Why Stereotypes Are (Partially But Not Totally) True

Are Stereotypes About Men and Women True?
16 Shares

Most of your advice I like but I have to tell you how I feel about a post you wrote. I’m writing back about something I saw you wrote: Should I Date a 7 or Hold Out for a 10?

In it you talk about someone’s looks. A 10 is defined as someone who is very nice-looking. Yet, people don’t choose their looks. Being exceptionally pretty isn’t something someone chooses. Yet you say that “most 10’s are problematic partners.” 

You state that most of these people are problematic partners, even if not all of them. Don’t you think all people can be good partners if they make the right choices? As I said being attractive isnt something someone chooses. So I think logically that would mean that because of something someone doesn’t choose, the chances are still that they will be a problematic partner. 

I understand that a difficult fact is that yes people who are extremely beautiful can be given a lot of attention that can get to their head. People might also accept them acting a certain way if they are beautiful enough and never correct them. 

Still, personally I know plenty of people who are beautiful and just as nice as anyone. Not even a minority. Plenty. 

What is something comparable? It’s proven that people who are from cultures with higher rates of divorce, crime, or other undesirable behaviors are more likely to do these things. Yet people don’t choose their culture. 

What if I told you that as a general rule, you should not date people from a certain culture? Also, this isn’t just in theory. I had a friend whose parents were from India who decided they didn’t want their son to date an American girl, only an Indian one. They had justifiable reasons. They cited America’s divorce rate which is really pretty high compared to most countries. Don’t you still think there are plenty of people in this country who can have successful marriages? 

Another thing about the qualities you list “shallow, narcissistic, selfish, demanding, difficult, more likely to flirt, less likely to commit, and somewhat disconnected from the ‘average’ person’s reality”, is that those are beliefs held by a lot of people about beautiful people. Yet don’t you think this can be a self-fulfilling prophecy? People can often be intimidated by beautiful people as well. So then what you have is people not wanting to be friends with these people or not complimenting them on their niceness since they assume (probably wrongly) that they aren’t. 

Don’t you see what can happen? Do you think this is sound advice? 

My own advice would be to get to know each person as just them without any bias.

-Kat

Dear Beautiful Kat Who Is Also A Great Partner,

I appreciate you taking the time to write such a thoughtful letter and while I debated defending a piece written probably 11 years ago (not everything ages well on the Internet), I felt it was a good opportunity to make a few points that often get lost in this polarized age. 

First of all, when I say that most 10’s are problematic partners (which is true), what doesn’t show up is that most PEOPLE are problematic partners. I try not to say this all that frequently, but between you, me and the lamppost, I think that maybe 10% of people are truly capable of being secure, selfless, reasonable, communicative, honest, fun and attractive lifetime spouses. So that’s a commentary on EVERYONE, not just hot people.

People seem to have a hard time with negative stereotypes (although they’re fine with positive ones).

Next, people seem to have a hard time with negative stereotypes (although they’re fine with positive ones). You’ll never hear a woman complain that women are known as being more nurturing, collaborative or supportive. You’ll never hear a peep about women being more mature or in touch with their emotions. But if you suggest that women may not fare as well at math, you’ve crossed the line. It seems we can have negative stereotypes about some people (boys) but not negative stereotypes about others. Got it.

That’s just my long way of saying that stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. They’re broadly applicable but not ALWAYS applicable. Think of the stereotype of the white male CEO. Think of the stereotype of the harried wife and mother of two kids. Think of the stereotype of the Jewish lawyer. These stereotypes comprise probably half of everybody I know! In many cases, the stereotype is spot on. In plenty of cases, it’s not. That’s why we judge people as individuals, not as groups. But that doesn’t mean we are never allowed to invoke stereotypes like “Men are more likely to inflict violence than women,” or “Women are more likely to have a wide network of friendships in middle age,” or “Women tend to become first grade teachers more than men,” or “Men tend to be coal miners more than women,” or, even “Men are taller and stronger than women,” even though we all know women who are taller and stronger than men. 

