Have you ever stopped yourself from doing something because you’re afraid of what others might think of you?
I did. I still do.
I am a fan of KPOP boy group INFINITE, but I often stopped myself from sharing my love for their music on social media platform to avoid being judged as a typical KPOP fangirl.
Have you ever looked at someone while walking on the University grounds and automatically assign a field of study to them mentally just based on their appearance alone? I did. I still do, even though I feel bad about it immediately after.
I see a person wearing spectacles walking out of a library with a laptop in one hand and several (thick!) textbooks in another; I automatically assume that he’s an engineering student, or some other rather studious field of study.
What I have illustrated in the situations above can be summarized to one word: Stereotypes
What is stereotype? Stereotype is a fixed, over generalized belief about a particular group or class of people1.Basically, it means that your brain makes snap judgment on someone based on immediately visible characteristics.
I guess everyone had experienced stereotypes before at any point in their lives, whether as a target of stereotypes or as a person subjecting another to a stereotype, as I’ve shared above with my personal experiences.
What’s so wrong about stereotypes, you ask? “Don’t let what others might think about you affect you” is what most would say, but is that really that easy to ignore? No matter what we tell ourselves, we are and we will be affected, in some way or another, by what others think. Like a study2 conducted in 1999 for instance, women who were reminded of their female identity performed worse than the control group in a math test.
What we can do, though, is how we allow ourselves to be affected by others’ thoughts and how we think of others.
In the instance where I’m a closet INFINITE fan because I want to avoid being judged as the typical KPOP fangirl, I supposed the first step is for myself to admit that such biases exist and find out to what extend the beliefs encompasses. Once I figured the reasons behind those beliefs, it’s up to me whether to quietly accept the preconceptions or set out to prove them wrong.
Yes, I love INFINITE and I listen to their music even though most of the time I have no idea what they’re singing about (until I look up the lyrics online, anyway).
Yes, I’m guilty of browsing through YouTube for their interviews and music videos.
Yes, I do think that some of them are really good looking.
BUT! I’m a productive and efficient Masters degree student who knows her priorities and get things done. I do not spend all my time pining after singers. I do not have the delusions that I am going to marry one of them someday. My music preference does not affect my studies or my work and it should not be used as a judgment of my character.
In my opinion, the best possible way to break stereotypes (though it can never be done completely) is through understanding one another. If one takes the effort to learn more about another’s interest, culture or religion, they will be rid of their initial misconceptions. What better way to teach and learn one another than through the digital space, where the exchange of thoughts and ideas is just a blog post, a Facebook page or a web article away.