The Hidden Costs of Stereotypes

Stereotypes in the United States are problematic for an endless amount of reasons, and the case of Wen Ho Lee that was referenced in the reading was only a taste of the unexplainable challenges that minorities in America continue to face, despite the steps that the country is currently making towards social tolerance and equality. A man was put in prison for months on false charges that were entirely based on his ethnicity, and was only given financial compensation years after the events occurred. Racial stereotyping is not the only form of stereotyping that continues in America, though.

Gender stereotypes are easily some of the most prevalent in our culture. It unfortunately comes as no surprise that despite the fact that there are more women working than men, there is still a significant imbalance in terms of what is expected of a woman in the home. Even though women are equally represented in the workforce, they are still expected to carry on with homemaking and men are not subjected to these same social pressures. This of course comes from the long-standing tradition and expectation that the man of the house is the sole breadwinner and the woman is left in the home to take care of the family. Even though times have changed though, these implicit biases against women are still very prominent. The research referenced in the reading, though, found that the biases were less and less prevalent when the test subjects were younger. This means that people are not born with these biases, they are taught.

In my first semester at Richmond, I did a project about the differences in toy commercials for boys and girls for my Sociology class. I found that the commercials that were catering to boys always showed the kids in action, or the message of the ad was about “saving the world” or “getting the job done.” The toys themselves were often job or action oriented; the products included tool boxes, building blocks, etc. The girls commercials on the other hand, were mostly surrounding being in the home. The products included an EasyBake oven, a Barbie Dream House, or an at home spa kit. These commercials were much more passive, and did not depict the girls being active or achieving a real goal. These differences are essential to a child’s development, and the formation of their own worldview in terms of what is expected of men and women in society. In order to combat the stereotypes that continue to be problematic, we need to teach our children that there should be no inherent difference in terms of what is expected of men and women at home and in the workforce.