Chasing Stereotypes

by Em_A7X on September 15, 2014 - 9:11pm

As citizens of the western world, we have expectations to live up to. No one really knows when – or by whom – these were enforced. The importance is not on how they came to be, but the fact that these are harmful – and in some cases life-threatening issues. Thousands of people intentionally bring harm to themselves as they covet their ideal of perfection. Ask anyone with an eating disorder, and they’ll tell you that one of their symptoms is the pursuit of perfection. We’re told constantly that everyone feels these ideals as a weight on their shoulders, that – yes – everyone deals with this garbage. No one asked for this, yet it’s something we’re all burdened with? What logic. We covet what we’re subliminally instructed to desire; hot body, lots of money, sexy boyfriend/girlfriend, great clothes, and all the newest products. However there’s a difference between desire, and obsession. Where do we draw the line? Probably when your desire can be diagnosed as a mental illness. We all have individual ideals for our how we’d like to be, chances are they don’t correlate with how we actually are, but that hasn’t stopped us yet. Irregardless of one’s gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity, no one is exempt from the pursuit of our stereotypes. For example; an FTM transgendered person is more likely to exhibit masculine stereotypes to cover up physical gender. Another example is a dancer; male dancers are pressured into body regulations, a body that is tall, lean, and cut. The dancer should be able to jump higher than the women, but also lift them with ease. Whereas female dancers are expected to be thin, yet muscular; light as a feather. We enforce ideals upon ourselves, and each other simultaneously. A term thrown around so carelessly with no regards to its catastrophic meaning is “real women”, or “real men”. Ever heard “Real men like curves, bones are for the dog”, or “Remember, any idiot can draw a straight line, but it takes an expert to handle curves?”, these are harmful stereotypes we perpetuate to make some people feel better, while bringing others down, no better than what we’re fed by the media.


   There are many different stereotypes about many things, such as “men should never cry” or “all asians are good at math”. However, one should always remember that a stereotype is not a fact nor is it a justifiable explanation for why some asians ARE good at math. Unfortunately, ‘chasing stereotypes’, as you call it, seems to be all too common, even when we as a community and even as individuals should know better. The title caught my attention because of a discussion I had not long ago, regarding stereotypes. A lot of people that I know, in my generation, don’t take stereotypes very seriously. In fact, whenever we hear of a stereotype or even see it, we take it as a joke because we KNOW that it’s not true. This may not be the most respectful approach towards dealing with racial stereotypes or gender-related ones, but in truth, joking about it has become somewhat of a common ‘coping mechanism’ for society. Popular comedians like Gabriel Iglesias and Russell Peters, base their jokes on racial and sexual stereotypes as a way of making light of the problem that’s practically discrete. And as an audience, we know that they’re only jokes based on fiction, not fact.
   However, overall, when it comes to chasing stereotypes that have been brought onto them by society itself and the media, it gets to a point where some measures to achieve perfection are just too extreme to be worth it. Society has create an almost-impossible image of perfection that cannot be naturally achieved, however some people will go to any lengths possible to achieve it. Not only does this relate to appearance by sex, but also appearance by race as well. Have you ever heard of the term ‘shadism’? It is the discrimination based on skin tone - yes, this is a real thing. It is thought that having lighter skin makes you more beautiful than if you were to have darker skin. In India, women would use harsh chemicals like bleach to make their skin lighter just to be considered beautiful. Like stereotypes, they are false expectations as depicted by society, but exactly how did society get this way is my question. If you compare what an ideal woman was supposed to look like 50 years ago to what is expected now-a-days, you’d notice that these ‘ideal’ women have shrunk in size. We, as a generation, know it’s not realistic, and yet we’re still following down that path of ‘chasing stereotypes’. Is it possible for us to motivate a change in perspectives in the next 50 years?

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