As today I have spend more than six hours revising cultural studies, I am back with my thoughts on a philosophical/social topic. However, they are most likely to turn into a rant, rather than innocent reflections, because I am talking about a subject, which I am very critical of – generalization.
First, to get the terms straight, generalization, based on a “very reliable” source – Wikipedia, is “the formulation of general concepts from specific instances by abstracting common properties”. In research generalization is made by induction (a kind of reasoning that constructs general statements from specific examples), e.g. swan A is white, swan B is also white, therefore, all swans are white.
Now, back to my reflections. Generalization to me seems to be a major ingredient of stereotyping, which everyone knows is a “bad” thing. It not only creates a prejudice and a certain view about a person or a group of individuals but also generalizes those who hold the same trait, based on a prematurely constructed statement. I am pretty sure that everyone could point out at least a few stereotypes on the spot: about a country, a subculture, a gender, etc.
Why are generalization and stereotyping so wrong? Well, first of all, even though a certain group of people might be sharing common values, language, religion or nationality, they are not the homogeneous Similar, yes, but not the same. Let’s take several countries as examples (from a mainstream Lithuanian perspective): Estonians are very slow, Belgians are very calm, Spanish are lazy, Asians are extremely smart, Americans are ignorant, etc. None of these stereotypes are true. I can approve it even based solely on my experience. I have met several people from all these countries and I must say that every single person is unique and cannot be mashed into one mass with others. That is probably the reason why I sincerely dislike all the “racist” anecdotes that are amazingly popular in my country.
For the last part, I want to take myself as an example and consolidate the unfairness of generalization and stereotypes:
- I am blonde, but I am not stupid at all.
- I am a woman, but I am do not like shopping and I am not emotional.
- I am a Lithuanian, but I am not happy when my neighbor is in trouble.
- I am Eastern European but I do not drink vodka everyday.
- I am an emigrant, but I am patriot.
- I am a student in Holland, but I do not party and get high all the time.
- I am a nerd, but I have a great social life.
What are your thoughts on stereotypes and generalization? What are the most predominate stereotypes of your country?
P.S. I seem to have thrown generalization and stereotyping into one post, but they just go side by side in my head.