themes and issues

On stereotypes

I still remember the first time I read this funny joke. 🙂 I have no idea about who wrote it, but I liked it so much I copied it down in my school diary (yes, it’s THAT old…). I also remember thinking that what it said seemed to be the undisputed truth about people of different nations, and it was only years later that I realized that its assumptions were based on stereotypes.

What is a stereotype? From the Greek “stereos” (solid, fixed) and “typos” (impression), the word refers to an idea, an opinion about a group of people that is shared by other groups of people. This idea can concern elements like age, gender, sex, nationality, jobs, religion, physical appearance, traits and ethnic origin. However, a stereotype is not an assumption based on truth, but mainly a generalisation, a way to categorize people or groups on the basis of the perception of a few elements in a few individuals which are applied to the whole ethnic or social group, or nation, they belong to. Do you really believe, for example, that all Italians are lazy and chaotic, or that all Swiss people are precise? Of course not. Furthermore, in most cases stereotypes can be very offensive of an ethnic or social group, and have also proved to be, historically speaking, very dangerous, as they often have led to prejudice and racism, of any type, with the most incredible and appalling consequences.

It is not my intention here to develop this theme in depth, for its implications cannot be dealt with in a few posts. We will only consider some of the most common stereotypes, including the ones that specifically refer to us Italians, in a rather light and humorous way, while keeping in mind that it is not correct to categorize anyone on the basis of his/her physical appearance, style, religion, ethnic group and gender. Most of the times it is only the inability to accept people that are different from us that leads to stereotyping them.


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