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The Nature of Human Classification

Updated on April 22, 2013

The Abstract Form of Human Classification

by Eric J. Specht

Dec. 2010

Some may favor socially classifying themselves according to a group and others may not, but it happens whether we like it or not. I am not merely talking about our inescapable traits or prejudices: gender, ethnics, religion, culture, or so on, I am referring to our social status. Although one may be free to change their social status throughout life, he or she may remember the beginning of stereotyping him or herself; or if neutral, having their school associates puppeteer his or her character as a jock, nerd, bully, gothic, and so on. Nonetheless, reaching maturity mirrors similar adolescent behaviors. Often, we may favor actions to portray our preferred status and judge other individuals according to their preferences. Stereotyping individuals is a common rhetorical method easily utilized to identify a member of society. Personally, I would not know what to label myself as or what others may label me as, but I am interested in discovering if there is any truth to stereotypes. Therefore, to determine my position, I will analyze four renowned stereotypes to see if rhetorical group classifications exist and if their non-literal use of language invoke and reinforce their labeled images.


Before I conclude my position about stereotyping, I would like to announce the four stereotypes I will be discussing: politicians, tattooed people, feminists, and senior citizens. In addition, I will be attempting to define each labeled group, determine if each group portrays a national image in the United States of America, if their images are positive, negative, and/or of both consequences, and if each stereotype reinforces these images. Furthermore, through my personal perspective assisted with the research of these four renowned groups, I will decide if there is any truth to persuasion with effective but figurative language to classify the broad array of stereotypes. Assisting my decision, I will be acquiring information from Google Scholar websites and documents on the World Wide Web. Following my researched interpretations, I will conclude this essay with a self-appraisal of rhetorical connections that encourage stereotyping.


Politicians are probably the most renowned rhetoric labeled stereotype due to over exposure. The public broadcasts political opinions whether he or she is representing a rural community of a hundred members or the nation’s population under the government. However, the public favorably links the political candidate’s beliefs with every aspect of the candidate’s life, so it is impractical for a politician to elude being stereotyped. For example, voters seem to stereotype female politicians to be dedicated to an honest system, but what happens if a woman candidate commits adultery? Rhetorically, she would lose political credentials because the public will bestow negative convictions about her personal affairs. The public also labels African American candidates as more concerned with the minority, figuratively questioning the candidate’s personal and political interests for the majority. White male politicians are stereotype as less liberal than the labeled female and African American politicians are (Mcdermott, 1998). However, the examples of these stereotypes are rhetorical devices known as fallacies; the statements pertain to irrelevant premises rather than the politicians suggested beneficial claims. As a non-voter, I believe there are positive and negative truths to this stereotype; however, the division between non-literal and literal distinction is necessary before reaching conclusions.

Likeliness of being Inked

On what appears to be on the opposite end of the spectrum, we have people stereotyped merely by their appearance. Tattooed people are classified because they permanently modified there body with ink. Some proclaim our skin is a blank canvas for art while others revolt against the idea because tattoos are associated with delinquent behaviors. For instance, a study reveals that the majority of children from six to sixteen years of age associate negative stereotypes with tattooed individuals (Dunkin & Houghton, 2000). Therefore, it appears rhetorically moral to express tattooed members of society as criminals because some members of society act unlawfully, such as the notorious Hells Angels bike gang. However, this appears to be a misleading perception, or an Ad Hominem fallacy, which is a personal attack. Additionally, tattooed people incur the group think fallacy as well, this is because the majority of non-tattooed society members perceive them as delinquents, unintelligent, irresponsible, untrustworthy, and other rhetorical assumptions that are so effectively persuasive that it restricts the equality of their civil rights, such as obtaining public employment. For this reason, I do not believe tattooed people invoke or reinforce their labeled identity. There are many good reasons and bad reasons to be inked; therefore, the majority’s abstract view is not appropriate.

Negative Stereotyping

Feminists also fall victim to a negative stereotype as perceptions label them as masculine, man haters, family haters, god haters, and so on (Nelson, 2009). Soon after women received equal rights, there have been no rational thoughts using dysphemism, or harsh name-calling, as a rhetoric strategy. Perhaps feminist do not hate men, but rather dislike the male "chauvinists" who believe women are mere servants. In addition, referring to the dysphemism man hater, feminist simply claim they do not need to depend on a man for survival; thus, establishing a relationship with a man is not hatred but rather regarded as not her primary objective at the current time (Para. 12, 2009). I do not believe everyone perceive feminist in this manner and I certainly do not believe collectively as that stereotype that these images are what feminist are trying to convey to the public. It appears to me that the only truth to stereotyping individuals as feminist is negative rhetoric exposure of feminine beliefs.



With respect for our elderly population, I hope they do not have to endure the same dysphemism strategies the feminists tolerate. Expressing euphemizing, the opposite of dysphemism, some senior citizens may not be able to depend on their retirement plans, so they have to sustain employment throughout their golden years. Ageism negatively stereotypes the elderly as senior citizens (Nuessel, 1982). With the inevitable transition, senior citizens have to overcome new obstacles such as the rhetorical analogy, cannot teach an old dog new tricks. However, such rhetoric analogies suggest without proof that the senior cohort; for example, will not be able to adapt to modern technology that most businesses rely on, thus, senior citizens will find it difficult to sustain or acquire employment opportunities. I believe that there is some truth to this stereotype as it is logical that our physical stature will start to decline with age; however, our intelligence does not suffer severe loss of mental capabilities, so seniors are just as capable of adapting to new learning's as its youths. Although the majority of the populous associates negative qualities with senior citizens, I feel that senior citizens do not invoke or reinforce what the majority has publicly painted, if anything, senior citizens may want to prove their label cohort as non-sensible.

My Inferences

Throughout my research and with careful examination of these four stereotypes, I realize that classifying individuals into stereotypes is not merely a method of distinction, but rather a rhetoric strategy dishonoring the dissimilar. Additionally, it appears that stereotyping derives from unfamiliar and/or dissimilar views not by the members of that particular group. Furthermore, stereotyping appears to be a rhetoric evaluation and scheme to convey negative images about beliefs other than one’s own. For instance, when I was web browsing the internet, all of the documents that I researched on stereotypes either defended their position or negatively exposed other classified groups. However, after research and learning about rhetoric techniques, devices, and the lack of credibility the persuasive form of language expression delivers, I will be more reluctant to see truth in stereotyping without research and personally less likely to express superficial claims.


Dunkin, K., & Houghton, S. (2000, September 1). In Children’s and

adolescents’ stereotypes of tattooed people as delinquent (abstract)

[Abstract]. Retrieved December 24, 2010, from ingentaconnect website: Tattooed Stereotype.

Mcdermott, M.L. (1998, December). In Race and Gender Cues in Low-Information

Elections (abstract) [Abstract]. Retrieved December 24, 2010, from Sage Journals

Online website:

Google scholar MLMcDermott - Political Research Quarterly, 1998 – Politician Stereotypes.

Nelson, D. (2009, May 24). Top 10 Feminist Stereotypes [Web log post]. Retrieved

from Top 10 Feminist Stereotypes:

Feminist Stereotype

Nuessel, F.H., jr. (1982, June). abstract. In The Language of Ageism [Abstract].

Retrieved December 29, 2010, from The Gerontological Society of America


Google scholar: FH Nuessel Jr - The Gerontologist, 1982 –

gerontologist.oxfordjournals.orgOxford Journals on Ageism.


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