The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

People depend on stereotyping

As children, we are taught from the very beginning to be accepting and tolerant. A teacher tells us that judging someone on the basis of their looks is wrong or a parent reprimands us for making assumptions about an outsider without first getting to know them.

It’s interesting that such an emphasis is put on this moral because at the moment we shake hands with a stranger and exchange names, we’re forming judgments and placing this person into a category. In an instant, we go against everything ever taught to us about stereotypes and give into the negative response society gives them. These stereotypes are the essence of our relationships.

It’s natural for us, as humans, to judge others. We depend on the model stereotypes provide us in order to relate people back to what we know, despite the fact that it’s a biased view. If we didn’t spend so much time trying to deny the existence of stereotypes, we’d be much better off.

Think back to that first stressful day of your freshman year (yes, I know, that may have been a while ago for a few). What did most of your conversations throughout the day consist of? After introducing yourselves and officially entering college through the “gate,” I’m almost 100 percent sure the first question you asked your neighbor was where they were from, followed by what their major would be.

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To some degree, yes, it can be argued that other than the weather, what else are you going to say to a complete stranger to avoid that awkward silence? But this is beside my point.

We base our knowledge on our background and the way we grew up. Our view on the world is biased from the beginning, and as much as we claim to hate stereotypes, we depend on them all the time.

Without saying anything, we are constantly sending messages about who we are or want to portray. Even those of us who intentionally try to fit into the crowd aren’t going unnoticed as planned. Look at the way you dress, for example. Isn’t this a blatant sign of who you are or representative of your personality?

You still have a label, and that stranger passing you is still going to use it either for or against you. Obviously, no one likes to be labeled without first being given the chance to speak for themselves, but don’t we choose the friends we hang out with and the appearance we portray?

It’s hard for me to understand how we can then proceed to fool ourselves into thinking stereotypes don’t exist as actual personalities. Even though every teen movie ever made consistently makes fun of the outrageous jock, the ditsy cheerleader and the band nerd, we all know people who can fit into these roles perfectly.

Even in the exception to this rule, people don’t step too far away from the norm. These are the people trying to break out of the stereotype by combining an odd variety of labels to create their own. In all reality, they just identify with more than one group and to everyone else, that’s exactly what they are: the odd variety. The football player with an incredible talent for clarinet or the redneck cowgirl who prefers heavy metal rock both identify with some sort of group and at least partially define themselves that way.

Our judgments become problems when they are turned against us, used as a bad defining point or something viewed to be different from the majority. This is when we hate stereotypes and want to break the mold created. What must be remembered is the fact that stereotypes are created by us and preserved by us. If we truly hated our defined categories, why would we put so much effort into maintaining them?

In the end, it really doesn’t matter what any teacher or parent taught you as a kid. Your view of people is always going to be there, whether it’s right or wrong. The only difference it really makes is whether or not you’ll be the one to speak your mind and be the one everyone stares at wondering why the filter didn’t kick in.

Our love for universally typecasting everyone is just another one of those wonderful aspects of life we have to overcome. Coming from a small town, I’m probably the last person you’d discuss the subject with, but that’s the beauty of everything. Despite what you’ve been taught to ignore, I’m still just that na’ve girl from the middle of nowhere and will be labeled as such for you to make assumptions about. Knowing the name of someone, their hometown, and their major only lets you see the stereotype. Digging a little deeper reveals that odd variety in all of us.

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People depend on stereotyping