Lecture # 6: Theorizing Sexuality, Gender and Racialization
We have looked at the cultural construction of femininities and masculinities, and how
our social locations [sexuality, ability, how we have been racialized, class, age, etc]
weave through to shape and inform how masculinities and femininities are understood,
and experienced and to some degree how historical ideas continue to inform ideas and
practices. [ideas do not die, they come back to us in new ways]
Today we are looking at stereotypes:
what are they?
How do they work?
And what do they tell us?
We will be looking at how sex and sexuality are racialized through Stuart Hall’s work on
stereotypes. But first let me begin with what Richard Dyer tells us in his article for this
week regarding stereotypes.
Stereotypes are highly charged with feelings that are attached to them. Dyer argues that
stereotypes accomplish a number of tasks, and although when we advance that someone
is stereotyping we often mean that someone is advancing a negative representation,
stereotypes are not only to be understood as performing negative functions.
Dyer says that stereotyping perform at least four functions
1. an ordering process
2. a short cut
3. referring to the world
4. expressing our values and our beliefs
we need to ask
-- how do stereotypes come about?
-- and who defines them?
--Whose interest do stereotypes serve?
-- how do stereotypes shape, inform and limit people’s lives?
Stuart Hall argues that stereotypes reduce people to a few simple essential characteristics
which are represented as fixed by Nature – the notion of nature should be underlined,
because we will need to return to this idea later when we turn our attention Ann Fausto-
Now according to Stuart Hall stereotypes have 4 functions.
1. the construction of otherness and exclusion
2. stereotyping and power
3. the role of Fantasy
1 4. fetishism
Stuart Hall agrees with Dyer who says that unless we have “types” (not stereotypes) it
would be difficult to make sense of the world – otherwise it would be an unruly
number of individual objects, people, things, etc. We use types to make the world a
little more recognizable (orderly). So on some level, typing is essential for producing
We make sense of things through a series of wider categories:
Know something about someone/ through the roles they perform
We assign membership of different groups through categories with respect to ‘race’
class, sexuality, gender, age group, nationality, ability, etc.
We order people through personality types.
Stuart Hall advances that while types are necessary, stereotypes work in four
interconnected ways to maintain the social & symbolic order.
The construction of otherness and exclusion
Stereotyping and power
The role of fantasy
1. The construction of otherness and exclusion
a) Stereotyping reduces, essentializes naturalizes and fixes difference.
stereotypes deploy the strategy as ‘splitting’ which expels and excludes all that which
does not fit (which is different). And it categorizes “Acceptable/unacceptable,”
Stereotypes employ the practice of closure and exclusion. They symbolically fix
boundaries, and exclude everything which does not belong. Produces a symbolic frontier
between normal and deviant.
Mary Douglas: whatever is out of place is considered polluted, dangerous and taboo.
“abject” – thrown out -- Julia Kriteva.
2. Stereotyping and power
Stereotypes tend to occur where there are gross inequalities of power.
Ethnocentrism : the application of the norms of one’s culture to that of others.
2 Between binaries there is no peaceful co-existence…but rather a vi