The Communicated Stereotype

June 10th, 2011 | Categories: Stereotypes in General

Imagine me excited for the soft launch of my blog when what should I read in the New York Times today but nearly the same point I wanted to make on my site. Ironically, the point is not made by a cutting edge journalist like Anderson Cooper, a hip celebrity like James Franco, or an ivory tower academic like me. Instead it’s by an archaic and essentially irrelevant member of the British monarchy, Prince Philip.

In contrast to the frequently criticized politically correct climate of most modern day Western cultures, Prince Philip’s communication style reflects his generation and age (he turned 90 years old today). Consider his previous comments:

  • to an aboriginal leader, “Do you still throw spears at each other?”
  • to a Scottish Driving instructor, “How do you get the natives off the booze long enough to get them past the test?”
  • to a British student studying in China “If you stay here much longer, you will go home with slitty eyes.”

Prince Philip will readily communicate stereotypes conversationally and sees criticism to these as unnecessary and overemphasized. For Prince Philip, humor not offense is intended. Although he doesn’t see the big deal, others do. Even the New York Times took the opportunity to stand high on their horse and call Prince Philip a “jerk” in their own headline.

So which is it? Are stereotypes awful to communicate or are they an everyday part of conversation?

Which brings me back to my point. People communicate stereotypes all of the time, yet Prince Philip’s garner attention. For every one stereotype he communicates, how many are communicated without notice? Communicated stereotypes are important to draw attention to but not because Prince Philip communicates them. Instead these are important because they are generally not the focus of attention. This blog aims to change that.

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