We have to be intellectually honest instead of trying to play gotcha to prove that we’re being attacked and wrong. Do you REALLY think I have it in for gorgeous people? Or is it possible that some gorgeous people are going to have some negative qualities associated with being glorified and objectified? And is that any different than the negative qualities that one may have if she is NOT attractive – a certain amount of bitterness, resignation, and insecurity that will permeate all of her dating interactions? 

One has to be able to talk about this openly instead of pretending there are absolutely NO patterns in anything and we are all just individuals who embody no cultural stereotypes whatsoever. 

I’ve been doing this for 17 years now and when you’re giving advice to masses, you pretty much have to refer to people in groups. You have to talk about men and women because when answering a 200-word reader question, you don’t know enough about the situation to not generalize. Naturally, I expect astute readers not to get too literal when I say things like “separated men are risky to date,” when, technically, a separated man could be 100% emotionally available and ready to remarry again quickly.  

To your next point, Kat, can all people be good partners? I guess, technically. But that’s like saying, can’t all people be honest? Technically. But ARE all people honest? Not even close. 

Therefore, it seems like a pretty fruitless argument cooked up in a college class rather than something based on reality.

In reality, people are flawed and many of those flaws come from sources that they didn’t choose. Kids who grew up on the streets are going to have different relationship challenges than kids who grew up with a silver spoon in their mouth. The fact that these kids didn’t choose their life experience doesn’t negate the fact that they’re going to show up differently within a relationship. 

You continue:  As I said being attractive isn’t something someone chooses. So I think logically that would mean that because of something someone doesn’t choose, the chances are still that they will be a problematic partner. 

Still, personally I know plenty of people who are beautiful and just as nice as anyone. Not even a minority. Plenty. 

What is something comparable? It’s proven that people who are from cultures with higher rates of divorce, crime, or other undesirable behaviors are more likely to do these things. Yet people don’t choose their culture. 

You seem to be very caught up in people choosing their culture. As I just stated, I find that to be a less than compelling argument. One doesn’t “deserve” a partner by birthright just like one doesn’t “deserve” a million-dollar-a-year-job by birthright. Some people get lucky and are born on third base. They won the genetic lottery and are attractive, educated, come from a highly functional family, and have the focus, work ethic, and confidence to be both productive in society and happily married. There are many more people who have not won this genetic lottery. That doesn’t mean they are lesser people; it may, however, mean that they have a harder time landing that million dollar a year job or marrying the “10”. 

That’s not my opinion. That’s reality. Harvard takes 5% of its applicants and rejects 95%. Is that fair? No. But whoever said that life was fair? You don’t get to choose your circumstances. You get to make the best of your circumstances. So when you tell me this:

What if I told you that as a general rule, you should not date people from a certain culture? Also, this isn’t just in theory. I had a friend whose parents were from India who decided they didn’t want their son to date an American girl, only an Indian one. They had justifiable reasons. They cited America’s divorce rate which is really pretty high compared to most countries. Don’t you still think there are plenty of people in this country who can have successful marriages? 

That’s, frankly, an awful example of what we’re actually debating here. People discriminate all the time for ridiculous reasons. Women choose men because of height and charisma. Men choose women because of youth and beauty. Both sexes routinely ignore kindness, consistency, communication, commitment and character, which are going to have much larger parts in determining the success of your marriage.

So if some Indian family believes that the US divorce rate means ANYTHING other than India encourages arranged marriages and frowns on divorce, that’s THEIR problem for being poor critical thinkers. That stat has nothing to do with the average American. 

People can often be intimidated by beautiful people as well. So then what you have is people not wanting to be friends with these people or not complimenting them on their niceness since they assume (probably wrongly) that they aren’t. 

Don’t you see what can happen? Do you think this is sound advice? 

My own advice would be to get to know each person as just them without any bias.

