Opinion | Stereotypes create harmful expectations

By Janessa Mosqueda, Columnist

No matter where we come from or who we are, stereotypes affect all of us. Falling into the slippery slope of conforming to a stereotype — whether consciously or subconsciously — is something that can lead to further issues such as poor mental health

It is unfortunate that people feel pressured to fit into certain categories due to societal standards.

Stereotypes can target identities such as gender, race, sexuality — basically, anything you can think of.

Stereotypes tend to originate from some kind of truth. However, over time, these stereotypes can be manipulated into incorrect and sometimes bigoted opinions that target the group involved.

A common stereotype is that blondes are dumb. Obviously, this is a misconception that can have a negative effect on those who are blonde.

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The societal pressure to fit into certain stereotypes strips away individuality. It causes people to develop low self-esteem because they do not fit the criteria of what they are “supposed to be.”

Why would a blonde person act dumb? Because society thinks they are.

Similarly, there are stigmas surrounding Latina women, who have been labeled or assumed that they would act a certain way. As someone who is Latina, I notice these things daily and in the lives of my other Latina friends.

According to stereotypes, Latinas are spicy, exotic, ditzy, uneducated, loud, lacking proficiency in English, promiscuous and Hot Cheeto girls.

There is a laundry list of other things that Latinas are associated with, and the stereotypes that I mentioned were just the ones that I have heard the most often.

I have seen these stereotypes harm the Latina community countless times. We are commonly put down, generalized and shamed if we fall into these categories and then shamed if we don’t match these “criteria.” Nothing ever seems to be enough.

This leads to the interpersonal expectancy effect or the self-fulfilling prophecy. Basically, the expectations that others hold of you, whether negative or positive, affect behavior.

In other words, if society tells us to conform, then we will conform to those stigmas.

With the growth of social media, we have to be aware that these perceptions are reaching children. Children should be working on finding themselves instead of trying to fit into a mold. 

The need to conform spills into adolescence and possibly even adulthood, which is simply tragic.

Even if a stereotype does seem to apply to you, who cares? For example, I eat and enjoy Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Does that make me a Hot Cheeto girl? No. 

I am social and talkative and in touch with my culture, but if these traits were applied to anyone else, it would not be seen as falling into a negative Latina stereotype. This would just be seen as normal behavior.

This is a specific example that affects my daily life, but there are millions of other harmful stereotypes that affect countless other ethnic, racial and social groups.

I know that I am so many other things than what people say I am. Everyone is more than what society tells them to be.

Today, the constant perpetuation of stereotypes contributes to a lack of progress in our society. While there might be times when you are the victim of a stereotype, keep in mind that you could be pushing that idea onto others as well.

I leave you with this advice: Let yourselves live. Let others live.

Take ownership of your individuality; do not feel like you have to be forced into a certain character.

Love who you are because you want to be that way — do not force yourself into loving someone who is not you.


Janessa is a freshman in LAS.

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