Defying Society: A World Without Stereotypes

July 23, 2013
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Imagine a world where the athletic kids of your school aren't glorified for their skills, or the academic people weren't called "geeks" or "nerds." Imagine a world where cheerleaders weren't the most popular girls and the "scene" kids weren't the most outcasted. Now, that is a world that won't exist - at least, not in our lifetime. In every generation, to some degree, people will be labeled. It's bound to happen and there's no stopping it. But if we all take part in treating each other as equals, can we lessen the severity of it? Can we diminish the harsh results of labeling?

You're probably thinking, this is just another bullying article that won't have any effect on people. Realistically, you may be right. However - despite the fact that I'm a pessimist - every word counts. Yes, this has everything to do with bullying. The kid you passed down the hall and called "fat" might not take it as a joke. The people who cut because of severe depression (they aren't all attention-seekers) might cut too far tonight because of people calling them "emo" or "attention-w****s." So yes, every word counts.

As much as our human nature wants us to deny it, we've all, at one point or another, been in both spots: the bully and the victim. This might come as a surprise to many of you, but bullying is certainly not limited to shoving classmates against lockers, as the majority of related movies seem to only portray that. Even if you haven't picked a fight with someone or you haven't called someone a horrible name, we've all, in one way or another, done something incredibly harsh and unnecessary. You see, we can all think what we want. But voicing our opinions is a whole other thing. For example, let's say someone who has a crush on you spills the secret: they like-like you. (Oh, come on, even us teenagers still use the word "like-like.") Do you tell them, straight in the face, "I don't like you at all and this is why"? Unless you're missing some kind of filter, no, you don't. There is a fine line between being straightforward and being rude, and that applies to any situation. That applies to bullying. That applies to telling the truth. And, it applies to stereotyping people.

Like I said before, we all make mistakes, and that's okay. But the point is to learn from them, which too many people haven't yet done. Just because you absolutely swear that this person fits a certain social "category" doesn't make it okay to make it known that you stereotype them there. Think what you want, but if what you say ends up hurting people - any people - then keep it to yourself. It's not hard and it only benefits you in the end, trust me.

If you asked multiple people to name one quality about you, having pretty much the same answer hurts more than we want to realize. Nobody wants to be that "guy who is really athletic" and nothing else. We want people to see our other qualities, even our flaws, because they all make us who we are. No one wants to be known as the "smart girl" and only that, or the "virgin." Sure, some names are worse than others, but whatever qualities we want those people to see, we shouldn't have to force those people to notice us. We shouldn't have to force those qualities - or not enforce them anymore. See, what's where the danger comes in. The "virgin" starts having sex only because she doesn't want to be seen as the virgin. (All of these can be either gender.) The "smart girl" starts dropping her grades and isn't concentrated on schoolwork anymore. The "athletic guy" starts not focusing on athletics, or focusing too much and sacrificing other things that are of equal importance. It's all relative and it's all so important.

The next time you want to stereotype someone, here's a compromise: don't sink to the low level of stereotyping. Instead, call someone who you used to think was a "geek" a "smart person," or a "jock" an "athletic guy." Because even if we hate those people who we were stereotyping, that doesn't make us any better of a person. That's only sinking to the level of those who are most popular and stereotype everyone - that's being like them and treating everyone around us like we're better. Those classmates that you don't think you might ever see again may remember you as the one person who was different. The one person who stood out and didn't place you into the category. What you say - or don't say - can not only save a life, but change a life.

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TaylorWintryThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 29, 2014 at 7:29 pm
That was really intense. And I love the feeling you put into it. I'd just like to bring to your attention that you said "that's only sinking to the level of those who are most popular and stereotype everyone." I'm not trying to back talk or make you feel guilty etc., but this further strengthens your point that people don't realize when they stereotype others. Just thought I'd let you know (: great piece.
juliacoccaro This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 2, 2016 at 10:57 am
This is the first time I've logged on here in a few years, and I'm just now seeing your comment. You're exactly right - I was stereotyping someone and I didn't even notice it. That's quite ironic! Thank you so much for the feedback.
BelieveInLoveAtFirstSight said...
Aug. 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm
I honestly, think this was one of the top notch articles on bullying. I think it puts the point across and doesn't tell any lies in the meantime. You are straight forward with what you want to happen, with what can happen to a person who gets bullied or catorgorized. I think you did a swell job and it couldn't have been said any better. Great job! :)
jewelia This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Aug. 4, 2013 at 5:49 pm
Well thank you so much! That means a lot! (:
BelieveInLoveAtFirstSight replied...
Aug. 4, 2013 at 6:23 pm
Good! :) I'm glad you appreciate the good feedback
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