Scripps Stereotypes: Unpacking the Poll

By Taylor Galla '18
Opinion Poll Columnist

This week I ambitiously attempted to explore the concept of the Scripps stereotypes ­­— trying to unpack how people view it in itself, how many stereotypes there are, and the effects it has on the community as a whole. When I embarked on this project I knew that it was going to push the boundaries of comfortable conversation — as I hope to do with each one of my columns to a reasonable and safe extent. However, I did not expect the intense debate that it sparked amongst the student body. Although some of the comments made did not have to do with the central question I asked, I want to start off by briefly reiterating the comment I made after a lot of heated dialogue. When creating this survey I was not sufficiently aware that the survey did not give people adequate space to express themselves. It brought up valid feelings and reactions from students that could not be expressed within the eight or so response options that I gave. I want to acknowledge everyone’s feelings and to communicate that I hear everyone. I also want to acknowledge that the language in the question was potentially problematic in that the words “targeted” and “victimized” are typically used to describe experiences of marginalized groups and those who experience more severe forms of discrimination.

However, through these words I wanted to acknowledge that the stereotype has the potential to cause this amount of harm — but I can see the difficult nature in them as well. I apologize for the fact that this survey felt vague, exclusive and marginalizing for part of the student body. I want to thank everyone who shared their thoughts, because it opened my eyes to many of the issues surrounding the marginalizing effects of stereotypes in general, and especially the Scripps stereotype. I hope to discuss some of the themes brought up, not directly quote or summarize anyone whatsoever, and to do the best I can to shed light on this issue that is detrimental to many.

The two stereotypes that come to my mind as the most prominent are a pretty girl in a sundress who likes to go out and party, and the raging feminist lesbian who hates all men. The image that comes to mind for both of these stereotypes does not include a person of color or other marginalized group such as differently abled or who does not identify on the gender binary, for example. These are some of the thoughts I had in response to the comments made, and I understand how this is a marginalizing and harmful dynamic to have within a student body- as the stereotype itself creates more division between those who feel they fit into it and those who don’t. This dynamic is in itself very harmful, as are others having to do with the stereotype- and that many experience it differently- and any one experience is not more valid than any other. Now I will break down the actual survey results, and discuss other dynamics in terms of the survey- beyond those who feel they are not included in it.

I asked the question “How often do you feel targeted/ victimized by the Scripps stereotype?” and received the largest number of responses I have gotten on a survey thus far this year. Out of the 132 responses that I received, the most popular answers were “sometimes, not often — but it still bothers me when it does happen” with 41 answers (31%), “all the time — and I don’t appreciate it” with 28 votes (21%), and “not sure what a Scripps stereotype is” with 21 votes (16%). After that it was “hardly at all- and I don’t see it as a problem” with eight votes (.06%), “hardly at all- but I think it is a problem and should be addressed” with seven votes (.05%), “sometimes, not often- and I embrace it” with six votes (.045%), “all the time- and I embrace it” with five votes (.04%), “all the time- and I don’t mind” and “sometimes, not often- and it doesn’t bother me” each with four votes, and “never” with three votes- followed by “hardly at all- and I embrace it when it does happen” with two votes.

These results clearly display a wide range ofresponses regarding this topic- from people who experience a Scripps stereotype all the time as a very negative experience to people who never experience it and are therefore not affected by any type of Scripps stereotype at all. For the purpose of length, I am going to focus on the top couple of responses — but I want to fully acknowledge all the responses that were collected.

The top response was that students sometimes experience the Scripps stereotype — so it is not a constant occurrence in their life- but when it does happen it is offensive and bothersome.

What is so hard about this issue is that there is no way to take full account of what Scripps stereotype everyone feels that they are pushed into. I also think the stereotype itself is constantly changing and shifting along with the student body.        

Although stereotypes are oftentimes very offensive and do not accurately reflect the attributes of the people they are attempting to portray, they are a lens into how people are seen by others, and potentially how those people are presenting themselves. They are a window into how people view themselves, others, the perspective each are coming from, the various prejudices they possess and many more things if one looks deep enough. Scripps stereotypes are particularly predominant because we as an institution are the most different of all of the schools that surround us. We are the only all-women/ gender minority college, and this opens us up to elevated intrigue and curiosity by the other schools- as anything that is incredibly different from oneself tends to do.

One Scripps student emailed me and recounted that “I and other students have had a number of issues related to stereotype threat in classes taken at Mudd. Unfortunately, some professors and classmates clearly make assumptions that Scripps students are less intelligent or hardworking because we are not Mudd students, although many would have or did get into Mudd.”

This quote is interesting because it not only is evocative of a Scripps stereotype constructed by Mudd’s community, but also reflects the way that members of the Mudd community view themselves- potentially as superior to anyone who does not go to Mudd. Not only do stereotypes subjugate those they are targeting, but they also communicate a need to establish difference and separation by those using them.

Other Scripps stereotypes — for example, the raging feminist lesbian one — come from a widely held stereotype of women’s colleges in general. The pretty sundress one I think comes with a droplet of truth in it, as many people here do don this look on a regular basis. However, inherent in this image is one of the most problematic things about the Scripps stereotype, and all stereotypes in general, that was brought to the attention of much of the student body this week. The message stereotypes send are that, although they are societally constructed generalizations that are not taken as fact or truth by many, if you do not fit into the image it portrays, you do not fit into the group it is based upon. You do not fit the generalized, predominant image of what that group looks like — and it therefore reinforces your feelings of exclusion from being a part of that community. I completely understand this feeling.

I think what I and I hope the rest of the Scripps student body takes away from this week is that the definition of the Scripps stereotype is completely fluid and different depending on who you talk to. Some do not even have a clear definition in their head of what it is, some have a clear image and are offended by it, some do not mind it, for others it is another way in which they feel they don’t fit in here. Whatever your experience here, stereotypes are just that — others’ projections on our community that come from a place of desired separation and potentially judgement. They should not be taken as an internal form of discrimination amongst the student body — or a way to define what a Scripps person should be.