Perception vs. Reality: breaking stereotypes throughout the world


When many Americans think about people in the Middle East, they create stereotypes based on what they think they know. Believe it or not, people in the Middle East do the same with Americans. We all have our own stereotypes about each other, so I’m going to create a list from both points of view to help break these stereotypes. Keep in mind that none of these are actually true.

Stereotypes about the Middle East:

“Arab” and “Muslim” refer to the same people. There are actually more than one billion Muslims in the world, yet only 15 percent of them are Arab.

Islam, Judaism and Christianity are all fundamentally different. In reality, they are all a monotheistic religion, meaning they all believe in one God.

The Middle East is just a big desert with a lot of camels. More people in the Middle East actually live in fishing villages and fertile plains than in a desert.

Muslims are all foreigners who cannot adapt to Western societies. Muslims live normal lives throughout the world and they have a long history in America.

Stereotypes about America:

All Americans are rich. Although this is portrayed on TV, many Americans do not live this lifestyle. There are multiple socioeconomic levels at which Americans live.

Americans have no family values. Although our values may be different than those in the Middle East, we still have our own values of what family life should be like.

All Americans have no morals and all American women are promiscuous. These characterizations, shown on TV and in movies, are not the norm and are not the common characteristics of American women.

Women are oppressed in the US. Yet again, American culture is portrayed inaccurately in the media. Women are given the same rights as men and it is becoming more and more common for men and women to have the same roles in the workforce.

One TED Talk that I particularly enjoy is “Did You Hear the One About the Iranian-American?” Maz Jobrani, the speaker in this video, travels around America and the Middle East attempting to break stereotypes through comedy. Sometimes, being blunt and creating jokes about the stereotypes you’re receiving can help others realize how wrong their stereotypes are in the first place. There are many other comedians around the world with the same goal as Maz.

What we think we see is much different than we actually see. It’s important to recognize what we view as a stereotype versus what is actually true about another culture. It’s also important to understand the stereotypes made about us. Creating change and knowledge begins when you understand both of these things and have a drive to make a difference. What stereotypes do you have? What shocks you about the stereotypes about you? Most importantly, what are you going to do to stop these stereotypes from being misconceived as true?

Sources: Global Connections – PBS and TED Talk

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10 thoughts on “Perception vs. Reality: breaking stereotypes throughout the world

  1. I personally think stereotypes are shaped by media and news, and it is difficult for one side to truly understand the other unless they visit the country they are stereotyping, or do some serious research. Before I ever started researching the Middle East I had many stereotypes including the thought of it being mostly a desert with oppressed women and full of violence. My ignorance back then was almost funny, because I was so naïve. I now know the Middle East is hardly what my previous stereotypes were. I also like the fact that there are comedians out there trying to clear up misconceptions with humor. I think the stereotypes about America are also very inaccurate. Maybe compared to Muslim women however, we could be seen promiscuous in way, but in reality we are quite modest ourselves. Personally, I think I am able to clear up these misconceptions by being my true self and hope to help other cultures perceive me in a positive light.

  2. I have never liked the way media displays stereotypes in America. It is not fair that what other countries see on American television shows is interpreted as how all Americans live. I find it interesting that each country has a different stereotype than another country about the same country. That sounds confusing so for example, when I traveled to Turkey, all the local Turks were extremely friendly and fascinated that I was from America and were very kind and thought Americans were very kind but when I was in France, I was told we were “ugly Americans.” Amazing how different countries and cultures can view the same thing in such an opposite way.

  3. Interesting blog Jess! I’ll admit, when first learning about the Middle East I believed several stereotypes. This was all due to the fact that I was uneducated but as I began to learn it surprised me how quickly I began to catch on. Once you start learning about one topic it rapidly leads to another, making it seem as if everything is sort of inter-related. It is also interesting to hear about stereotypes of Americans. It is sometimes hard for me to take a step back and see how we are acting as citizens opposed to other countries. I think we often need these stereotypes brought to our attention in order to correct them.

  4. I really like this blog because it addresses the stereotypes of the Middle East as well as Americans. Many blogs focus on the stereotypes of people in the Middle East but never turn it around to address the stereotypes of Americans. It was weird reading this blog and the part of the American stereotypes since most of those never cross my mind as a possibility. It made me realize that many people in the Middle East probably think the same way about the stereotypes towards them. Nice blog Jess!

  5. I think this was a really great blog to help clarify common misconceptions. It’s so understandable to be confused about a culture ad nation due to stereotypes but I think it’s important to address what you’re unsure of to find out if it’s true or not. When specifically speaking on he Middle East the stereotypes may seem offensive and people are uncomfortable speaking about it, but reading this could definitely help someone who is unsure!

  6. Great post! I definitely think it is important to consider that just because we may have a pre-conceived notion of how a certain culture or religious group acts and lives, we really need to look at things below the level of stereotypes and generalizations. I have loved learning about the reality of Middle Eastern culture through this class, and it’s extremely important to me that I go out into the world someday to meet and work with and befriend people from all backgrounds. I don’t want to be seen through the lense of a stereotype, and I believe that we should all strive to not look at the world through that lense ourselves.

  7. This was an awesome idea for a blog post. I feel like stereotypes are often more considered to be true than the actual truth. And as Americans, I think we forget that we are a target for stereotypes as well. Media truly does play such a vital role in sharing these stereotypes throughout the world.

  8. Really glad you mentioned American stereotypes in this article. Like someone earlier mentioned too, people all over the world generate these stereotypes because of news and media, AKA propaganda. Almost every time we see the Middle East on TV, it is recorded footage of battles occurring, which are mainly in desert areas and poorer towns. Same with people across seas looking at Americans. Hollywood TV shows and movies show us as complete idiots which is an untrue and exaggerated view, but it sells for Hollywood.

  9. Nice topic! Your examples of how Americans are stereotyped are, like you said, assumptions made through media. In my media class last year, we actually talked about how what the media produces actually encourages and create stereotypes. I enjoyed how you brought up common stereotypes Americans have for the Middle East, and then refuted them. It’s important for people to realize that the way a single person may act in one culture does not reflect the culture as a whole. It is also important for Americans to actually do research before they make these classifcations and realize that their view on the Middle East and the people living there could be very wrong. Americans need to be more informed on this topic, including the stereotypes that we face from other regions and how we can change that.

  10. Interesting article. Very fascinating to see the wide array of stereotypes broken down by country, and it really gives you a different perspective when you view them all from a distance. It’s always important to remain open to exploring new cultures and not just accepting what you think that their stereotypes are, because as this blog shows, cultures are often very different from their stereotypes.

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