gender Stereotypes Examples
2. Race and Ethnicity Stereotypes
An ethnic or racial stereotype is a prejudgment about people based on their race (black, white, Asian, etc) or ethnicity (Hispanic, Native American, Pashtun, etc.).
Society creates archetypal ideas about people based on their race, which can follow them throughout their lives. At times in history, Western society wrongly saw white people as a more intelligent race and created insidious and untrue stereotypes about the ‘violent’ black man.
Similarly, many older conservative parents may want their child to marry someone of the same race as them. This prejudice can get in the way of people experiencing true love and happiness.
Related: Social Identity Examples
3. Sexuality Stereotypes
Many people continue to hold prejudices against people based on their sexual orientation. This leads to harsh discrimination against LGBTQI people.
Recent decades have seem some great progress for the LGBTQI community. Even in the 1980s, gay men were seen as dirty due to moral panic about the aids epidemic. Many were refused medical and employment services based on their sexual orientation.
Today, gay and trans people continue to face prejudices based on assumptions about their identities.
There remain insidious and untrue assumptions that gay men should not be allowed to be around children, as well as homophobic views that may lead to their exclusion from sports teams and even some militaries.
4. Social-Class Stereotypes
Stereotypes about working-class people have followed them through the centuries, which can prevent them from getting good jobs or access to welfare.
Working-class people have long been seen by the wealthier classes as dirty, uneducated, and violent. A person with a working-class accent may therefore be marked down in job interviews (not for their aptitude, but simply for their accent).
But there are even stereotypes about wealthier people.
They can be seen as pompous, arrogant, and uncaring. This may lead someone to hold an unfair prejudice against a wealthy philanthropist who wants to do well and help others, but who is seen with suspicion due to his posh accent or social status.
Related: Examples of Blue Collar Jobs
5. (Dis)Ability Stereotypes
People with disabilities were long excluded from social participation. For example, someone with speaking difficulties or who is missing hands might be considered unable to do a job that, in reality, they’re perfectly capable of executing.
Since the 1990s, there has been a concreted effort in Western nations to embrace a ‘social model of disability’. This model hopes to overcome stereotypes by requiring establishments and workplaces to make reasonable accommodations to ensure access to people with disabilities.
This can help overcome social stereotypes that assume someone is incapable due to a physical ailment. For example, if a workplace has ramp access, it’s harder to say “you can’t get into this space so we can’t employ you”, forcing employers to think about the actual aptitudes of people with disabilities rather than seeing them simply for their disability.
6. Age Stereotypes
Ageism is a stereotype that assumes older people are incapable and losing intellect (or similarly, a young person is incapable purely due to their age).
Age-based stereotypes can include seeing an older person as unable to understand modern cultural mores or assuming they are incapable of performing physical tasks.
For younger people, it usually involves people being condescending to people in their late teens or early 20s with an assumption that they’re naïve or incompetent. This can belittle or minimize their contributions in the workplace or their concerns about social issues.
7. Nationality Stereotypes
When you make a statement like “People from England are…”, you’re probably perpetuating a stereotype. Here, you would be making an assumption about all people from a nation that can be damaging to individuals from that nation who don’t fit into the stereotypical mold.
For example, you might say:
- “People from France are arrogant…”
- “People from America are rude…”
- “People from South Africa are racist…”
Such biases often come from old tropes that have been spread and perpetuated through social media and folklore. By batching a whole group of people based on a simplistic idea, you’re stereotyping them.
These assumptions and prejudices can be harmful to someone from France who is perfectly humble, a polite American tourist, or a socially inclusive South African.
8. Religious Stereotypes
A religious stereotype can create fear of religious groups that you don’t belong to. It can involve ‘othering’ people of a certain religion, such as Islam or Judaism.
In the early 2000s, anti-Muslim stereotypes were ascendant. A significant subset of people in the United States saw Muslims as terrorists, despite the fact that historically most US terrorism was committed by right-wing extremists, not Muslims.
Similarly, in perhaps the most extreme example of stereotyping in modern history, Germany during WWII painted Jewish people as collectively inferior people, leading to the horrors of the holocaust.
9. Political Stereotypes
A political stereotype is created when we retreat into our political tribes and paint people with different political views in the worst possible light.
Unfortunately, this is extremely widespread in the United States right now. Fox News creates stereotypes of liberals as sexually deviant, corrupt, and elitist. Left-wing media paints conservatives as racist, homophobic, and even fascistic.
While there are surely many people who fit these stereotypes, there are many more on both sides of the political spectrum with much more nuanced views of the world.
By getting to know one another outside of or media bubbles, we can break down the insidious political stereotypes that drive our society to extreme positions on the political spectrum.
Related: Political Socialization Examples
Stereotypes can be harmful to everyone. They rely on prejudices and biases that see people not as unique and complex individuals, but instead as the worst version of a social trope about a group of people. Stereotypes can be classified into at least nine types of stereotypes which have persisted throughout the generations.
Traditional media (and today, new media) have long promoted and perpetuated these stereotypes. By challenging both media and real-life instances of stereotyping, we can help to create a more inclusive world.
Similarly, by examining the different kinds of stereotypes, we can deconstruct them and begin to challenge the bias and prejudice inherent in those constructions.