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Black, white, masculine, feminine, nerdy, egotistical, obese, lazy, materialistic, ignorant, rebellious, gothic, unintelligent; all are used to categorize today’s youth, and these characteristics are supposedly self-determined. Not only are racism and gender stereotyping still issues in today’s society, but they constitute elements of a larger, more prodigious issue of categorization and segregation of communities. Everyday teenagers and young adults all over the world are defined by meaningless stereotypes; this not only affects their mental stability, but also their ability to form their own thoughts, build their own cultures, and their ability to live as an individual who is free of arbitrary societal categories.
Teenagers and young adults within this generation lack the ability to handle constructive criticism which causes teenagers to feel as though their best is not good enough thus leading anxiety, depression, and minimal motivation to excel. Adults perceive young adults and teenagers as inferior due to their age, race, or social status. When it come time for young adults to apply for jobs it is common for employers to have a bias perspective on certain stereotypes.
Placing labels on teens restrain them and cause them to feel that they have to, or belong to, one specific category. As a result teens tend to experience a great level of difficulty when applying for jobs due the labels that employers place on them. Stereotyping teens within educational facilities also creates a feeling of minimal motivation to complete work when they are not supported by their teachers and peers.
Difficulty becomes more prominent when a student is labeled as “dumb” or “stupid”, this lack of motivation eventually leads to a drop in their grades, which then results in a lack of self confidence. Older generations are still hesitant towards today’s youth, one author stated, “Still, there are those who doubt the young. Teens are fickle, they say, prone to changing opinions on a dime, jumping on to bandwagons willy-nilly” (Birnbaum 6). No matter a person’s age, race, gender, ethnicity, everyone should have equal opportunities to excel in life, and this generation is going to be the one to change that for good, and show the true intelligence and equality behind youth.
Stereotyping did not start during this generation, it has been going on for centuries. From the beginning of time men have always been the “strongest” and women are expected to be submissive to their dominance. Gender stereotyping affects not only women, more specifically teenagers, but also young men who are taught to hide their emotions and always put on a brave face because that is what is socially acceptable; while women are supposed to always act “ladylike” and surrender to the power of male figures. “Around the globe, schools, parents, media and peers reinforce the myths that girls are vulnerable and boys are strong and independent” (Levine 3). Studies have concluded that teens who hold in their feelings will likely result in them lashing out later in life due to the feelings that they have always been taught to conceal. Doctors have seen this in both men and women, but is more commonly seen in men because society believes that men are not supposed to express their feelings. While girls are left helpless because of the lack of confidence males and other parts of patriarchal societies have instilled within them. Women have always been undermined especially teens and young adults. The workplace and schools was where most of the stereotyping occurred and set back the women’s growth throughout the world. Where did the idea that women were insignificant and unworthy of educational opportunities come from? Since the Middle Ages and High Middle Ages of Europe and other early civilizations, young males were always the ones to be educated within their societies, and this carried over until only a century ago. Today, woman are all required to be educated in the United States; however, that does not mean that they are not stereotyped by the rest of their educational population based on the fact that they are women. “Misconceptions, misplaced attitudes, conservative cultural practices, gender stereotyping, lack of education, early marriage, low status of women, and intractable patriarchal societies often result in lower priority on girls’ education” (Kagzi 4). Females, especially those in third world countries, often lose educational opportunities due to the fact that they are expected to “run households” and have children. This carries over specifically to African American youth that of which has been stereotyped as being mentally inferior to white youth. Since the abolishment of slavery and segregation, african americans, and people of color have been offered the opportunity to receive equal education and equal rights. However, that does not insure the end of segregation, racism, and stereotyping. Many whites thought that people of color, specifically African American youth, were mentally inept compared to white people. “In the 18th and 19th centuries, many prominent whites in Europe and the U.S. regarded black people as mentally inferior, physically and culturally unevolved, and apelike in appearance” (Williams 795). This was not only a common occurrence in other times periods as well. During the Holocaust, Hitler discriminated Jews and stereotyped them based on the fact that they had larger noses, foreheads, or the coloration of eyes or hair. This continued on for years and is still a prominent issue today. This includes how based on the color skin color, makeup, clothing, or general appearances people do not experience equal opportunities.