Kat, I’ve written about the tribulations of beautiful people before (and I trust you’ll find less to quibble with because this article validates your feelings instead of challenges them). All I’ll say in summation is that, in general, it’s easier to be hot than ugly, easier to be fit than fat, easier to be tall than short, easier to be rich than poor, and so on. Everyone has their own baggage, but I wouldn’t worry too much about comparing yours to others.

The one thing we can agree on is your last line: while there is certainly truth to be found in stereotypes, we should all endeavor to get to know each person as individuals without bias.

Join our conversation (17 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.

Comments:

  1. 1
    Jess

    Being born beautiful is not equivalent to being a member of a culture. I’m a first generation immigrant, and what I see is that people decide to a large extent how much they want to subscribe to a culture. It’s not a black and white thing as suggested by the OP.

  2. 2
    Malika With an L

    The best boss i ever had hands down is a very well known opera singer. Warm, humble, generous, an absolute joy to work for.

    The only well known fashion model i have ever met was funny, smart and very self deprecating.

    One of my former colleagues could be classified as an absolute 10 in the looks department. When I was down on my luck, he was the only one who sent me an e-mail listing why I was a lovely colleague and that he was sure i would overcome this great challenge, at a time when most people chose to look the other way.

    Another boss i worked for struck gold in business and became so rich he effectively retired in his mid thirties. He chose to give back to society, and has volunteered with both time and money to help non-profits in third world countries.

    A friend of mine endured childhood circumstances that would drive most people to drink. Instead she has developed a sunny disposition and has one of the most sensible and stable lives that you could possibly wish for.

    One of the most successful couples i know got married when they were barely out of their teens. They love telling people they met at a Duran Duran concert. More than thirty years later they are still together and going from strength to strength.

    They all confound stereotypes. They are all reminders that a likelyhood is not the same as an absolute certainty. What they are not is proof that stereotypes are absolutely not true.

    I can think of many more examples that fit stereotypes. It’s easier to drift towards expected thoughts and behaviours because our circumstances expose us to a set of situations that are more likely to activate these thoughts and behaviours. Very hot people are more likely to be problematic partners because they can go on an endless merry go round of dating than look to themselves when relationships are difficult and are confronted with aspects of themselves that make them so difficult. Rich people are insulated from the world most people live in, it is far easier to go on another resort vacation than to volunteer in a refugee camp in your time off. If you have had a problematic childhood, the lure of drink or another addiction can give you a short term release of anxiety, rather than a challenging bout of therapy.

    The exceptions I stated always remind me to go beyond expectations when i meet others on an individual level, and that i can rise above the draw backs of my own circumstances. That is easier said than done, which is why a lot of people are more likely to walk on the path of stereotypes their circumstances lead them to.

  3. 3
    Karl R

    Kat,
    If you just look at the entire population, 10s (in looks) aren’t going to be much nicer or worse than other people. But when it comes to dating, there are multiple reasons why those people are problematic partners.

    Availability:
    If a person is beautiful and also a wonderful person, then most people would feel lucky to have them as a long term partner. Therefore, these people tend to spend very little time available on the market … unless they prefer to avoid those long term relationships. The exceptions are rarely available.

    Competition:
    My wife is older (and therefore treated as less physically desirable). When I started dating her, my “competition” was one man who didn’t want to commit, and another who didn’t know how to make a first move. I went by both of them like they were standing still … because they were. If she had been 20 years younger, I would have had a lot more competition. I might have won that competition … or I might not have.

    Pickiness:
    If you have 100 people fighting over you, you can afford to be picky. You can rule out potential partners for any reason you choose, or for no reason at all. Even if you rule them all out, you’ll soon have 100 more people fighting over you. You can afford to be picky (perhaps even unreasonably so). That degree of pickiness does not make you a great bet as a potential partner. And if you’re not that picky, you’re no longer available (see above).

