Labels and stereotypes: Breaking the trend

Two students show labels commonly applied to others. | PC: Kimberly Ortiz

Two students show labels commonly applied to others. | PC: Kimberly Ortiz

A YouTuber by the name of “Superwoman” is quite popular for her videos singling out stereotypical types of people. She uses humor to highlight common stereotypes such as fangirl teenagers, MIA parents and fake friends. But, while  occasionally funny, these videos only serve to promote stereotyping and labeling human beings.

She, among with other YouTubers such as Nicole Arbour, are gaining a following with people protesting stereotypes in an effort to remove offensive and hurtful words from common usage. Now a former YouTuber, Abor faced controversy last year for her satirical video titled “Dear Fat People.” The video met with protest due to the aggressive stance Arbor took in stereotyping a body image. She defended herself, saying she was doing satire, but the video was briefly taken off YouTube and Arbor faced criticism for her actions.

Stereotyping in itself isn't an issue. Labeling and categorizing information, objects and people is a common trait among humanity. It’s how humans make sense of the large amount of information available. When young children learn to categorize information, we say they're displaying cognitive ability.

Labels are a natural part of being human and all humans label.

However, we respond to labels even if we don’t realize we're doing so. Each and every label or stereotype carries a much larger idea with it that can distort the true nature of an individual. When we hear a stereotype, it connects the object with the larger picture evoked by the labelling we impress upon it.

Slut. Skank. Fatty. Geek. Nerd. These words are meant to harm and cause insecurities; however, some people choose to own the labels handed to them, and use the words for empowerment.

The word “nerd” brings to mind the kid with glasses who excelled at math. A “slut” is commonly a girl who shows too much skin and seems available.

Geeks aren't always ashamed to be different or wear glasses and obsess over comic books and video games. It’s now socially acceptable to attend Renaissance fairs and Comic Con. Being a nerd means being smart–an admirable quality. Some women own that they're “sluts” and “skanks” and have taken control of their sexuality.

But not everyone has the strength to accept or fight their labels. As Eric Church sang in his song “Kill a Word” (2016), “Give me sticks, give me stones / Bend my body, break my bones / Use staff and rod to turn me black and blue / ‘Cause you can't unhear, you can't unsay.” Words stick with us.

Some stereotypes are driven by the male-centered ideology of our society. Women are called “crazy” if they try to break out of typically female roles and express their opinions. Men are frequently called “gay” for behaviors that stray from how a “real” man would behave.

This closed minded mentality is problematic.

Stereotypes are often used to remind people of their inferiority and of superiority of stereotypical “men.” They disparage differing lifestyles and mentalities that don’t uphold the traditional way of life where men hold all the power.

LaurenLee Meadows, a junior psychology major, comments, “I believe labels are good, even ones that have negative connotations.” She feels labels are a useful way of categorizing similar types of people.

Labels and stereotypes have their purpose in society.

Stereotypes can be useful in creating connections and bridges between people with similar characteristics. In the end, perspective has the power to change the meaning of a label.

Some labels will always be hurtful, but changing the idea behind the word can give even the most negative of stereotypes a positive spin.

Sara Roberts is a junior studying business administration