Stereotypes still exist in society, experts say

Aaron Berkowitz – News Reporter 

A world without stereotypes is a world where everyone can truly be himself or herself, said Lauren Todd, graduate intern for the S.A.G.E Center.

“I think stereotypes and the gender roles that still exist are extremely detrimental to society,” said Todd.

She explained that the S.A.G.E Center aims to encourage people to be comfortable with themselves and pay less attention to what stereotypes say about them or how they “should be.”

According to research done by Alexa Albert, a professor of sociology at the University of Rhode Island, “role learning” starts with the socialization process, which begins at the time a person is born. She explains gender socialization happens through the presence of four major catalysts: family, education, peer groups and the media. Each of the four influence a person’s beliefs growing up.

Todd said the stereotypes that are instilled in children at such an early age can be especially dangerous because they haven’t learned right from wrong yet and could therefore be headed towards a life of misguided beliefs.

Stereotypes are assumptions or generalizations used to group people or things. They can pertain to a person’s sexual orientation, sex, and ethnicity just to name a few.

Todd said she’s seen progress in the battle to rid the world of stereotypes in the media and on television. She also said she believes the need for continuous progress is vital because the results of their existence can be fatal.

“A lot of these mass shootings that have happened, are done by mostly men,” said Todd. “I believe part of it, aside from some of them that are mentally ill, are a result of them succumbing to the pressure of what it is to be a man. It could be a result of being bullied for not fitting into this male role that society has created. I think it could be their way of ‘fighting back.’”

Myron Grade,  junior computer science major at the University of North Carolina, and Aidian Field,  senior engineering major at the University of New Haven, have created a movement called “Challenge the Stereotypes” to do exactly what the name says. Grade said the motivation behind the start to their movement came from witnessing endless negativity.

“We just want to spread positivity,” said Grade.

“Our goal is to make people aware of what stereotypes exist and then show the world that although they do exist they don’t define who we are as people,” said Field. “When children are growing up and hear stereotypes by whoever they are being raised by or through the media you don’t even realize that they are stereotypes and that what you’re being taught to believe in is actually wrong. It’s sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy in that we are being told what we are supposed to be and in some cases end up limiting ourselves by confining ourselves to those standards.”

Field said the movement is still in the very early stages, but being that his partner is already in a completely different part of the country the message stands a better chance of being spread to a wider demographic.

According to Field and Grade, they are asking people to use the hashtag “#ChallengeTheStereotype” on photos or posts to show examples of people doing what many believe they cannot accomplish. They have recently created an Instagram and Facebook page where they themselves post pictures of them challenging stereotypes, but also repost followers’ posts as well.

“This is the very beginning of our mission and we honestly want to see people take this movement and run with it. Take it a step further,” said Grade. “This was just our idea to show we feel strongly about the issue, we want to see what other ideas will come out of this in order to make people proud of their individuality and capabilities.”

Grade said he knows this isn’t an overnight process that will occur, but he feels that taking a step in the right direction can only challenge people’s way of thinking and breed more positivity.

“We feel like it’s our job to tell people that ‘hey even though you were brought up to think this way or believe these things, they’re not all true,’” said Field.

Photo Credit: rhodaboat


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