In today’s modern and judgemental world, we group people into stereotypes because of the way they look, dress or act. Are these groups, however, helpful or harmful?
One definition of a stereotype is “a set form”. Another is simply “convention”. Our brain produces stereotypes to help us decide what a particular person’s personality or life will be like. Although grouping people in this way can sometimes be beneficial, on other occasions we may think badly of something just because they do not fit into the criteria which we regard as “normal”. Since there is no firm meaning of ordinary, can we really assume we know what a person will be like? Can we really judge a book by its cover?
Without even realising, we are constantly grouping and judging people who we do not know. We may see these people on the street, on television or even in our school or place of work. When asked her view regarding stereotypes, one year seven commented, “I don’t think people should stereotype other people because you can’t really judge people by how they look and you don’t know what is going on in their life.”
A few examples of common stereotypes are: He has red eyes so he must be abusing drugs. She’s not walking in a straight line so she must be drunk. She’s a teenager so she must be moody and stroppy. If we were the man with red eyes, if we were the woman not walking in a straight line, if we were the teenage girl, would we appreciate these stereotypes, or would we find them unfair and offensive?
On the other hand, people who we view as normal may surprise us by later showing that they are not as ordinary as they once seemed. For instance, Amy Winehouse was had trouble with drug and alcohol abuse. However, coming from a strong family background, and gifted with a beautiful voice, she was not a person you would expect to eventually die from drug and alcohol overdoses.
Every person is unique, with their own personality, opinions and attitude. A representative from the Amy Winehouse Foundation says she has learnt this from her work with drug and alcohol abusers: “People like to be treated like people. They should be treated like individuals.” Similar to snowflakes, every person is special and different. So, next time you find yourself categorising people you don’t know, just remember everybody is unique, everybody is an individual and no, not everybody is normal, but isn’t that a good thing?