    You’re more likely to put up with their shit:
    Evan has previously talked about the most toxic woman he ever dated. Why did he stay with her as long as he did? She was amazingly hot. If she’d been average looking and that toxic, he would have dumped her immediately. So if you’re unwilling to ditch your partner when they behave atrociously, that’s inherently problematic (even though that problem is caused by the willingness to tolerate bad behavior).

    They don’t have to learn from their mistakes:
    If you goof off in school and fail, you learn to apply yourself harder. If you mess up at work and they fire you, you learn to do better the next time. If you screw up in a relationship and get dumped, you learn to do better the next time. But what if you can mess up without any negative consequences? Screw up in a relationship and your partner forgives you … again … because you’re the hottest person they’ve ever dated. Finally get dumped (or get bored) and there are a hundred other amazing partners lined up hoping for a chance with you. Would you learn as fast if there were no consequences to your behavior? For most of the population, that’s not the case.

    There’s another obvious drawback:
    For about six weeks, I dated an amazing and beautiful woman … who had a horrible work-life balance.Terrific woman, and a lousy girlfriend. She couldn’t prioritize any time for a relationship. That’s why she was still single. Or maybe that person has religious beliefs or personal philosophies that most people just can’t tolerate. If you’re the rare exception who agrees with them, you might be golden. Otherwise, not so much. Maybe they live in a geographically undesirable spot (middle of nowhere). If there’s something that prevents most other people from wanting to be in a relationship with that person, it’s likely (but not 100% certain) that you’ll agree with the people who find them problematic.

    There’s a hidden drawback:
    What about the exception? The person who is amazingly hot, great personality, wants to be in a long term relationship, not overly picky, and learns from their mistakes? Why would that person not be in a relationship, or end up returning to the dating pool again and again? Generally there’s a hidden drawback that their partners eventually discover. Insanely jealous. Well concealed infidelities. Intolerable relatives.

    Maybe you’ve met someone like that. You first met them and wondered, “Why can’t this person find a relationship?” And it’s even possible that the person also wondered why they couldn’t get a relationship (since they were beautiful and practically perfect in every way). But once you got to know them well, you understood perfectly why they couldn’t get a lasting relationship….

    Even if they could never figure out (or acknowledge) the drawback that was sabotaging them.

    1. 3.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Good to have you back, Karl.

    2. 3.2
      Malika With an L

      While not a 10, I recognized a lot of what you said as a comfortable 7/8. I was highly strung, emotionally erratic, suffered from vaginismus, and had no idea what i wanted out of a relationship throughout most of my adult life. Getting a date was not a problem, keeping a dude interested? Hah! Looks bore after a while, and most men know there are other women who are a better package for them.

      Once i worked on the issues, a whole new world opened up and I finally found my boyfriend and a relationship we are both very happy with. He sometimes ask why on earth i was single for so long. If he asks again, I can now redirect him to your comment, which breaks it down neatly.

      1. 3.2.1
        S.

        Malika, with an L, I’m always appreciative about your honesty about what changed for you. So I guess now you’re no longer highly strung and emotionally erratic? 🙂

        What prompted you to work on your issues at that time? Why not earlier?

        Reading your comment inspired me to think more deeply about *my* issues. Everyone has something to work on.

        1. Malika With an L

          Less highly strung and emotionally erratic! Which has become apparent in the last couple of weeks as i managed to keep a semblance of calm and build a structure in the new reality.

          What prompted me to work on my issues was a breakup from hell and me consequently being so upset about it that it impacted my job performance at a crucial time and i nearly lost my job! I had been in therapy before, but lacked the maturity needed to get the most out of it. It suddenly dawned on me that i needed to make better life choices and to stop normalizing certain behaviours in the men i dated (The classic pattern of dating the same kind of man in order to redress grievances from the past). It took me a very long time to develop certain patterns and it was very hard work but beyond worth it. Life is not all roses now but far more manageable!

