What is Rhetoric & Stereotypes?
Politicians, individuals with tattoos, feminists, and senior citizens are groups within our society with little in common. While there could be overlap between these four groups, such as senior citizens with tattoos, or feminists practicing politics–there are four generalizations distinguishing these groups.
The exaggerated and oversimplified opinions used to define these groups are known as stereotypes.
When stereotypes take on the form of rhetoric language they become insulting and offensive to the group being described. Moreover, accepting a stereotype without the benefit of facts is lazy, irresponsible, and depriving our own intellect.
The phrase “senior citizen” is a euphemism. It is a combination of words with a positive meaning used to describe our elders. Specifically, it is used when referring to individuals at or over the age of retirement. The euphemism, senior citizen, is quickly converted from a positive phrase to one of negativity when described by a stereotype. One version of this stereotype defines a senior citizen as an elderly, slow moving, health challenged, frequent occupant of the passing lane, with an annual pass to the local shuffleboard courts. This version is localized to the state of Florida where many senior citizens choose to retire and enjoy life. Although geography separates several versions of this stereotype, a few of the components are common. Senior citizens are weak, elder, and set in their ways. While there may be some truth to these stereotypes, as it relates to a few senior citizens, it is unfair for the rest to be pigeonholed into the same group.
For several decades feminists have endured a single, simple stereotype. The culture of the 1970s is responsible for the current stereotype. This stereotype paints the negative picture of a feminist as a masculine female, most likely a lesbian, with a complete wardrobe of plaid flannel shirts, and no male friends. There is complete disregard for the true purpose and beliefs of feminists. As with the negative stereotype of a senior citizen, this interpretation of a feminist is insulting and narrow-minded. There is no truth in the common stereotype of a feminist. A feminist is someone, male or female, who believes in gender equality—nothing more. This stereotype was most likely derived from a group of individuals who did not understand, or agree with, the purpose and vision of feminism.
As tattoos become more mainstream they continue to be associated with certain stereotypes. All versions of stereotypes describing tattooed persons cast a shadow of negativity on both males and females. Stereotypes are especially cruel to a female with tattoos. Recent attempts have been made to shine positive light on tattoos. The euphemism “body art” is used to imply that a tattoo on a female is more about an appreciation of art rather than an indication of sexual promiscuity. Men with tattoos are perceived as rebellious, irresponsible, unintelligent, and sometimes even criminal (Hudson, n.d.).
Everyone does not share this interpretation of a tattooed person. Younger generations do not judge a person with a tattoo-riddled body—they simply accept them for what’s behind the ink. Body piercings follow a similar stereotype. It is not uncommon to see a person with tattoos also sporting a few piercings.
A politician is stereotyped as a habitual self-serving liar with an ego quenched only by four years of occupying the desk in a certain oval office.
While this stereotype is true for a few politicians, the rest are guilty by association. Most of the politicians who have served throughout our history are recognized as statesmen—and rightly so. Interesting enough is the fact that attorneys share a similar stereotype. It would be worth investigating the possibility that only politicians who were previously lawyers live up to the stereotype. The stereotype of a politician is negative and insulting, but it does not necessarily mean it is false.
There is a lot of rhetoric surrounding politicians, tattooed persons, feminists, and senior citizens. These groups are all victims of several fallacies some of which are unjust and borderline prejudice.
Side Note: It is morally irresponsible to contribute to or encourage stereotyping. This and all of the supporting rhetoric are designed to slant the truth about these groups. While there are probably a few members of each group that could be the poster child for the group’s stereotype, the entire group suffers—society suffers.
Stereotypes are unfortunately derived from little to no real facts about a particular group of individuals. These same stereotypes are rarely questioned and always used in everyday conversation, and everyday marketing communication. There are, however, several methods used by responsible marketers to identify the characteristics of individuals to produce effective marketing results.
Data Modeling & Persona Development
Using demographic, psychographic and geographic information, a savvy marketer can create an accurate profile for just about anyone–including politicians. Information is gathered from various sources, appended and associated with the basic contact information for every individual in a marketing list. This extended information is used to identify specific segments and unique characteristics within each segment. There are several mainstream sources for this information, most of which originates from U.S. Census data and individual surveys. Not every piece of information is available for every individual. This is when marketers rely on data modeling techniques to “fill in the blanks.”
Two common approaches to deriving missing information are linear and logistic regression. These modeling methods use information from other records in a marketing list to “predict” and populate missing data. While not 100% accurate, it is more effective than using “default” or “generic” information–as with the use of the broad net approach of stereotyping. At the end of the day, the goal is to develop a persona for the purpose of creating a message strategy to communicate on a one-to-one level with each and every person in a marketing list–the target audience.
A target audience is comprised of many different personas. Some with tattoos, others are politicians… but all are consumers.
An inexperienced marketer’s approach of stereotyping will exclude many individuals likely to want and/or need a particular product or service. Effective marketing begins with sound data modeling, and a complete understanding of the various personas contained within your marketing list. Stereotype-driven marketing can only be produced for the masses. True one-to-one marketing requires each and every communication to be timely, relevant and understood by the recipient. Speaking to each individual at a level he or she can understand gives the best chance of a marketing communication transitioning from conversation to communication.
Hudson, Karen (n.d.). Tattooed & Pierced – Breaking the Stereotype. Retrieved March 16, 2009, from About.com website: http://tattoo.about.com/cs/articles/a/break_stereotyp.htm
Moore, B. N., & Parker, R. (2007). Critical Thinking, 8th Edition. Boston, MA: The McGraw-Hill Companies senior citizen. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved March 16, 2009, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/senior citizen
Wallflower (2007). “Feminist” is not an insult. Retrieved March 16, 2009, from ProgressiveU.org website:http://www.progressiveu.org/010616-feminist-is-not-an-insult