Stereotypes Suck Sometimes

July 30th, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized

The Stereotype guru prides herself on the disinterested stance she takes on the topic of stereotypes. Unlike many others who study stereotypes, I avoid a critical approach that views stereotypes as inherently bad. I tend not to obsess about the negative effects of stereotype use on people. These effects are usually summed up in two words: prejudice and discrimination.

Well, today I have to admit stereotypes suck sometimes. Watching CNN I am overwhelmed at the devastation stereotypes can cause. And although I use the word stereotypes here, I’m talking more fundamentally at the assumptions behind many stereotypes that one group is better than another. Today within an hour of watching CNN I saw versions of the following or similar reports:

Headscarf May Bar Saudi Woman From Olympics Judo Competition

Black Couple Says Racism Forced Wedding Relocation

Child Pornography Ring Uncovered

In each report I see the same thing. I see members of a more powerful group asserting their dominance over a group that has less ability to advocate for themselves. In each case what I see is a schoolyard bully or a schoolyard clique saying these are our rules, this is our space, and we don’t respect you. I didn’t hear stereotypes communicated in any of these reports, but I have no doubt when these decisions were being made stereotypes were being communicated. And if they weren’t being communicated, I guarantee that at least one person involved in the decision making was thinking a stereotype. Perhaps they sounded like these:

Women wearing hijabs are victimized.

Blacks aren’t equal to whites.

Children aren’t people.

My disinterested approach aside, sometimes even I have to publicly admit that stereotypes suck sometimes. It’s a depressing day to watch CNN.

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  1. Angelo
    July 30th, 2012 at 14:29

    Out of curiosity, who is the bully in the CNN story?

  2. Anastacia Kurylo
    July 30th, 2012 at 14:50

    Good question. I was hoping someone would ask me that!

    I assume you are referring to the first one about the hijab. This one definitely relates to the schoolyard clique (rather than the bully- I mention both).

    “These are OUR rules. You can’t play with us unless you where a pink shirt and black patent leather shoes. Don’t want to for religious reasons? Told you she was strange!”

    Ultimately, it is a huge deal globally that this athlete is willing to participate in the games. She is not asking for a handout here. She is changing the face of the Olympics by her willingness to do this. They should be begging her to come into the clique.

    “Ok, you want to wear that scarf thing. No problem. It’s kind of cool. Maybe I’ll wear one too. I like the color you picked. Where did you buy it? Our rules are only for those who have no fashion sense, but you obviously are stylin!”

    I wrote a blog the other day about the track athlete’s tweet that the Greek Olympic committee said was “contrary to the values and ideas of the Olympic movement.” (

    Is preventing this Saudi athlete from playing because she abides by her religious beliefs (albeit in a way that violates a rule) in keeping with the Olympics?

  3. Angelo
    July 31st, 2012 at 08:03

    I was referring to that story and I apologize for the confusion since they were all CNN stories, as you stated in your entry.

    I have to agree with you about who the bully is, to a point. I can understand why the IOC can be viewed as a bully but I look at it more as they have rules and if everyone else has to abide by the rules then why should she be granted an exception? There are Muslim women competing in other events where there religiously required head ware is not an issue.

    I’m more of the opinion that her father and the Saudi government are the bullies here. The government made her sign an agreement where she agreed to compete only if she could wear her hijab. The Saudi government is pushing her around as well the IOC. “You want our women to play? You want to break boundaries? If you don’t do it our way we’re pulling our women athletes out!”

    One thing that struck me about the article was that there was no comment from the athlete herself. Only her father and the Saudi government were mentioned as having commented. I wonder what her position is on the issue.

  4. July 31st, 2012 at 10:56

    The subtle- or not so subtle- point you allude to in your post that the athlete is not speaking on this issue at least in the article I linked reflects an American stereotype of the situation. The situation is just more complicated than that. If she is willing to compete, has trained for it, has signed the relevant documents and discussed with appropriate authorities (father, country, Olympics) to negotiate the arrangement that she would be able to play in the Olympics, then I think she has made her opinion clear. She might be doing so within the confines of her cultural system (i.e., letting her father speak for her), but she has certainly made her voice heard. Fighting “the power” is a wonderful thing, but doing so within the confines of a cultural system often can garner you a greater following and stronger advocates than trying to buck the system, especially a patriarchal one. She is probably getting a lot of push back against her back home (and perhaps equally support). My guess is she is an extremely vocal, confidant, determined woman with an incredibly supportive family that are all working together to make this event that never existed before actually take place.

    Check out the Wikipedia page which provides a brief explanation of the significance of her appearance in the Olympics. Note that it hasn’t been updated about the no-hijab controversy with the International Judo federation or the fact that only one Saudi woman was ultimately going to compete.

    Rules are rules. But they are not infallible they are man made and can be changed (or we’d still have slaves, prohibition, no voting rights for women, etc). Rules reflect a culture’s priorities. The International Judo Association has prioritized rules while this person and indeed her family and ethnic culture prioritize religion. That’s an impasse. Someone has to budge for progressive change to happen.

    Luckily, the international Judo Association did budge!!!! Wojdan Shaherkani, the Saudi Olympian, will compete!!!–oly.html

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