          I wish you great luck with dealing with your issues. It can be truly life changing and the world becomes so much bigger and full of possibilities when you work on them. I hope you can find some much needed space to reflect in these tumultuous times.

  4. 4
    mara

    But if you suggest that women may not fare as well at math, you’ve crossed the line
    well, that is simply because it isn’t true (the maturity thing is also not necessarily true; girls are not BORN more mature, they are FORCED to become through a much stricter education and the fact that they risk their lives on a daily basis because well, boys are not given the same education, clearly). Depending on the country, girls kick boys asses at maths in most Asian countries; this is a stereotype that has been proven western society, teachers and even n preschool we pass down to girls, making THEM think maths is not for them.
    Plenty o experiments showing how girls are given a totally different education, expectation and toys and how these things create the supposed maturity etc.

    1. 4.1
      Bbq

      But if girls kick boys asses in maths in some countries, does that mean that girls are better at math? Or equally good? (How could it) or that said education is now failing boys?

      Why is it so impossible to think girls really might develop maturity earlier? There’s differences biologically, you have to admit it’s possible (if not entirely proven although I don’t know much about that)

      1. 4.1.1
        Evan Marc Katz

        It is proven. Look between your legs. That’s biology.

        1. Bbq

          I meant possible they develop some kind of maturity earlier because of biological reasons.

  5. 5
    mara

    as for the negative stereotypes of beautiful people as a former model that has also suffered an autoimmune disorder that basically made me very very ugly for a period of time,
    I have my opinion on this matter too.
    Forst off, let’s differentiate men and women. I work in the fashion industry since 1996 and yes, I have met the most beautiful people in the world, and the difference between very handsome men’s behavior a beautiful women’s behavior is striking, but not surprising.
    Handsome white males have their egos pumped in every direction since birth, while beautiful women are constantly reminded of how soon their beauty will be considered to be fading, how not perfect it is, since women’s beauty standards are MUCH higher, stricter and difficult to achieve and require much more work money and dedication.
    Men are still considered handsome with white hair, body or facial hair, wrinkles, rugged appearance, small eyes, closeup eyes, big noses, very strong features, all sorts of marks etc etc.
    Women basically must look 20 yo porcelain dolls with silky skin and very stereotyped faces.
    Even son we are constantly reminded we should somehow be MORE perfect, and we still need to spend hours removing unwanted hair, preventing aging, etc etc.
    Also, we get tons of unwanted attention as well as jealousy and in fact, it is very difficult to make friends because a hot woman is seen as Eve the temptress wherever she goes.
    All men want to fuck her, all women fear or hate her, with few exceptions, so in the end, she is often alone. I realized that was the problem when I started modeling and all of a sudden those beautiful creatures were all my friends, and real ones, lol.
    In school, I was bullied because if I wore a skirt I was pointed as ‘the girl that wants to show off her figure’, but if an ugly girl would wear the exact same skirt, no one would think anything of it.
    A teacher had me fail an exam in high school because he was in love with me.
    Boys would call me ‘ironing board’ because as most models do I have tiny breasts.
    My agent kept telling me I needed to lose weight and whenever I went to castings all I could hear was horrible criticism straight to my face as if I wasn’t there.
    Needless to say, I became anorexic, bulimic, and depressed.

    So yeah, beautiful women, genetically beautiful women like me, are usually not narcissistic assholes but are in fact, extremely insecure, lonely, and painfully aware of the extreme reactions everyone seems to have.
    I also lost my job THREE TIMES because I refused to sleep with the boss.
    I also lost my prize internship at Magnum photographers as the best student of my school in Paris because literally they didn’t want a pretty girl to seduce one of their photographers (of course, that wouldn’t have applied to a handsome male).
    I could go on and on and on.
    My line of work (as any line of work that is predominantly/traditionally more masculine) HATES beautiful women as if we were lucky enough to be beautiful than we MUST be stupid.
    The only jobs in fact in which being pretty for a female is an asset are modeling, dancing and acting. and any low paid service job or stewardess.
    But ask a computer programmer how she is treated, ask an architect, a surgeon etc.
    OMFG. Research has shown that out of 6 Cvs (handsome male, average male, ugly male, beautiful female, average female, ugly female), the ones that got most responses were consistently the handsome male. The ones who got fewer responses? The beautiful female.
    Because we are seen as Eve the Temptress, the Troublemakers, the Husband Stealears and the HOmeWreckers, the Angelinas to the Jennifers and so on.
    That, of course, does not apply to handsome males.
    And this is why, I see most very handsome males being total pricks and 99% of very beautiful females being in fact, very humble and sweet.

