ART BY ESTELLE ZHOU
By CHRISTINA QUACH
Everyone has their own “defaults” that pop into their head. Upon reading a book, the character most people first picture is white, straight and blonde, unless stated otherwise.
These stereotypes have been so deeply embedded within us that it is difficult to expect anything different. What is ironic is that it is a pleasant shock whenever diversity is pushed more in today’s society, but this push should not be a pleasant shock. It should be a new norm in and of itself.
It is undeniable that stereotypes remain prevalent in society, and it is safe to assume that they may never be demolished. Stereotypes are a natural instinct everyone has. It is a survival instinct, it is something innate, and something innate is hard to stop.
Furthermore, it is difficult to eradicate these predisposed beliefs because of how they affect us. The mentality of “if it does not affect me, then it is not my problem,” is extremely common, and unsurprisingly, it is extremely toxic as well. How many times has someone shied away from us in the times when we needed help and vice versa? Only when this individualistic mentality switches gears will we be able to start to actually make a difference.
Additionally, various forms of media only encourages people to catalogue others. Yes, movies and television shows are trying to be more diverse and yes, social media helps call out whitewashing or racism, but despite the growing amount of diversity in media, stereotypes remain prevalent.
For instance, even though a show has different races in their casts, there is still a nerdy asian or a dumb blonde, but that is considered okay, because the cast is full of various ethnicities. Newsflash: it is not okay. People are mistaking diversity for stereotypes and vice versa, but they are not remotely similar. Just because something is diverse does not mean it is not stereotypical, and just because something strays from common stereotypes does not automatically make it diverse. This misconception only seems to cause more people to stereotype, because they have false sense of security and assume that is okay.
Moreover, society is growing more fast-paced day by day. The less time someone has, the easier it is to rely upon stereotypes rather than to think individually. Stereotypes are easy to remember, because it is convenient, and it is hard to make people see differently. To put it bluntly: once more information interferes with what we perceive as the norm, it takes a lot of convincing to make us wrap our heads around it.
Take labels, for example. Take a misogynist, and slap the term “doctor” onto them, and people will believe everything they say without a doubt. Why? Well, it is because doctors are smart and studious, so we must trust their word no matter what… see where I am getting at here? Once labels are attached, expectations change, and with expectations comes stereotypes. This is important, because stereotypes can cloud one’s mind and alter one’s view of someone without giving them a proper shot; people who are judged based off of labels are unfairly put on a pedestal or knocked down.
Ultimately, while we preach that we should stop stereotyping, these defaults we have may never cease to exist. However, we can choose to let them influence our decisions and life, we can decrease their impact and we can start to think based off of what we know versus what we expect.