A fellow Gauntlet staff member made the unfortunate mistake recently of telling me he hates kinesiology because he hates sports.
I promptly took offence on behalf of kinesiology majors everywhere and proceeded to re-educate him as to the true nature of this field of study. I enthusiastically refuted his claims that kinesiology majors are muscle-bound apes who study the fine art of cross-checking for a degree, adding a few sound blows to the head to make sure he got my point.
However, once I finished enlightening him and walked away from the whimpering puddle on the floor, I got to thinking: why, in this age of edification, when we consider ourselves to be better educated and more tolerant than ever, do we persist in subscribing to stereotypes?
The word "stereotype" can be used as both a verb and a noun. As a verb, it means to typecast or categorize; as a noun, it represents a conventionalized idea, an archetype or (my personal favourite) a "hackneyed image."
Ah, the hackneyed image: an outdated notion; a tired, antiquated representation of a set of circumstances. And, for most of us who don't recognize it, a sociological phenomenon roughly equivalent to the path of least resistance.
Man is a funny species. We like as little disorder in our existence as possible. We don't like the unknown, the dark and things that go bump in the night. By subscribing to stereotypes, we sort our surroundings into neat little readily identifiable packages, something familiar and known without having to put a lot of time and effort into it. Let's face it, trying to identify, say, 25,000 university students without a handy gimmick like a stereotype could take a lot of time and research. By ascribing pre-defined characteristics and personalities to everyone based on their field of study (an easy identifier because everybody has one), the average individual has succeeded in reducing the entropy of their life for another day. Kinesiology majors are "dumb jocks." Management students are "yuppies." Speech and Debate society members are "Shouting Little Men." Boom. Hackneyed images everywhere and the world makes sense again.
On top of the functional applications of stereotyping (v), there's even an upside to being a stereotype (n). While no one would ever claim to appreciate being pigeonholed, what everyone does appreciate is having an identity. Being part of a "conventionalized idea" means being part of a readily identifiable group of people who share something in common. A strong sense of identity is empowering and lends additional stability to one's
So perhaps there is a place in this society for stereotypes, however, a danger arises from the fact stereo-types don't get regular upgrades to reflect the increasing diversity of the modern human race. If they did, kinesiology majors would be "articulate, intellectually supreme beautiful people," management students "corporate fodder" and Speech and Debate society members... well... OK, so we'll let that one slide. The point is that while I don't mind being identified as a kinesiology student, I do mind suddenly being defined as a drooling, knuckle-dragging monosyllabic Neanderthal because I'm a kinesiology student. It's extremely important that one be aware of "hackneyed images" and when their role as a file folder is becoming a basis for the dark forces of discrimi-
With the coming of the year 2001, everything and everyone is evolving and progressing to ensure moving into the new millennium with their best foot forward. We, as a civilized society, should take the responsibility of making sure our pre-conceived notions and hackneyed images do the same.