    .

    1. 5.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      “I see most very handsome males being total pricks and 99% of very beautiful females being in fact, very humble and sweet.”

      Without reading anything else, this conclusion would seem to be a highly one-sided analysis. Women good. Men bad. Not sure real life works that way, Mara.

    2. 5.2
      Karl R

      mara said:
      “So yeah, beautiful women, genetically beautiful women like me, are usually not narcissistic assholes but are in fact, extremely insecure, lonely, and painfully aware of the extreme reactions everyone seems to have.”

      First, extremely insecure partners are problematic partners. While I can sympathize with someone who is extremely insecure and lonely, that doesn’t make them equal to a partner who is secure with a healthy circle of friends.

      Second, not “everyone” has an extreme reaction. When I see photos of top supermodels or top Hollywood actresses without their makeup, they’re still attractive (though often not recognizable), but in a much more ordinary kind of way. Most of us manage to navigate our way through life without having extreme reactions to the most attractive 1% or 0.1% of the population. Perhaps modeling is a particularly toxic environment for women. Have you considered a career change to something you would prefer?

  6. 6
    Jess

    To add to Karl’s list – one potential drawback is the demographic of the city one lives in. If you’re a young professional, you might want to avoid settling in Naples, Florida. It might also be more difficult, relatively speaking, for ethnic minorities in towns that are not culturally diverse (especially if they prefer to date someone from similar cultural background). Everyone’s got a thing and “drawbacks” to various degrees, the best you can do is to discern whether or not you can put up with those drawbacks. Generalization is helpful, but at some point, you have to judge on an individual basis.

    I don’t have the statistics, but I doubt only the good looking 10s get divorced or struggle with relationships.

  7. 7
    shaukat

    ‘So if some Indian family believes that the US divorce rate means ANYTHING other than India encourages arranged marriages and frowns on divorce, that’s THEIR problem for being poor critical thinkers. That stat has nothing to do with the average American.’

    I fully agree with this sentiment, but I think this sound reasoning has implications for some of the other points you raised as well. For example, the stereotype ‘women don’t fare as well at math’ is also not based on any valid science as of now. It’s true that more men fall within the left and right of the bell curve for IQ, but it would be impossible to divorce this fact from centuries of exclusion and discrimination–just as it’s impossible to separate the lower Indian divorce rate from the general culture that promotes arranged marriages and frowns of divorce.

    I agree that generalizations and stereotypes have their place, my issue is always when people attempt to attribute too many of these (valid) stereotypes to nature and genetics as opposed to environment and social conditioning.

  8. 8
    bvg

    mara said:
    “…beautiful women, genetically beautiful women like me…”

    Karl said:
    “When I see photos of top supermodels or top Hollywood actresses without their makeup, they’re still attractive (though often not recognizable), but in a much more ordinary kind of way.”

    Beauty (as depicted in TV, films, or magazines) is an exceptionally difficult endeavor. Body fat and fitness requirements for men and women are brutal. It is not unusual for people to spend 3-4 hours per day at the gym with a personal trainer, a personal chef and drugs (steroids or appetite suppressants) to achieve the desired look. Makeup helps of course, but only to a certain extent. The assumption that beauty (9’s & 10’s) is effortless is certainly false.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *