One of the weirdest actions a person could do when meeting me is to roll their neck, clinic click their fingers and speak in a fake American accent. I don’t want to embarrass individuals who take part in this type of moronic behavior by correcting them,as I think they have obviously embarrassed themselves enough. But I’m usually standing there thinking in my head! Are you sane? Who raised you? Do you live in a cave? During such situations I usually just stare robotically into their over animated facial expressions.
Stereotyping? Is this something that is done without conscious awareness? Or is stereotyping something we learn? One of the most popular stereotypes used in the media and around the World that I have experienced personally is “The angry Black woman” This negative label has been used in films, soap operas and repeatedly on social media. Not all black people are angry and not all white people are racist. I have come across angry people from a variety of ethnicities and the same for racists. Consistently labelling any group of people with these types of negative stereotypes creates an illusion that everyone from that group shares the exact same personality traits. Over time this eliminates individuality and your very own unique qualities.
Some people may argue that stereotypes are formed from the actions of a particular group throughout history. The group may share the same physical appearance, culture, religion or sex. However to act on stereotypes and display what you think to be socially correct can be insulting and offensive when communicating with others.
Growing up I’m sure that the majority of people have witnessed their parents or family members express their opinions about particular groups of people. More than likely the comments are based around gender and race. Over time if you are not motivated enough to educate yourself about other identities, you may develop into a person who labels someone before even having a conversation with them. I like to think outside of the box, and I believe everyone deserves the right not to be pre judged because of the actions of others who may share a similar physical trait.
Another stereotype my mind cringes at whenever I hear it is when someone comments “She’s dressed up and asking for it” or “women dress up for men” For the record just because a woman enjoys dressing a certain way does not mean her body is there for a man to take or own. Our bodies belong to us and we should be able to dress them in whatever way we want, without being stereotyped that we want a man to want us.
I once dated a guy whose friends told him I like to dress in bright colours and mini dresses so men can stare at me. As infuriating as that comment was to me it also made me laugh. This friend had never seen how I interact with the opposite sex or for that matter had never met me in his life. However he stereotyped me based on a purple dress I was wearing in a picture that was shown to him. Luckily I’m a confident person, and the comments made by uneducated men about the way I dress would never force me to change that. But just imagine telling a woman who plucked up the courage to wear colour for the first time this idiotic idea. “No young lady you can not where colour because men will stare”… My reply will always be…. Maybe you sir wish to be wearing my dress to receive the staring you are so cleverly noticing, and you most certainly can if you wish to Felicia!
On a serious note the effects of stereotyping can be long lasting, opportunities can be lost when applying for jobs, and children can become self conscious when told they are not allowed to play with someone in the playground because they are different. Having experienced stereotyping throughout my life, I can tell you that it doesn’t make you feel good. You will usually leave the situation feeling angry and negative about the other person or yourself. It has a major impact on society by helping prejudice and discrimination to continue to grow within our communities.
It’s up to you if you stereotype people subconsciously, however what you can try and do today is to interact with someone you wouldn’t usually speak to. Make a conscious effort to change a stereotype you may have learnt from someone else. Give people a chance to see what is going on in their minds before pre branding them. You might just experience or learn something new!
Written by Natasha Walters