[Campus commentary]True to typeStereotypes are common throughout our lives. People make assumptions about many things. The word stereotype is often used in a negative sense; it is presumed to be an unacceptable belief which can be altered through education or the influence of the media.
Students form stereotypes about other students all the time.
Generally, stereotypes about people are considered unpleasant, often offensive. However, when the person doing the stereotyping does not express their assumptions, it is impossible for the target to know or even realize that he or she was being stereotyped.
Without communicating and expressing the assumptions, there is absolutely no way the subject would know.
This would seem to make it clear that the use of stereotypes itself does not necessarily harm the subject.
The media also plays a big part in stereotyping. The media can have a big impact on their audiences’ perspective.
Often, the media do misrepresent people with stereotypes. And society, in turn, accepts such misrepresentations as actual truth.
For instance, think about a girl who is depicted as the campus Barbie. You know the type: a girl who’s perfect from head to toe, walking across campus in her Juicy sweatpants and big pink Gucci bag, along with her customized pink Prada cell phone. So she cares about her appearance — why hate her? Why do people look at her with fire in their eyes? Is it because of her perfect relationship with her Ken? Her pink convertible that’s parked in front of her dreamy house?
Everyone is stereotyped one way or another. The problem with implying and creating stereotypes is that people overlook the facts and add their own opinions. A good example of this dynamic would be sororities and fraternities. The “Greek” community on campus is often looked down upon. Society regards sororities and fraternities to be the home of wild, drunken college students. Such assumption may appear justified considering the constant wild partying in frat houses that frequently makes headlines.
But what society forgets is that the Greek community represents sisterhood and brotherhood. Members are there for each other, to stand by one another and stick by them. The bonds that sororities and fraternities share are incredibly strong. Members of national sororities and fraternities receive privileges when visiting affiliated chapters. Additionally, sororities offer many scholarships and sponsor various events. When one subtracts one’s own opinion and just looks at the actual facts, sororities and fraternities don’t seem bad at all.
The misrepresentation of stereotypes through the media has engraved negative impressions that are hard to ignore. Perhaps it’s because stereotypes are used to describe jocks and loners, but not everybody else.
Whatever the reason may be, what people often forget is that stereotypes are only harmful and negative when they are inaccurate and used to offend others. It is not the use of stereotypes that damages the subject, but rather the nature of a stereotype.
The term damage or harm only hurts the weak and the susceptible.
*The writer is a reporter for the Yonsei Annals, English news magazine of Yonsei University.
By JoAnne Ro