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Societal Assumptions

GraceNL's picture

Societal Assumptions

“I am reaching for the words to describe the difference between a common identity that has been imposed and the individual identity any one of us will choose, once she gains that chance” (Jordan 47).

            This quote from June Jordan’s Report from the Bahamas articulates the fact that not everyone fits into a common stereotype or follows an assumed identity. Each individual has their own identity, which may or may not fit into the ‘common mold’. Everyone has their own hopes or dreams for the future, has things they are good or bad at, and has things they love or hate. This is what makes each person unique. This is what makes us human.

            In June Jordan’s piece I believe one of her points is that in order to truly know or understand a person you have to look past any societal assumptions you may have about them. Yet, this is near impossible if not impossible to do. As a society stereotypes and assumptions about people of different cultures, races, ethnicities, genders, and sexualities, to name a few, limit our ability to connect with other people.

            Now, I’m not trying to say that it is impossible to make true connections with other people. But it is something that one has to work at. One cannot assume that they will be able to relate to another based on some preconceived notion of relatability, yet we still do. And as a species we are limited by this. We are limited by our assumptions and stereotypes of others. We are limited by our will to change this.

            Imagine a world where stereotypes and preconceived notions didn’t exist. People wouldn’t judge others based on certain attributes. People wouldn’t look down on other people because of race, gender, or sexuality. Blacks wouldn’t have had to fight for the right to vote. Women wouldn’t have to fight for equal pay. People of the LGBTQ+ community wouldn’t have to fight for they right to marry whom they choose. Why? Because everyone would view everyone else as equal to themselves, so to put another down or withdraw from them some right would be to do the same to yourself. Unfortunately, this is not how society is in the world we live in.

            Today, many people judge people on their ability to complete a certain task based on some preconceived notion based off of what race or gender or other group they ‘fit’ into. For example, in many places women are discouraged from participating in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields simply based off the fact that they are female. And oftentimes girls don’t even try to enter STEM fields because they have been taught by society that girls can’t do STEM, that boys are better than girls at STEM.

            But don’t despair, because society isn’t unchangeable. It may be impossible to get rid of every stereotype, every societal assumption but it is possible to get rid of the bad ones or change them for the better. It is possible for those who are negatively impacted by the negative views or beliefs of a society to gain a more positive footing, or even equal rights. For example, at one point, people of a race other than white or who were female were unable to vote in the US. But today they are guaranteed voting rights. Also, this past spring people of the LGBTQ+ community gained the ability to marry whom they choose in the US, which was also denied to them in many states.

            Now this isn’t to say that all the world’s problems are now solved and everyone now has equal rights, for they don’t. But we are slowly getting there. Through the efforts of some very brave people society is slowly improving for all.

            For me, one of the biggest stereotypes I want to fight against in a female’s inability to do STEM. Today only about 18% of undergraduate engineering degrees are earned by women. This is directly caused my societies stereotypes about and negative behaviors towards women in STEM. In many places, girls are discouraged to participate in STEM activities and pursue a STEM career. That is something I want to change and plan to change.

            I want to and will challenge that stereotype. And that’s how all positive changes happen in the world. One person challenges a societal assumption they don’t agree with and bands together with others who support their cause to create a change. What will you fight for?