The Labeling Game Essay Research Paper THE

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The Labeling Game Essay, Research Paper THE LABELING GAME This is Jeopardy! Let’s take a look at today’s categories, shall we? Blacks in Sports, Italian cooking, Japanese in Business, famous wives, Jewish Bankers, and finally, Arab terrorists. Wait a minute. What’s wrong with these categories? If you haven’t guessed already each of these categories represents a racial or gender stereotype. This may not be a realistic Jeopardy game, but it’s a game we play everyday – it’s the game of labeling. Like Jeopardy, in the Labeling Game we have the answers, or think we do, before we ask the question. In our society we constantly classify people in to broad groups merely by their looks. The problem is not the categories themselves, but the acceptance of stereotypes, which

leads to negative self-images. We are all aware of these stereotypical roles, but what most of us do not realize is that these stereotypes hurts us the most. When we stereotype our own groups, or accept the labels others give us, we create negative self-labels. As psychology professor Robert Feldman wrote in the book Adjustment, “The self-image we create in childhood causes us to continue in our adult lives to fit whatever labels we have accepted.” We learn stereotypical roles at a very young age. We all remember those fairy tales we read as children. Snow White cooks and cleans for the seven dwarfs. Even the dwarfs’ names are stereotypes: Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Happy, Dopey, Bashful and Doc. In Lady and the Tramp, Lady is innocent, shy, and dainty whereas the tramp is

bold, confident, and daring. By the time we get to high school we have become well accustomed to the labels our peers, our teachers, and the media put on us. Labels become more important in junior high when we become aware of the labels on our clothes. We want Abercrombie and Fitch shirts, Levis jeans, anything Gap and never the uncool imitations. Once we have our clothes just right, we must choose our social identity carefully. We want good grades to please our parents, but we don’t want to be nerds. We want to make friends, but we want to avoid the druggies and alcoholics. According to teachers, we’re either leaders or followers, over-achievers or under-achievers, often disruptive, occasionally talkative, and girls, definitely boy-crazy. The media plays upon our need for

labels, as we are encouraged to be part of the “Pepsi Generation.” When news reports on youth violence, we become the “lost generation.” And when a name as meaningful as the babyboomers could not be found for us, we were labeled Generation X. Teenagers, as the most active participants, often have the most to lose in the labeling game. When they start to accept and believe the labels, they are playing with the rest of their lives. A Ph.D. in clinical psychology, Penelope Russianoff wrote, “The limiting self-images of adults developed gradually in the process of growing up.” The self-image we accept in our formative years stays with us, and affects us as adults. Some of you may have heard this riddle. A father and son were driving on the highway. The father lost

control, swerved off the road, and ran into a telephone pole. The father died instantly, and his son was critically injured. An ambulance rushed the boy to a nearby hospital. When a prominent surgeon was called to provide immediate treatment, a gasp was heard. “I can’t operate on this boy” the surgeon said, “He is my son.” How can that be? The answer–the surgeon was the boy’s mother. One of the areas where labels effect us are the professions we think men and women should have, as well as their behavior. A woman’s role is to be passive, tactful, assistive, and emotional, whereas men are stereotyped as aggressive, tough, independent, and unemotional. In short, women are not supposed to be surgeons. Many women are afraid to assert themselves thinking they will be