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Speaking up

Stereotypes training focuses on not staying silent

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS Small group discussions played a key role in Wednesday’s “Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts!” training at the Marshalltown Public Library. The audience learned about how to speak up against stereotypes, and how to recognize when they have used stereotyping.

“It’s up to all of us to communicate responsibly, whether we are in our personal life, whether we are in our business life.”

That was one of the many messages shared by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach human sciences specialist Malisa Rader at the “Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts” training Wednesday afternoon.

The audience in the Marshalltown Public Library meeting room was made up of many age groups and backgrounds, and all learned strategies for recognizing speaking against stereotypes and biases.

“Somewhere in our non-conscious mind, we have these biases, these things that we favor,” Rader said, adding it’s important to understand that “We all come with biases, but recognizing that we can’t let that impact the decisions that we make.”

First in small groups and then as a room, the audience discussed common stereotype targets they encounter in life. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, profession, education level, socioeconomic status, language and many more were given as examples.

A key part of Rader’s presentation was to encourage those who see stereotypes being used to speak up.

“Are you ever an ally in those situations? Do you ever speak up on behalf of someone else?” she asked.

Rader recalled a situation where she used a potentially hurtful stereotype without any ill intent. While speaking at the Ames Public Library to a group of women, one woman had asked about communicating with her husband.

“One of the ladies says ‘I just wish my husband would listen to me, he’s always trying to solve my problems,'” Rader said. “Out of my mouth comes ‘Well, men are fixers.'”

While she had meant no harm by the stereotype, she said the phrase was still stereotyping of men. The audience discussed situations where they had seen a stereotype used or used one themselves.

“Sometimes we say things that we don’t even realize can be hurtful statements,” Rader said.

“Sometimes, it’s a simple ‘I don’t know,’ other times, maybe it just came somewhere from our unconscious mind; other times, maybe we were just trying to be funny, and someone called us out and said ‘You know what, I don’t find that so funny.'”

Rader presented six strategies to use while speaking up against stereotypes and biases: assume good intent and explain impact, ask a question, interrupt and redirect, broaden to universal human behavior, to make it individual or to say “Ouch!”

The audience went through several scenarios and shared which of the six strategies they would use to call out a stereotype.

Several Marshalltown High School students from groups like the student senate, 4-H, Al Éxito and Mentors in Violence Prevention were in attendance.

“I think I could use those techniques,” said freshman Gabriella Mancillaz, a member of 4-H and Al Éxito.

Other audience members said they enjoyed the training and learned how to recognize stereotypes they use and biases they have.

“It was very good,” said Center Associates therapist Kevin Duncan. “It raises the level of awareness for how I can stereotype.”

Hardin and Marshall County Community Partnership to Protect Children (CPPC) coordinator Jana Enfield said she wanted to bring the training to Marshalltown because she felt many people had different ideas of what constitutes stereotyping.

“We were talking about diversity, we were talking about culture, and yet it was my feeling that people didn’t really understand what that meant,” she said. “This [training] has been in the works here for a couple of months.”

For more on the training program, visit https://www.extension.iastate.edu/article/communicate-respectfully-diverse-world

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com