The Problems with Society | Teen Ink

The Problems with Society

March 21, 2013
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When I passed through the locker room one day to get to the gym, I couldn’t help but overhear snippets of conversation of the girls who were still changing. “Wasn’t the math test really hard?” “I don’t wanna play volleyball. I suck at it.” “Ooh, I like your shirt.” And, “That’s so gay.” I had no problem with the first three; they all related to school and personal opinions and probably wouldn’t offend anyone. However, the last one really got to me. “That’s so gay.”

There are very few situations in which the phrase “that’s so gay” can be accurately used. That is to say, when intending to say that someone is attracted to others of the same gender or when intending to say that something is lighthearted and overall quite happy. Assuming, therefore, that the girl in the locker room was not referring to someone attracted to others of the same gender or an event that was particularly merry, she was misusing the definition of the word “gay.” She took “gay” to mean “stupid.”

“Excuse me,” I said, pushing past her friends to get to the door. I smoldered with anger. How, I thought, could someone use a word defining a type of lifestyle as a synonym for “stupid”? It was an insult to homosexuals all over the world—having their lifestyles thrown around by ignorant people like the girl in the locker room, their entire lives becoming a synonym for “stupid.” “That’s so gay” is an unjustified generalization of people who are no less human than other demographic groups of people. Discriminating against particular demographic groups is like saying, “that’s so heterosexual,” or “that’s so Western European.” The difference is, nobody derogatorily calls anything or anyone heterosexual or Western European. Nobody uses them as synonyms for “stupid.” The main problem in our society, I concluded, is that people hold an unjustified bias against certain things, and they never open their eyes and see for themselves if the prejudice they hold is true in any way. Of course, that would be why their bias is so unjustified. And also why bias can quickly become a social mindset: because nobody bothers to question it.

However, in retrospect, I realize that there is more that is wrong with society than just the bias. Namely, people like me. People who know that what others say is not true, but never try to stop it. People who let the biases become a social mindset that is passed around and shared by everyone, until suddenly all gays are stupid and all Asians are smart and all Doctor Who fans are losers. People who know that, in reality, this is not the case, but who don’t care enough to defy the stereotypes that people draw from little more than their own imaginations.

Hearing a snippet of gossip in the locker room led me to realize a large problem our world faces today: judging. Society loves to judge people, categorize people, organize people by demographics, all the while refusing to acknowledge that all people are different and it is impossible that any two can be alike.

My ignorant classmate’s words still make me angry; but perhaps what should make me more angry is my lack of action to stop social mindsets before they grow and become full-fledged prejudices. Apart from knowing that I should never make judgments so vast and inaccurate, I now know that only I can take action to free people from the state of ignorance in which they appear to be. Walking past people apathetically makes me as much a problem as they, for what is the point of a possible solution if it won’t be implemented?

From my locker room experience, I have learned many things about society that make me angry: namely, unjustified generalizations and total apathy towards the fact that the generalizations may not be true. It is my goal to ameliorate these societal problems, starting with the three minutes before gym class begins.

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