Barking Sycamores is dedicated to neurodivergent literature and its craft. I’m so honored to be a part of this project.
Barking Sycamores is dedicated to neurodivergent literature and its craft. I’m so honored to be a part of this project.
A stereotype as defined by Merriam-Webster is “an often unfair and untrue belief that many people have about all people or things with a particular characteristic.” Colloquially, the term, stereotype, “is used to categorize a group of people. People don’t understand that type of person, so they put them into classifications, thinking that everyone who is that needs to be like that, or anyone who acts like their classifications is one” (Urban Dictionary).
Stereotypes do affect student performance. Students in a social, academic or professional environment are confronted with stereotypes about themselves and about others. Stereotyping is a double edged sword that harms both the stereotyped and the “stereotyper.” Robin Paige explains, “The threat of possibly satisfying or confirming a negative stereotype attached to one’s identity can interfere with a subject’s academic performance.” Stereotypes, negative or positive ones, influence identity development and degrade performance. One may be preoccupied with not fulfilling a common stereotype or with learning to fulfill the stereotype.
Interestingly, the pressure to stereotype or the pressure not to stereotype affects students too. Studies show that the fear of appearing racist can hurt a student’s performance due to over-preoccupation or anxiety.
It is not just the art or act of stereotyping that inhibits performance, but also the “stereotype threat.” The threat of stereotype hides in social expectations, showing itself in the anxiety and behaviors of students. There is the fear of enacting a stereotype. For example, an African American student might spend more time getting ready in the morning than her white peers; she may strive too hard to not appear “ghetto.” Or, a male student in a mostly female group might expend too much energy trying not to sound sexist rather than focusing on a successful collaboration. These two examples may not seem like a big deal, but this all adds up to reduced productivity and social insecurity.
The fear of being excluded from a stereotype is just as influential to a person’s development. There may be increased susceptibility to embody a stereotype because of various cultural and peer pressures. A student may be less likely to ask a question aloud in class if he/she is expected to behave a certain way. For instance, a student that skateboards may feel pressure to appear disinterested or like a “burn out” due to the slacker-skater stereotype. Or, a blonde female may act in-authentically “ditzy.” A football player may be more reluctant to sign up for a poetry class because of the classic stereotype that football players must be “tough.”
It’s easy to blame the media and history for these stereotypes; it’s not quite as easy to blame institutions, architecture, peers, teachers, friends and family. The truth is that the stereotypes are encouraged in some of the most subtle ways. Something as pragmatic and routine as a uniform policy that requires skirts for girls and pants for boys unwittingly discourages females from partaking in more physical activities. Watching a film in class that displays the token black comedian character can instigate a stereotype threat. The design of a gym can encourage stereotyping by playing Oprah reruns in the cardio zone and ACDC in the weightlifting zone. This socially conveys the stereotype that only women do cardiovascular exercise and that only men weightlift.
These types of social orders (like enforcing a uniform) seem to bring us comfort and structure, but the truth is they solidify some of the worst stereotypes. Educators can lower the level of stereotype threat by acknowledging the problem of stereotyping throughout his/her curriculum. For example, I am currently in the process of creating a writing prompt for my students that requires them to investigate a stereotype through observation and interview. With this assignment, I hope the students will learn about the impacts of stereotyping.
To further combat the stereotype threat, I make use of social anomalies that subvert typical expectations. Joe Biden is an unexpected example of a feminist, as he is a “white privileged male,” who also made the Violence Against Women Act a reality as well as the Women’s Treaty. Biden erases the stereotype that white privileged males don’t care about women’s rights. An interview with Cara Delevingne can subvert the stereotype that women aren’t funny. Recognizing the literary and poetic elements of rap eradicates the stereotype that black men are unintellectual.
Next to anti-stereotype assignments, an educator can create a classroom environment that calls for inclusivity, embracing diverse subject matters, encouraging collaboration and validating the injuries caused by stereotypes (including various prejudices or self-preserved limitations). Most importantly, building the self-confidence of students helps to eliminate stereotypes. The more a student discovers his/her individualized self, the less preoccupied he/she will be with fitting into or not fitting into the tiny box called stereotype.
For life hacks, headlines and home design, please visit my other blog, pinkcurlers.com
Susan J. Fowler, a former employee of Uber, published a post on her blog revealing numerous counts of sexual harassment and discrimination she experienced while working for the company. Her post is straightforward and pretty bias-free; her tone is calm, but frank. While some of her experiences at the company might appall readers, her author’s voice is very professional, leaving readers to interpret the anecdotes for themselves. Her tone is not accusatory; it is forthright.
