On a Mission to Become a ‘Geek’ – why do we stereotype?

Recently my friend, Isabella, proclaimed she wished to pursue a new venture; that of becoming a ‘geek’.

This idea first came about when a fellow uni student took her into a comic book store in the city. A trip which prompted a trip down memory lane, remembering old Beano comics before the pages were “glossy”.

Anyway, after buying a Spiderman comic, insisting it stay in pristine condition and thus, putting it off reading it, I was reminded of the boys (as they can hardly be described as ‘men’ in my book) on ‘The Big Bang Theory’. A comparison which was strengthened with the declaration of a desire to learn the difference between ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Star Wars’.

Although my friends and I have always worked hard for our grades, the term ‘geek’ wouldn’t be first I think of. In fact, there are so many different aspects of people’s personalities, it’s wrong to group them according to one characteristic. Why can’t people take influences from different stereotypes rather than subscribing to just one?

It annoyed me (and still does annoy me) how in school the ‘cool’ kids would look down on those who didn’t fit their image and even those outside of the ‘cool’ group would similarly look down on the ‘nerds’ or ‘geeks’ while simultaneously complaining about how they were ostracised for having the wrong bag or clothes or family. Is this the same in all schools? It probably is. And when does this trend end? Probably never.

A survey shows that “more than 90 per cent of bosses admit that when they get an overweight and a slim candidate of the same ability, they are more likely to hire the worker of “normal” size.” It also suggest half of human resource managers believe weight to influence productivity, with bigger people lacking in discipline.

All through life you are judged on how you look, or how you speak, or where you come from, when in fact none of that should matter. What should matter is who you are, your individuality and abilities outside those stereotypes and prejudices.

I suppose as a sociology student it’s my job to question social phenomena like this, but it should be an issue recognised by all, not just those who have a vested interest in noticing things as it will help them pass their exams.

The question is, why do we stereotype? Is it because of what we learn from those around us? Many would argue our parent’s attitudes influence how we think about others and ourselves. Indeed, socialisation is key in shaping beliefs and values as children are impressionable and what they learn at a young age is very often carried through the rest of their lives, meaning they pass the same prejudices onto their children. This cycle can be broken, as can be seen throughout history with the end of slave labour and the decline in the belief in strict victorian values where the man is the sole breadwinner of the family. However, everytime one prejudice is abandoned, another takes it place. Why? Where does our compulsive need to judge people on first sight come from?