Stereotypes and Stereotyping - I Was a Teenage Trouble-Maker

Stereotypes and Stereotyping - I Was a Teenage Trouble-Maker
The time was the fall of 2000. It was my senior year, and we were in our fourth hour home economics class. My best friend and I were about to finish up our two-day presentation on how to bake and ice a cake. Now, with the class and the teacher watching intently, we proceeded to ice the two layer chocolate cake with our bare hands. The entire class broke out with uncontrollable laughter; needless to say our teacher was fuming. Well, to make matters worse, we cut her the biggest piece of cake. Unfortunately for her, she didn?t eat it, because it was really good. Now you might think we were a couple of troublemakers, but the fact is we were unjustly failed on the first day of our perfect presentation. The teacher said we left out key parts of our speech, but her observation was wrong. Everyone in the class heard us except her. We weren?t trying to cause trouble. We figured we already failed the project, so we might as well have some fun. Experiences such as this one, and many others have contributed to my history of being stereotyped.
Stereotyping is so common in our society that when you meet someone for the first time you are often stereotyped before you even reach ?hello.? Stereotyping is most often someone?s perception of an individual or group based on social status, educational level, race or even looks. Everybody is guilty of it, and everybody has been subjected to it sometime in their life. It is easier to put a label on someone and place them in a category we feel they fit in, rather than to get to know them as a person.



I, myself, have been labeled and placed in the stereotypical category of a troublemaker at one point or another in my life. As a result of being labeled as a troublemaker, my views on the characteristics of this stereotype have changed. According to the dictionary, the definition of a troublemaker is ?someone who habitually stirs up trouble.? I feel a troublemaker is someone who will make waves even if it isn?t the popular thing to do. They have the twinkle of mischief in their eyes and the rebellious soul to go with it. They are the types of people who like to create a little discord in an otherwise ordinary world. To understand a troublemaker, I believe we have to ask ourselves, ?What action or reaction is the troublemaker trying to get??



Most people who stereotype troublemakers are afraid to stray away from their safe and ordinary lives. So, anybody that doesn?t fit into their naive perception of an upstanding citizen is a troublemaker. Many people are afraid of anything that would disrupt their predetermined outlook on life as they know it. The biggest part of this narrow-minded population thinks troublemakers have a certain look. This assumption is false. Of course most associate your stereotypical troublemaker look as a male, age sixteen to twenty five, with numerous tattoos, body piercings, long hair, and clothes that don?t fit into societies ideal fashion.



I am often stereotyped as a troublemaker because my looks tend to intimidate people. My appearance has often been compared to the professional wrestler, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Yes, I have the shaved head, goatee and earrings, but my demeanor is drastically different than Stone Cold?s. Even as a teenager, I was stereotyped as a troublemaker because of my looks. I had long hair, earrings and wore clothes that were frowned upon by teachers and parents alike. The knees being ripped out of my jeans and the sleeves of my T-shirts being rolled up were the ?in? things at the time. I remember a time when I was playing the drums for the high school band, and the teacher and I disagreed on what I was wearing. We had a uniform that consisted of blue jeans, a collared shirt with the band insignia on the front and white tennis shoes. However, this wasn?t cool enough for me. I had to wear a do-rag, which is a bandana, on my head like a Harley-rider. My band instructor was infuriated by my creativity. His exact words were, ?You look like a kid off the streets.? Now, if that isn?t a stereotype of a troublemaker, I don?t know what is. I didn?t act like a kid off the streets; I just looked like one. I just figured it was self ? expression, not that I was out looking for trouble. I just wanted to be different. It?s hard to believe we put so much emphasis on what an individual wears to determine what their personality is like.



Troublemakers throughout history have taken on many different appearances. Take a look at gangsters of the early nineteen hundreds: well dressed men who usually wore a suit and tie; not you?re typical troublemaker look. Even more recently would be the ever-annoying computer hacker that puts those maddening viruses in your computer. They probably don?t look like your stereotypical troublemaker. Their appearance would probably resemble that of a computer nerd. (Hey, that was another stereotype wasn?t it?) The biggest troublemaker you know is probably your revolting neighbors and their dog that barks all hours of the night. They don?t have that typical street thug look either. Point being, a troublemaker doesn?t have one particular look.



Whether we are stereotyped because of our looks or our actions is irrelevant. The way people perceive us can have a profound effect on how we see ourselves. Stereotyping can have a bipolar effect on an individual. The positive effect being that the person being stereotyped could change their habits and appearances to fit what society feels is acceptable. Second, and most likely, is the negative effect. The individual would start to act out the stereotype. Now instead of just being a stereotype, they are a problem. Fortunately for me, it affected me positively. I wanted to prove to everybody that I wasn?t a troublemaker. I did this by holding a full-time job from the time I was eighteen and a lot of hard work. By doing this, I gained the trust and respect of people who labeled me as a troublemaker. Most stereotypical troublemakers tend to segregate themselves from society. I, on the other hand, love to be around people, and I am very family-oriented. I would rather spend my free time with family than do anything else. Whereas, stereotypical troublemakers are usually loners and don?t want to be tied down by family. Now as much as I have tried to make myself fit into societies stuffy standards, I still have a little of that rebellious spirit, but I?ve learned to use it as positive energy. I use this same spirit to help me speak out on issues I feel strongly about. Take my job for instance. At work I am on the executive board for our local union. I have gained this position by being argumentative about issues the company and I disagree on but also by staying levelheaded at the same time. Yea, I?m sure the company still thinks that I am a troublemaker, but that depends on which side of the fence your looking from.



A person usually acquires the label of troublemaker because he disagrees with a person or a group of people on their views. Take for instance protesters. While protesting the issues for which they stand, they create trouble for the opposition, but they are beneficial to another group. There could be many reasons why people are labeled as troublemakers. Ultimately, we have to decide whether or not they?re out to cause us harm, or perhaps they just have a different point of view.



Next time you?re about to label someone, ask yourself two questions. First, what gives you the right to label a person you don?t even know? Secondly, how does this same person label me? Go ahead, do a little self-reflecting. What do you see?

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