Beyond stereotypes

Beyond stereotypes

When a newborn girl is brought home for the first time, she arrives at a room that is pink and filled with butterflies and ribbons, while a boy’s room is blue in colour. And a person who wears glasses is immediately recognised as a ‘nerd’. It doesn’t take long either to brand a person as a ‘punk’, ‘goth’ or ‘hippie’, based on their outer appearance.

Stereotypes are the way the world works, with those based on age, appearance and culture, amongst other factors. In a way, a stereotype acts as a rule of thumb, simplifying social interaction.

Nusaiba Risha, a student, says, “Our hands aren’t entirely clean when it comes to stereotyping. All of us have judged people at some point because it just makes it easier to assume rather than getting to know someone.” Based on how a person dresses, how they talk, their body language and several other characteristics, an individual is categorised into one of the many labels that exist. This makes people ignorant to individual differences because they fall prey to a system of pre-conceived notions. While there may be advantages to stereotyping, Shreya Raju, a student, says, “Since men are said to work better than women, they are allowed more room for error. But a woman is not allowed the same and is judged as ‘bad at her job’. So I guess it can go either way, depending on the stereotype and its target.”

Stereotypes provides a superficial view of people because they are constructed on how a person is from the outside, rather than who they really are inside. Nusaiba says that a lot of people assume that she spends hours in front of the mirror or loves shopping, but, “The truth of the matter is that I spend 90 per cent of my time buried in novels, and I loathe shopping.” Riddhi Kanoi, a student at Christ University, adds that classifying people on what they are assumed to be only deters the growth of the society.

Stereotyping can result in low self-esteem and increased aggression and hostility especially in teenagers. Campaigns like ‘No Gender December’ and ‘Stand Against Stereotypes’ work towards spreading the message that each one is unique in their own way. Abhilasha Seth, a student, says that she was mocked and people constantly told her she will never be good at driving because she is a girl. “What did I do about it? I learned how to drive better than they ever could,” she says. 

An advertisement, featured girls being asked to perform activities “like a girl” and showed how a hurtful stereotype can be changed to portray strength. Shreya says, “With a change in the generation, I think people now have a broader mind. The stereotype that men are more successful than women refers to a different generation altogether, because women give men a run for their money these days!” 

Riddhi says, “Stereotypes cloud a person’s judgment and comes in the way of harnessing peace.” |
  
It’s not only in real life that one sees stereotypes, but also in ‘reel life’.
   
While some movies try to break the norm, like ‘Dolly ki Doli’ and ‘Queen’, others help perpetuate and reinforce the already existing ones, which tend to be harmful.

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