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Monday, November 29, 2010

“Stereotypes are devices for saving a biased person the trouble of learning”

Take a moment to think about stereotypes that you or the people around you place onto people you see in passing, celebrities on TV, or maybe even entire countries. Everyone knows stereotyping is wrong, but that doesn't mean we aren't going to do it….Here is a TED talk about the dangers of a single story. If you have a few moments, watch it!

In English class, we are reading, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. It takes place after the Islamic Revolution when strict laws were placed on the Iranian citizens. There are many

anecdotes about the oppressive government and unfair ways which are only magnified by the seemingly bright past that Iran once had. The book describes a time, prior to 1979 when Iran was one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East. For example, women were encouraged to get a college education, people were allowed to listen to whatever music they wanted and watch whatever TV shows they desired. They could go on dates, party and the women did not have to wear the robe and head scarf.

Through my research on Middle Eastern women and Reading Lolita in Tehran it is clear that Iranian women can NOT be stereotyped, they are all too different. In the book, Nafisi talks about the women coming to her class (held in her living room) and as they shed their robes and head scarves, "splashes of colors separate one from the next. Each has become distinct through the color and style of her clothes, the color and the length of her hair" (Nafisi 4). When a whole population of women wears the same thing outside of their homes, a black robe and head scarf, it becomes difficult to remember that underneath all that fabric is an individual.

It is not an easy task to place yourself in someone else's shoes, but I ask you to try. Take a moment and think about a time when you were stereotyped. How did it make you feel? How did you respond to their assumptions? After being stereotype are you more conscience not to stereotype others? (please comment with your experiences!)

I am sure people have stereotyped me many times, but one that always comes to mind is the "you are so good at basketball because you are tall" stereotype. Throughout 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grade people always assumed that I was a good basketball player because of my height. Yes, I understood why they would say that, but there assumptions still diminished all the long hours I spent practicing my dribbling and shooting. At first, I would laugh and not defend the hard work that merited my basketball achievements, but as the years passed I started to tell people that I practiced every day and that my height only helped my basketball abilities, it did not define them. Although this example isn't as severe as the stereotyping Muslim women are subjected to, there are many similarities between the two cases, being the lack of understanding and knowledge around the topic.

Here is an excerpt from a website about Muslim women:

What comes to your mind when you think of a Muslim woman? A mysterious, veiled victim of
male oppression, awaiting Western liberation? A slogan-shouting terrorist? An uneducated foreigner with whom you have little or nothing in common? Unless your social circle includes Muslim friends and acquaintances, the chances are t
hat your impressions of Muslim women have largely been formed by negative media stereotypes - images that usually have little to do with real life, and may have been designed to attract more viewers, sell more products, or gain support for someone's political agenda.

Here is a picture of Iranian women in their robes and head scarves, take a moment to really look at them.

Although there are similarities between these four women, look at the individuality that each of them possesses. Be it the shape or color of their sunglasses, the style of their purses, the style of their hair, the hint of color on their lips, or fit of their robe, these women are each unique. I hope you approach all people, ideas, and places that seem strange, different, or foreign to you with an open mind. Instead of stereotyping, research.

Until next time…



  1. Very powerful post Ali!
    I think your personal basketball example really helped readers connect. Like you said, it's easy for everyone to say stereotypes are bad but it's another thing to stop using them. Your example showed just how ingrained stereotypes are in our society (not just in the more extreme/obvious measures).

  2. I found your title to be very intelligent and truthful. You exploited this subject very well. While stereotyping is wrong in the eyes of many, it is also impossible to stop, mainly because of mankind's will to feel 'superior' to others. For example, I know many people who say that they do not judge others by their appearances (or just by conventional stereotypes), yet those people say that just to prevent their names from becoming blackened by others who do the same.