What Are Some Positive Stereotypes And Are They Bad?

By: Joy Youell

Updated November 18, 2019

Medically Reviewed By: Avia James

Societies are full of norms. These include cultural traditions, customs, and habits, all of which can become stereotypes, or two-dimensional caricatures. Stereotypes can range from innocent to harmful. On most occasions, stereotyping someone disregards the value of their individuality. Is there ever an instance where stereotyping is good?

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You may have heard the term "positive stereotype" and thought to yourself that it sounded like an oxymoron. That's because, for the most part, it is. "Positive" stereotypes are no more valid than negative ones, despite how they may sound. The practice of grouping people with similar traits together leaves little or no room for interpersonal differences.

The following are examples of stereotypes that are considered positive. One flaw of these "positive stereotypes" is that they produce a great deal of pressure for the individuals to which they apply. Even positive stereotypes can generate expectations and standards that are essentially false and unrealistic. This article will discuss seven common positive stereotypes.

Positive Stereotype 1

"Asians are good at math and science."

Where Does This Come From?

When you learn the origin of this stereotype, you can see how twisted it is. This stereotype appears to have surfaced during the 1960s. Some people think it arose out of a need to set a model for positive change. In some analyses, Asians were found to have higher performance in the areas of education and income as compared to the general population. This seems to have evolved into the popular idea that they excel in specific subjects.

Why Is It Actually Negative?

Not only is this stereotype statistically unproven, it is also negative because it puts pressure on Asian students to excel in school. This can result in self-defeating thoughts, feelings, and behaviors when the ideal cannot be achieved. This, in turn, can take a significant toll on a person's psyche and sense of self-worth.

Positive Stereotype 2

"Women have a natural mothering instinct."

Where Does This Come From?

Have you ever been to a party at a friend's house when a baby was present? What does everyone do when the baby's mother leaves the room and the baby starts crying? People generally do not expect the men to tend to the baby. Most often, it is one of the women in the room who comforts the child.

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Because women give birth, they are viewed as natural mother figures. In many societies, this has been accompanied by an expectation that they be nurturing, calm, and soothing.

Why Is It Actually Negative?

Not every woman has an innate mothering instinct. Many don't feel their "uterus crying" or have "tender breasts" in response to a baby's cry. Some women choose to never have children, leaving motherhood entirely out of the scope of their personal journeys. This stereotype can be negative if people assume that a woman who does not have a child is unhappy or has less value than one who does. It can also limit the roles a woman feels she can step into with approval.

Positive Stereotype 3

"Black people make better athletes."

Where Does This Come From?

This untested and unproven theory has been prevalent in popular culture since the late nineteenth century. Some people point out that early indigenous cultures created a need for athletic traits. Whether daily activities included agriculture, hunting, or other physical tasks, it is presumed that microevolution played a role in providing these ethnic groups with a more athletic skill set. It was assumed that those traits were passed down genetically for generations.

Why Is It Actually Negative?

It is as absurd to assume that every Trinidadian child will be a runner as it is to assume that every Korean child will excel at math. Many people of color are not athletes. It is important that children from all cultures and backgrounds feel free to pursue any field of study or activity they are drawn to. It is also vital that we, as a culture, resist racism in our thinking and institutional programs.

Positive Stereotype 4

"Gay men are naturally fashionable."

Where Does This Come From?

This stereotype seems to be directly related to prejudice in the media. It is likely that advertising highlighted gay men in fashion because it was believed that gay men were "usually" effeminate and therefore more likely to care about clothes "like a woman would." The dynamics of gay culture have evolved considerably over the last 50 years. This stereotype harks from a less enlightened time.

Why Is It Actually Negative?

Not all gay men are fashionable, just as not all straight men shave or drink beer or hunt. This stereotype could cause a gay man to struggle with how he should present himself to others. The practice of judging a book by its cover should be shed, wherever it is found. As much as possible, we should strive to accept people the way they wish to present themselves, on their own terms and in their own time.

Positive Stereotype 5

"Latin men are fantastic lovers."

Where Does This Come From?

This myth is heavily rooted in cinema. Films in the '60s, '70s and '80s included Latin characters who were irresistibly smooth and seductive. This perpetuated the idea that Latin men all shared these traits. After all, why else would they be portrayed that way on the big screen?

Why Is It Actually Negative?

Both genders experience backlash from this one. Latin males can develop insecurities about their sexual performance and overall demeanor if they can't attract a woman as expected. Women may be pressured into chasing after a Latin man, or may desire one, only to find out that this stereotype is an illusion.

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Positive Stereotype 6

"Americans are generous."

Where Does This Come From?

Americans are thought of as being the first to help. The United States is often in the news for providing aid to other countries. The nation deploys significant resources in the event of natural disasters. Statistics show that Americans are in the top five among those who are willing to donate money and time to help others. The total number of charitable contributions made in the US are higher than in any other country.

Why Is It Actually Negative?

If you believe that all Americans are generous then you may find yourself at a loss when you encounter one of the many who are not. There are people in this country who do not engage in charitable giving. It is inaccurate to think that all American citizens are generous, considering the large size of the US population.

Positive Stereotype 7

"Men are funnier than women."

Where Does This Come From?

When compared to women, some people think that men do a majority of the joke telling.The dominance of male comedians may contribute to this inaccurate stereotype. In truth, some men use jokes as a defense mechanism when sad things happen, because they are socialized not to show deep emotions or cry. Some joke as a way to woo women they are interested in.

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Why Is It Actually Negative?

There is no science behind this idea. And the cultural landscape is shifting as more female comedians are visible in every aspect of entertainment, from producing and directing to writing and acting. However, there are still a greater number of well-known male comedians than female. This makes it much more difficult for a woman to break into this industry. Audiences could assume that a woman won't be funny as soon as she gets up on the stage; as a result, they are less likely to give her a chance.

Avoiding Stereotypes

You can identify stereotyping in your own thoughts by tuning into your use of absolute language, such as "all" or "no." Where you see yourself straying into stereotypes, try to replace those absolutes with more nuanced language. Retraining yourself to see people, even celebrities, as individuals and not just part of a larger group may take time and practice. Our BetterHelp counselors can help. Contact us any time, day or night, to be connected with a licensed counselor who can provide you with more information and advice. Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing a range of life's issues.

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Conclusion

Recovering from the habit of stereotyping will take time. It is important to engage in meaningful practices that help you retrain your brain. The habits of prejudice that result in stereotyping can be deeply ingrained, even from childhood. You may require professional help to uncover the source of this thinking and find tools to move forward. Take the first step today.


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