Rhetoric and Stereotypes
In today’s multidimensional world only some benefit from a rare opportunity to break stereotypes normally associated with social groups of people primarily including politicians, tattooed individuals, feminists, and senior citizens. Having unconsciously absorbed plenty of stereotypical judgments we have come to realize that in most cases they have negative implication which, therefore, triggers some sort of cynicism.
Typically, representatives of political parties evoke negative attitudes and have the following stereotypical features: corrupt, rarely effective, convincing liars and time-servers who spend more time blaming each other for things done/undone as opposed to developing thorough action plans or taking care of people. Also, when asked about things that first pop-up in their minds when they hear the word “politician” 90% of respondents mention white male. In fact, according to research conducted by European Commission in 2005, stereotypes of role of women in decision-making remain strong (European Commission Database):
Name Women (%) Men (%) Norway 44 56 Germany 46 54 Great Britain 27 73 Czech Republic 12 88 Italy 9 91 Greece 6 94 Poland 6 94 Studied group of governmental representatives evoke polar attitudes among population. Middle-aged people tend to have adverse reaction due to the fact that they have used to rely on themselves alone and have no illusions with respect to national governments. Unlike them, young people are not highly judgmental and prefer remaining neutral to becoming a part of political life. Due to less busy days available for senior people after they get retired they increase their awareness about politics and tend to support one specific party (or party representative).
Language used to reinforce stereotypical view of politicians includes words and phrases with negative connotations such as inefficient, selfish, snobbish, cunning, corrupt, stupid, etc. Some of these stereotypes are especially true when it comes to relatively developed countries which big part of modern world consists of. Otherwise, all of them would be characterized with smartly elaborated home and foreign policy. (Macrae & Stangor, 1996, p.53)
Tattooed people are oftentimes described as being trashy, barbaric, kinky, compulsive, and usually originating from low-income class or belonging to specific group of interests (bikers, prisoners, etc). These judgments trace their roots back to decades ago when tattoo was more of a rebel and tossing challenge to society. These expressions of body art evoke mostly negative feedback from middle-aged and retired people characterized by having mature mind-set and firm beliefs in what they do/think is right. With young people it is different story because they are just about to start thinking about their means of self-expression and roads to take. Therefore, even those who made up their minds to stay away from ink have tolerant attitudes about their tattooed peers (Furedi, 2004, p.105).
Words and phrases employed in discussions about body art and ink in particular feature colloquial language and slang with frequent derogatory epithets. Some stereotypes may be justified depending on the size of tattoo combined with the person’s behavior, manner, style, etc.
As a rule, the word “feminist” is associated with independent, educated, men-hating woman. She would usually have masculine appearance and be single (due to the fact that only rare man would prefer the company of a feminist woman). True feminists have strong beliefs in intellectual and conceptual equity of genders evoking negative attitude in patriarchal societies. Supporters of women’s rights are popular among women, young people, and seniors. Due to their primary instincts of warriors and therefore active participation in decision-making many refuse to see women as equal partners frequently focusing their attention on female appearance. (Macrae & Stangor, 1996, p.97)
Rhetoric and language used for emancipation issues include condescending and lofty expressions with clear sarcastic implications. Since there are only a small number of recommendable and worthy women which represent overall insignificant amount of women in national governments some of these stereotypes appear to be true more often than not.
Elderly people represent the last group of our research and typically tend to be sick, lonely, weak, tedious, wise, and religious. Majority of them can be found at skilled nursing facilities placed there by their children who usually live far away across the country. Some successfully manage to break widespread stereotypes regarding senior citizens by traveling long-distances, babysitting their numerous grandchildren, playing bingo, or taking yoga classes on weekly basis. Typical biased opinion towards aged people is common to young people who are chronologically placed on the other side of a timeline. However, the older the person the fewer negative stereotypes it has about aging since it is all the matter of how calm and satisfied you feel inside. (Furedi, 1994, p.111)
Topics about senior citizens and aging typically have pessimistic premise and rhetoric associated with poor health condition and weakness. Majority of stereotypical beliefs regarding people in their sixties and more turn out to be realistic because only some take good care of themselves following the policy: prevention is better than treatment or cure.
In conclusion it would be appropriate to note that significant number of people remain skeptical in terms of politics, ink body art, feminist movement, and growing old. These stereotypes tend to be defined by age groups and genders in some instances. In any case, by possessing stereotypical thinking we judge people by not who they actually are but rather by who we think they must be according to our biased opinion.
European Commission Database. (2005). Women and Men in Decision-Making. Retrieved March 30, 2009, from Portraying Politics website: http://www.portrayingpolitics.net/research.php#1
Furedi, F. (2004). Therapy Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability in an Uncertain Age. London: Routledge.
Macrae, N., & Stangor, C. (1996). Stereotypes and Stereotyping. New York: The Guilford Press.