By Manavi Jain:
‘Never judge a book by its cover’
An adage so old that it has probably lost its essence. What I have encountered, more often than not, is the ability (needless to emphasize the intended sarcasm there) of people to judge one’s character in the blink of an eye. Oh wait, before we take that to be a trait assigned to these people I’m referring to, let us delve into what forms the basis of their judgment. Is it some occult science they claim to be adept in? I wish. Even that would be a more sound explanation for what I construe to be preconceived notions based on stereotypes. Here are a few stereotypes that I believe should somehow vanish altogether. Most of them correspond to a different generation than ours, I agree. But we have to keep a check on what we acquire as legacy.
“Oh the girl with tattoos? Why are you taking her seriously?”
The reason why this tops my list of ridiculous stereotypes is because, well, I chose my body to be a canvas too. I endorse three tattoos, and people have typecast me as a “biker-chic” or as a “rock-fanatic” countless times. Do I like reading? Pft! obviously not, I’m a tattoo-ed female and all I can think about is where to get my body colored next.
“He’s a professional dancer? Dancing is not even a profession, just saying.”
This is one stereotype that I loathe. The prevalence of this one is specific to our country, or sub-continent maybe. A person cannot choose to be a dancer or a singer or anything artsy. If I am an Ace Shooter, I ought to be an Engineer or a Doctor or something like that. Only if I am unfit to do anything else can I choose to step into the field of dance and music. The negligible institutes offering professional courses in dance, music, dramatics, art and the like are a shameful evidence of this stereotype.
“She can’t even speak a sentence in English. How dumb!”
Unlike the above mentioned stereotypes, this one is mostly observed by the youth. Would you consider me to be dumb and illiterate if I don’t speak fluent French or Urdu or Hindi? Yes, maybe English is a universal language and it is quite an asset if you’re a fluent English speaker, but it doesn’t determine the intellectual status of anybody.
“Put on more (and better) clothes, woman, or you’ll attract unnecessary attention.”
This one is just plain horrifying. I have seen girls in proper salwar-kameez being eve-teased. The problem won’t be solved if you try securing the woman in a shell. Those with a perverted mind will find a way to break that shell and harm the woman irrespective of what she’s wearing. Especially in post-school level educational institutions, women should be given the freedom to wear whatever they feel like! Shorts and pants, skirts and kurtis, sleeveless tops and sarees should not define the way a man is expected to look at a woman.
“She is a spoilt brat. I saw her hugging a guy yesterday, must be her boyfriend.”
Let us accept the fact that our country has been engulfed in the westernization tornado. So, we have borrowed their way of dressing, their way of talking, their music etc. How good or bad this whole process of westernization is, it is a completely different debate. But the truth is, it is inevitable. Along with the other things, the youth has embraced the dating culture. Having boyfriends and girlfriends is no longer a taboo for us. It is a part of our lives now. Parents should let go of the stereotype that having a boyfriend or a girlfriend in school or early college years will impact our studies profusely. Most of the times, we have no control on how we feel about a certain person. Moreover, if you accept this dating culture as part of our lives, we’ll have your guidance and supervision and will be in a much better position emotionally and psychologically.
Maybe expecting the generations above us to let go of these stereotypes is too much to ask for. What about the rest of us? Our duty is not restricted to ensuring that we are not caught up in this web of baseless stereotypes, but also extends to helping the generations above us to get rid of any such preconceived notions. Yes, times are changing and I do see a lot of us are changing for the good, but there still is a long way to go. The only thing that makes a girl in tattoos look different is the ink on her body and it doesn’t carry any generalization with it. A person can be a professional dancer; even if they score straight aces in their exams. A person not-so-fluent in English may still knock you down in an intelligent debate. Each of us is different; generalizations based on stereotypes are a blow on a person’s identity. Not that what you think of me will cause me any significant harm, the harm in question is the one you incur on yourself by engaging in formulating such abysmal notions of people. So, it is time to incorporate in our lives the age old saying of judging a book by its content and not by its cover or its stereotypical placing.