Stereotypes or generalizations?

Posted on January 8, 2009. Filed under: American culture, cross cultural, diversity |

My good friend and all around powerhouse, Jennifer, lover of linguistics, culture and the spreadsheet, sent me a great link about intercultural communication. It has a fun list of You Know Your American If… as well as other nationalities.

Is this list of characteristics from different cultures stereoptyping or generalizing? The list, itself, shows cultural bias in its statements. One statement, “If a woman is plumper than the average, it doesn’t improve her looks” is an American notion to begin with. Who else judeges women so severely and constantly based on their weight? Aren’t we the home of the 00 jeans? And who decides what is “plump” anyway? What is baseline for plump?

You Know Your Columbian If… also agreed that a woman who is plumper isn’t better looking. But to an American, many Columbian and hispanic women in general, are plump to begin with. The standard of beauty for Latinos is not the same as in the US. Beautiful women have meat on their bones. They have curves. When I first met my Dominican husband’s family, they all exclaimed that I was tan flaca. My response? Gracias! I took as a compliment what was meant as a concern that I clearly needed to eat more.

Are these list stereotypes or generalizations? Maybe a bit of each. What’s the difference? Stereotypes are absolutes and don’t seek to understand. Stereotypes judge. Gereralizations help guide your understanding. Generalizations are open to variations, and are always seen as on a spectrum.

Which country are you from? Do you agree with the list from your country? What else would you add?


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