Say no to stereotypes because they are the fuel that myths and prejudice feed on

by , under Enrique

“Stereotypes have some truth to them” has some truth to it but not in the way people think. That truth is not about the stereotyped but the stereotyper.

Julian Abagond

The quote by Abagond not only exposes the stereotyper for what he or she is, but how racist myths and  views of other groups are maintained. In a country like Finland, which has had few immigrants in the past, it’s easy to understand why  stereotypes have flourished: nobody challenges them never mind the victim. 


In Finland I could say: “I’m Finnish, I don’t like sauna, I’m against going to the countryside and I hate stereotypes. Source:

It’s a bit like if all of your workmates were men and your view of women was sexist, or based on stereotypes. Making jokes about women to reinforce your and the group’s chauvinism is possible as long as there aren’t any women sitting at the same table.

The same goes for gays who haven’t come out of the closet yet. People may make a homophobic comment or joke as long as the coast is clear.

The same applies to immigrants and other minorities. As long as there aren’t any of these people around, it may encourage some to make a racist joke or reinforce one’s myths with the help of  a stereotype.

I’ve been in too many situations where racist and homophobic jokes have been made. At first I didn’t laugh but now I speak out against them. I  say politely that such a comment is inappropriate or that you cannot generalize about people in such a way.

Whenever we generalize about a group with the help of stereotypes, we spoon-feed and help racism grow. Those who generalize, and thereby reveal their prejudice, may feel emboldened to do so because there aren’t any immigrants or minorities nearby.

Put one immigrant into the mix and the situation changes.

Thus the best way to rob racism of its precious air comprised of stereotypes and generalizations, is to deny its residence where you are.

I’ve been at meetings where people have generalized about other ethnic groups in a rude and denigrating fashion.

What to do?

Say politely but firmly: “You cannot generalize that way. People in the nineteenth century spoke that way about other groups.”

Result: You have denied a stereotype its space and its ability to survive another day.

  1. Joonas

    This is a difficult topic. I do understand why we shouldn’t make fun of them, but I wouldn’t say we can’t make fun of stereotypes (but if you are in politics this is definitely a no-no). Usually “forbidding” this kind of subjects usually backfire and it has opposite affect to the problem.

    I have several gay friends who sometimes are making fun of gay/straight stereotypes, because it exposes how ridiculous those stereotypes really are. It’s not people believe in them, but because that sort of humor is little bit offensive is purpose and challenges those stereotypes. It’s up the the listener how to react to them. Many TV-shows rely on making fun of stereotypes, such shows like South park, Family Guy and even The Simpsons… and the list goes on. I would say it really depends who and how the jokes is told.