Whenever someone tells you that they have traveled a lot, you suddenly become more interested in what that person has to say. Traveling is a really big thing in the Western world today; but why is it interesting to travel? The world gets smaller and cultures get merged together concurrently with the development of technology; it has never been easier to explore the world and stay in contact with people we meet around the world. In principle, we could just look everything up on the internet; why not settle for landscape pictures and videos online?
I think we want to meet people where they are and see them doing their own thing in their local environment. As long as it agrees with the cultural identity built on stereotypes, that is. When we meet people from a different culture, we don’t really want to hear anything else than what correlates with our own perception of the country’s identity.
When we travel, the identity of a country gets blurry; we mix up how people actually are with the stereotypes from different cultures. I was a little surprised when I got to know that not all Irish people drink Guinness for breakfast or care that much about partying on St. Patrick’s Day; it was not what I wanted to hear. If you know the stereotypes of a country, and you have looked up the place beforehand, then why even go if it can break the illusion of your perception of the country’s identity? On the other hand, is the country’s identity really based upon those stereotypes? Maybe the identity of the country is not build upon the stereotypes from foreigners; it is worth going there to find out. Get rid of the stereotypes and unravel the identity of a strange place yourself!
We use labels all the time whether it is to define ourselves and others. A few are crucial for your power position within the society. In my course about gender, some of these labels were mentioned:
• Sexual orientation
Why are they important? What does it matter? These labels do not say anything about who a person is. It helps us putting people into boxes, but personal values, humor and interests are not portrayed through labels.
There are more labels such as:
• Occupation (student, in between jobs or high position)
• Famility status (if you are a brother, aunt, nephew, cousin)
• Location within your country (if you are from Dublin or Galway)
• Pet owner
These labels matter in terms of how you identify yourself. They are parts of you, but they cannot identify you as a whole. There can be discriminating, violent, and even fatal consequences if you are of the “wrong” gender, sexuality, ability or race etc. Who is to decide the definition of what is “right”? We should not judge people before we know them. We should distance ourselves from labels so that we can get to know each other without any prejudices.Who knows, maybe your soul mate is a “wrong” person with a heart of gold who can change your life?
Labels are everywhere, and we use them all the time. But there are great variations within each label; for example, there are different ways to be religious, different extends of ability and different perceptions of age. We should set those labels aside and just see each other for what we are. If we identify ourselves, all of us, with just one label, we could gain an egalitarian society. I am human. What are you?
Today, gender is a hot topic. So far, I have not revealed my gender. In fact, I have not mentioned gender so far, not even through pronouns. It is a deliberate choice, and now I have a question for you: What does gender mean to you? Is it important for you to know mine?
Every day, we are confronted with gender; whether it is regarding the segregation in public bathrooms or performed stereotypes. Since early childhood, we are affected by what sex we are anatomically assigned.
If someone announces that they are having a baby, the first question asked is what sex the baby is. But why does it matter? As soon as the sex is revealed to the public, the gender starts to develop. Clothes and toys get color coded, and the baby is treated in accordance with what sex it has. Of course, there are biological differences, but the nurture of the child has a huge impact on how the child perceives the world. I think that the fact that children are treated differently because of their gender makes it impossible for both genders to be equal because our upbringing affects us fundamentally.
The cognitive concept of gender makes it hard to differ between what you do as you and what you do because you were told what to do it as a child. There is no rational reason why girls are praised for caring about their appearance whereas boys are shamed for wearing nail polish. An enormous part of our identity is developed through gender, consciously and unconsciously. The way we think is affected by our gender. So, are you your own person, or are you a social construction affected by a fixed perspective of how you’re supposed to be according to your gender?