At it’s core the idea that one may lump a number of people into a group based on certain shared characteristics smacks of what the left would denounce as “fascism”. Of course leftists frequently label their out-group whatever gets them a political advantage (“islamophobe”, “homophobe”, “transphobe”), and of course fascism does not exist.
This aside, let us discuss the idea of what a stereotype is and what benefits one potentially gains from the belief in stereotypes.
Stereotypes are certain simplified ideas or beliefs held by people about a group of individuals.
Think of meeting a new person and observing certain behaviour traits in them. Stereotyping allows us to give labels to these traits and then put them in a category which aptly describes who they are at a macro level. It allows us to simplify our approach in interacting with the individual. Think of it as simple clustering. Our brains define certain metrics specific to how we perceive human interaction and then automatically cluster new individuals according to our metric. Therefore, stereotyping is a simplified statistical model.
This is not to say that the metrics must be static, nor does it mean that an individual with a particular stereotype remains that way forever. Both the metric and the individuals evolve with experience, and character traits are refined in our brain. There is a trade-off when considering the number of useful traits. When you consider features which describe a person, (similar to machine learning) only a subset of all the total possible features are useful. If we take too many or too little we risk over-fitting or under-fitting our individual to our model. Or rather in this case, our clusters are either too small (large number of features, hyper-refined set of metrics) which automatically makes them worthless; or too large (small number of features, too nebulous for any pragmatic use) which make them even more worthless.
So what is the real benefit to stereotyping?
Stereotyping prevents costly errors while compromising on marginal benefits – otherwise they wouldn’t exist to begin with.
Rationally it makes no sense to stereotype. One may be “scientific” and say that since no fundamental law governs any subset of behaviours, there can be no certainty that the (n+1)th individual will behave similar to the earlier n individuals in the cluster. But then we have empiricism on our side, as well as Bayesian inference.
Stereotypes are usually rooted in intuition. A rationalist would discard this gut feeling since it does not conform to the scientific method. However, intuition is an evolutionary trait developed by humans for survival. Man is an animal at the end of the day, and requires a healthy amount of rational thought and emotion to function in society. Intuition is designed to be quick, aiding the decision between flight or fight in response to external stimuli.
Leftists will argue that stereotyping is inherently bigoted, and that no one should be labeled a certain way because of the way they dress, the colour of their skin or the religion they profess. This is utter nonsense. It suffices to say that given that intuition is a survival technique, “bigotry” is at it’s core a survival technique.
Stereotypes are good. Embrace them.