“Gori bahu chahye ha, mery chand sy betay k lye”, “Ye bas mardon ka kaam ha, tum aurton sy na hoga”, “Rape hogya ha lekin izzat k khatir chup rehna pary ga”, “Arts parhny walon ka science students’ k sath kesa muqabla?”,
You might have heard these type of sentences daily. Often they seem normal, but actually, they are not. These are called stereotypes which majority of Pakistanis use as a form of their expression. Stereotypes said to be a widely held, fixed and over-generalized belief about a particular type of person or thing. Every place in the world has its local stereotypes which are also present in Pakistan in many forms, be it gender-based, religious, cultural, educational, patriarchal, racial or physical. We all know, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire” but for decades, these stereotypes have been going around in the country and prevailing in the form of popular public opinion.
People often fit into different categories based on their interests. Some people might like watching sports, but they are not athletes. Some prefer arts over science because they don’t have interest in that. Some women are career-oriented rather than to be housewives, but when we compare people who are different from us, we often have a more challenging time understanding that complexity. So we put people into categories and thus – stereotypes are formed.
The development of gender stereotyping is not haphazard or automatic, instead facilitated by various socio-cultural and relational factors. The foremost among them is Family. Cultural stereotypes can be seen in Lollywood films and dramas. Almost every story is heavily laced with societal stereotypes including Saas/Bahu, love triangles, class difference, sobbing girls, chivalrous men etc. but n reality, Pakistani culture is much more than what we see on TV. Similarly, religious stereotypes are also harmful leading to human genocide, extremism and hatred towards one particular group.
Think about this. If you are the person facing criticism based on the following things, how would you feel?
Most common stereotypes in Pakistan:
1. Skin color (brown complexion= Kaala , fair complexion= Desi Cinderella/Prince)
2. Accent (English-speaking= Burger, non-English=Paindoo)
3. looks (with beard=Jihaadi, clean shave =Na-Mard)
4. Dressing (jeans with hijab= Haram and Abaya= Extra Islamic)
5. Personal lives (2 babies= Tight family planning, 5 babies= Cricket board)
6. Career choice (Working women= Sasti liberals, Housewives =Perfect shadi material)
Is stereotyping harmful?
Stereotypes can be positive, negative and neutral, but the thing is, stereotypes will always be stereotypes no matter of which kind or degree they are. Hatred towards Feministic campaigns (Mera Jism Meri Marzi), Shia genocide (anti-Shia rally in Karachi), media framing the Sunni-Shia tensions, dowry, bullying, harassment, domestic violence, rapes are all directly-indirectly creating stereotypes in Pakistan. On an individual level, it can just ruin the health of the person being stereotyped, and he/she might get the rebellion.
Researcher Gabrielle Rappolt-Schlichtmann describes stereotype threat as “the fear of being judged on the basis of negative stereotypes, and the fear of doing something that would confirm those stereotypes, which can lead to reduced academic achievement and can affect students’ social-emotional well being”.
How to deal with Stereotyping
It is not difficult to break these stereotypes, but I think that we cannot change anyone until we cannot bring a change within ourselves. The first step is to identify stereotypes. When you find yourself filling in the gaps about a person, stop and ask yourself, “Is this true, or am I assuming it based on experiences with other people?” Then make an intentional effort to get to know people from different backgrounds.
Time for change
It is high time we let go of these age-old conventions and stereotypes. We are no one to judge anyone based on anything. There is a lot more to Pakistani culture and traditions, which is turning into mere hatred and extremism. It will be a grave injustice to pomp the rainbow with one shade unless we deliberately want to blur half of the truth.
Thank you for reading