Suicide is directly linked to stereotyping and the difficulties young people deal with every single day, most of which are ignored by adults because they are teenagers and their lives are “easy”. A patient who struggles with depression day to day said this, “It’s possible that the statement expresses prejudice toward a stigmatized group: ‘I really hate Black people,’ ‘I hate the way gay men look,’ or ‘I hate the way Jews talk.’ But this statement actually comes from a depressed patient talking about herself: ‘I really hate me. I hate the way I look. I hate the way I talk.’ (Association for Psychology and Science 5). Today’s’ society and social media platforms have come to this conclusion that it is okay to hate others and hate yourself. In today’s society it is very common for the public to enforce self hatred and hatred towards different groups of people. Women are taught to hate their bodies or the color of their skin. Males are taught to be strong and independent without considering the feelings of those around them. These ideals have been formed around the concept that one person is meant to fit into a specific group — look a certain way, talk a certain way, or have the same beliefs as someone. Currently, women have yet to receive equal pay and promotional opportunities as men. While the world is changing for the better right now; male and female stereotyping still exists. Men still receive greater pay than women even if they have the same education background. “The numbers suggest not. A 2008 Catalyst survey of more than 4,000 full-time-employed men and women high potentials who graduated from top MBA programs worldwide from 1996 to 2007 shows that the women are paid $4,600 less in their first post-MBA jobs, occupy lower-level management positions, and have significantly less career satisfaction than their male counterparts with the same education”(Ibarra 5). As this author accurately describes through her research women still are not earning equal pay even though they may have the same background as a male co-worker. This is somewhat ironic because the government for a very long time has been simply turning the other cheek to these allegations, however many of the delegates who would have the most influence over change are male. A timeless stereotype that youth has been displayed to over the past few decades is the idea that athletes are usually thought be unintelligent just because they have a acquired the title of athlete, when in reality most athletes are intelligent. Students who balance school and other activities are actually more successful in the future than teens and young adults who do not focus on becoming well-rounded individuals. Students who play sports or are in band, or multiple extracurricular activities often find themselves being undermined by teachers who believe that they are incapable of “doing it all”.
Gender stereotyping still occurs because the male population in most countries and religious organizations around the world still find themselves superior to women and teenage girls are still lacking education opportunities and job opportunities based on the fact that they are female. This is due to the ignorance of the male population around the world because they do not enforce key equality elements such as equal pay for working young adults and teens, equal educational opportunities, and the abolishment of female discrimination in third world countries. “Despite all the effort that has gone into developing the women since 2008, the follow-up survey in 2010 reveals that the men have received 15% more promotions” (Ibarra 8). While society is taking steps to attempt to help females the problem is still far from being solved. Racial stereotyping still occurs in the United States today based on the dark history of the countries slavery and discrimination problems. In a survey done a significant portion of the group interviewed stated that African Americans were mentally and physically challenged compared to white people. No matter how long ago segregation ended racism and stereotyping still prevails because of a significant period of time that is all the world knew. “Our findings suggest that negative stereotypes concerning the physical and mental endowments of blacks are more common than previously estimated. Most respondents endorsed at least one stereotypical difference in inborn ability (e.g., whites have greater abstract thinking ability than blacks), and nearly half endorsed at least one stereotypical difference in anatomy (e.g., blacks have thicker skulls than whites)” (Williams 795). Stereotyping is stimulated by social media because it allows for a platform for stereotyping and comparisons. Separating a high school population often makes teens feel that they have a “group” feel included but in reality it isolates them from other areas of their lives they may have potential in. These stereotypes are formed in order to create the idea that one group of people is superior to the other whether it be through separation due to race, religion, or social status. For this generation this can be closely tied to social media. “We all know the gut wrenching feeling that arises when we see or hear something that immediately has us second guessing our appearance, personality, or skill set. Unfortunately, social media provides us with numerous platforms that help to quickly trigger that unpleasant self-disdain”(Holland 3). Young girls and boys focus on comparing themselves to others on social media because they want to fit into a certain category or a certain group, and in some cases have to completely alter themselves in order to meet societal standards.
Teenagers of this generation are actually the most opened minded and respectful of diversity, especially that of race and religion. If the adults of this generation would take the time to listen to the aspirations of some of the teens and how their perspectives have altered previous ideals this world would be better for it. This author talks about a girl who survived an assassination attempt just because of what she looked like, and how she changed the lives of others for the greater good. “Then there’s the power of a young girl named Malala Yousafzai, who, at the age of 17 was the youngest person ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Her will to survive an assassination attempt by the Taliban when she was an adolescent (and already an activist) propelled her to champion the rights of young girls and women in her country and around the world” (Birnbaum 8). Everyone should have the same opportunities and not be withheld from different aspects of life due to their social status or label, their religion, or race. If society focuses on the fact that separating and discriminating does not solve problems but in reality will just cause conflict. The people have the greatest impact on how stereotyping affects others. Instead of defaulting to placing labels on someone solely based on first impression and outer appearance, take the time to truly understand the idea that stereotypes are not only untrue but they are just an incomplete representation of who a person truly is.
Separation, segregation, stereotyping, all cause chaos among groups of people. Wars break out, families and friends are separated and lives are lost due to the hatred humans have against one another. Every person faces a choice whether they want to stay within their comfort zone and be satisfied with the stereotype or group society has placed them in. Do not settle for what has been given, work for something that has been earned. There is so much beauty within difference, uniqueness, and singularity. This world and the people within it are much deeper than the stereotypes placed on them. The labels given to people eventually leads to stereotyping, and stereotypes will eventually promote generalizations, and generalizations, well that leads to a deprivation of uniqueness. Do not let a stereotype define one’s true story.
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