Stereotyping people is a funny thing. We all do it. As a society we have been conditioned to stereotype individuals. We have been made to associ
ate individuals with certain images that have now been imprinted into our minds via the means of comic books, cartoons, and films to name a few. Let us look closer at films. Prisoners in films usually have tattoos, skin shaved heads and terrible teeth. So, when we as a society think of prisoners we will associate something along these physical features. When we think of a Jane Austen heroine we think of a Elizabeth Bennet, rose tinted cheeks and long wavy ballgowns. When we think of Christmas, we think of a red dressed Caucasian Santa Claus. My question is: what is societies image of a doctor? Strangely, or perhaps not so, when I have asked this question, the answer I get is: a tall brunette caucasian male.
This answer makes me think about the concept of stereotyping more deeply. As a society do we ascertain certain images and stereotypes to make us comfortable? There was a time in my medical career, that I wanted to cover my arms in tattoos. However, I was pushed not to, not just by family but actually by the nurses on the wards. Why is this? When I asked why not, the answer was that patients would not take me seriously as a doctor. Is this true? If you had a doctor that walked though the ward with arms covered in tattoos, eyebrows full of piercings, and a shaved head…would that mean the doctor would be judged on their appearance rather than their brains? I dwelled on this further. Is that really the case? Does society really stereotype?
I stayed in a hotel a week later on a visit and had spent quite a bit of money as it was for my birthday. I wanted to feel spoiled, and so I had decided to feel pretentious and book a luxurious room at a countryside manor. I imaged that I would be pampered by oils, and waitered on by attentive staff. Although, at the reception desk what did I find? A receptionist with bright red and blue hair, and I thought…huh? Am I in McDonalds? Why is there someone looking as though they have just come from a holiday in Thailand in this over the top priced manor that I have spent a great deal of savings on? I have to say I was disappointed. I was expecting to be served by an individual with silk hair tied up, and looking clean cut. I realised I have too stereotyped an individual in thinking they should not work at the reception desk serving me. A few days later back on the ward, I was joined by some medical students. One of which impeccably dressed in a striped shirt and suit jacket. However, the only thing I could focus on was their hair: dreadlocks. The patients too commented on this students hair with beads hanging from every dred- one even commented that the student looked unkempt and should cut their hair. If you were a patient and you had a doctor with dreadlocks and another without- who would you want to work on your case? Whatever your answer, I do feel we as a society unintentionally stereotype.
Whether I do one day get my arms full of tattoos, or decide to shave half my head, that does not make me any less of a doctor compared to another. It does not make me less capable to serving my patients with all my loyalty and hard work. It does not make me lose my knowledge of judgement in a medical crisis. Stereotyping is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s not something we can always control. However, how we act on stereotyping is what matters.