She bluntly, but neutrally tells, On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn’t. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn’t help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with. It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR. Fowler does not stop and slander the harasser, instead she lets the anecdote speak for itself.
Throughout her post she conveys numerous work place encounters and professional obstacles that illustrate sexism and discrimination. Impressively, in the chaos of her work environment, Fowler managed to document most of the discriminatory behaviors.
She discloses, I don’t know what I expected after all of my earlier encounters with them [HR], but this one was more ridiculous than I could have ever imagined. The HR rep began the meeting by asking me if I had noticed that *I* was the common theme in all of the reports I had been making, and that if I had ever considered that I might be the problem. I pointed out that everything I had reported came with extensive documentation and I clearly wasn’t the instigator (or even a main character) in the majority of them – she countered by saying that there was absolutely no record in HR of any of the incidents I was claiming I had reported (which, of course, was a lie, and I reminded her I had email and chat records to prove it was a lie). She then asked me if women engineers at Uber were friends and talked a lot, and then asked me how often we communicated, what we talked about, what email addresses we used to communicate, which chat rooms we frequented, etc. – an absurd and insulting request that I refused to comply with. When I pointed out how few women were in SRE, she recounted with a story about how sometimes certain people of certain genders and ethnic backgrounds were better suited for some jobs than others, so I shouldn’t be surprised by the gender ratios in engineering. Our meeting ended with her berating me about keeping email records of things, and told me it was unprofessional to report things via email to HR.
Fowler’s logical and procedural tone boosts her credibility, highlighting the prejudice in Uber’s tactics. By the end of this paragraph, Uber’s HR is demonstrably in the wrong. The HR rep overgeneralizes here, “she recounted with a story about how sometimes certain people of certain genders and ethnic backgrounds were better suited for some jobs than others.” The HR also gives counterproductive feedback when she said, “it was unprofessional to report things via email to HR.” A person involved in Human Resources should appreciate any form of professional communication, especially a form that can be documented with potential to prove anything.
Fowler’s Uber post inspired me to flip back through the pages of my own career where I recalled numerous encounters with sexual harassment in the work place and at school. As a teenager and a young college student/waitress, I disregarded the systematic sexism of many institutions not because it didn’t affect me but because: a) I was too busy surviving (getting high…getting high grades I mean, paying rent, catching waves) and b) the sexist behavior was common and mostly accepted.
However, if my present self replaced my younger self, I could have protected my identity development from corrosive impacts of sexist behavior and discriminatory practices by pointing out the sexism or by removing myself from prejudiced systems. Unlike Fowler, I did not have the wherewithal to document harassment nor did I have the confidence to even point it out. Notably, I was also much younger and vulnerable, without a college degree, without the clout and professional knowledge of a cooperate engineer.
In line with Fowler though, I am writing from a place of reflection. I’d like to write an honest and open letter about my past experiences with certain companies and institutions. In other words, I’d also like to tell my story, and I’d like it to come from a place of truth not judgement. Fowler doesn’t “badmouth” Uber; she discloses and informs.
I would like to do the same. So, what’s stopping me? Am I worried that some bar & grill might fire me if I reveal a few anecdotes about discriminatory uniforms? Will my high school kick me out for talking “sh*t” about a pervy coach? Is my sexist graduate professor going to fail me if I write about this one time he wanted to come to my house? Technically, the answer to all these questions is no. I’m fully grown, with a career and a strong support structure, so I should be able to communicate a few memories without fear…right?
This is not the case. Divulging testimonies of sexist practices from my past does ignite a small fear in me. As I critically analyze this fear, I can see that it is emotional residue left over from the days when I was powerless and dependent on sexist structures.
What do you think? Please comment.
This article was first published on pinkcurlers.com
“Make information beautiful” is my favorite infographic design tool’s slogan. Piktochart’s phrase really conveys the core purpose of the infographic.
In addition to summarizing information beautifully, the infographic is a place to insert subtle but important messages about the writing process. Small but highly supportive messages can be integrated throughout the informative image. Similar to a sticker, post it note or a stamp, infographic design offers a huge selection of icons and decorated text boxes that can be placed anywhere on the image.
Though I don’t rely on the infographic for entire lessons, an infographic is a successful supplement for the purpose of review, reminders and conveying the “big picture.” Additionally, hopefully as you can see in the image above, an infographic is a space to sneak in tiny motivators and confidence boosters that students might not be as receptive to or open to verbally.
Feel free to use my infographic 🙂
For life hacks, headlines and home design, please visit my other blog, pinkcurlers.com.
Horseback riding through the soggy coastal trails in Dominican Republic, I passed piles of garbage, piles that had no where to go, humps of trash that would never be removed or placed in a dumpster…