Finlandia professor to speak on Yooper stereotypes


Photo courtesy of NMU events page STEREOTYPES, EH?—Finlandia University Assistant Professor Hilary Virtanen speaks on misinformed Yooper stereotypes at 7 p.m. March 16.

Jessica Parsons

When you think of the U.P. and going up north, what are some things or words that come to mind? Maybe your opinion has changed since attending NMU, because all that’s north of here is Canada, really. But what were some stereotypes that you had in place for a Yooper other than their love for a pasty and appreciation for the snow?

Hilary Virtanen, Ph. D. and Assistant Professor of Finnish and Nordic Studies at Finlandia University will be speaking on the Beaumier Lecture Series: “Where the men are men and the women are too: stereotypes of the Yooper” at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 16 in Jamrich 1320.

Virtanen said that Yooper stereotypes draw from several main sources: first is the geographical fact of the area’s remote, wilderness setting, and the other is from the people, indigenous and settlers, who, over time, populated the area.

“Many of the stereotypes relate to the toughness that a person would have to have to be in such a place, which naturally leads to gendered notions of what it means to be a Yooper,” Virtanen said.

It’s important that NMU students in particular listen in and attend such an event to gain a greater knowledge about the people of the U.P. and the diversity of the culture that lives here, Director of the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center Daniel Truckey said. 

Understanding the social forces that control how we perceive others and ourselves is important, Virtanen said. Stereotypes of anyone often leads to marginalization of people, preventing ourselves from being our true selves and preventing people from being open and accepting of others based on stereotypes, Virtanen said.

“While some stereotypes are sources of pride (such as the idea that Yoopers are always hard workers), they essentialize people in ways that, though have some use in social discourse, must also be taken with a grain of salt,” Virtanen said.

It’s vital to address these stereotypes today because too many people think of Yoopers as “just backwoods, uneducated types,” and where most Yoopers enjoy the outdoors, Truckey said.

“Yoopers are more diverse in their world views than some expect,” Truckey said.

At the end of the day, the takeaway is to open a forum for discussion on what and who a Yooper can be, Virtanen said.

“We are all nuanced, complex people who interact with our surroundings and our cultures in a variety of ways. Yoopers are no different,” Virtanen said.