The Trouble with the ‘Culture of Poverty’ and Other Stereotypes about People in Poverty by Paul C. Gorski
A long-time colleague of mine with a penchant for road rage—I’ll call him Frederick—is fond of flinging the word “jerk” at drivers whose driving skills have offended him in some way. That is, he is fond of flinging this term at male drivers, or drivers he assumes to be men, and reserves it for them exclusively. When a driver he assumes to be a woman pulls in front of him, neglects to use a turn signal, or drives a few miles per hour under the speed limit, his response is different. Rather than calling her a jerk, he shakes his head, brow furled, and exclaims with exasperation, “Women drivers!”
I have challenged Frederick several times on what appears, to me, to be a clear case of gender stereotyping, of a biased view that looks a lot like sexism. He responds to my challenges firmly: “That’s not a stereotype. It’s my experience. Women are bad drivers.” He tends to append to this defense the common refrain, “Plus, there’s a hint of truth in stereotypes; otherwise, why would so many people believe them?”
As troubling as his attitude might be, Frederick is not alone in his view or in his tendency to see somebody within his gender group who has offended his sensibilities as an outlier, a jerk, while interpreting a female offender as representing all women. A long history of psycho-social research details the human tendency to imagine our own social and cultural groups as diverse while we imagine “the other,” people belonging to a social or cultural group with which we are less familiar, as being, for all intents and purposes, all the same (e.g., Meiser & Hewstone, 2004).
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