Inspired by the TED Talk: ‘The Dangers of a Single Story by Chimamanda Adichie’
By: Amal Ashraf
Student Speaker – Gems Modern Academy,
Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
As the car came to a screeching halt, we all pulsed forward in frustration and anger, after a couple of huffs and puffs, “It must have been a woman driving!”, my mother commented, who’s quite an impressive driver herself. As we passed the car, we could see the look of unbothered ignorance on the middle-aged man’s face while he sat holding the steering wheel. The many levels of irony were not lost on us but there is nobody else to blame here except the stereotype so etched into the minds of every generation. The commonly held stereotype that women are poor drivers is just a glimpse into the many layers of gender inequality.
This norm is not only recognized but also endorsed by women and girls at early ages. To see my mother say such a thing shows me the self-doubt she must face while driving herself and that even currently, we are all unconsciously victims of falling for these norms, these societal biases, and stereotypes: the ‘single stories’ as Chimamanda Adichie has rightfully said. Isn’t this the outcome we should all be dreading? That these simple stereotypes are not just words spreading negativity but also creating a sense of hopelessness and insecurity amongst its targeted audience.
Women are statistically better drivers than men, as men have been involved in twice as many fatal accidents as shown in a study by the ‘NYTimes’, yet why is it that women are considered worse drivers? Isn’t this just an assumption, the perception of a single story that has been widespread invading the minds of many young listeners? This may be a single stereotype that I have mentioned but it contributes to the many other judgments that we, as a society, make of women, doubting their capability and strength not just while driving but also in workplaces, judging what professions, jobs, occupations, and even hobbies are suitable for them.
The predicament is not only for women either.
Work, choices, objects are catered to a certain gender role, starting from the very time you are born with simple things such as identifying the gender of a baby with blue or pink and them leading their lives afraid of wearing the color subjected to the opposite gender. This is the mindset we must change. Society, today, has focused on predefined conditioning rather than the significance of adaptability, teaching us that changes are okay, differences are okay, and that you are okay the way you are. And don’t get me wrong, no matter how negative I sound this is my plea for us to voice the change we desire and we have already begun with the first step, identifying the problem and doing everything to consciously battle it.
While we have blamed the older mindset and society, it is also our fault for contributing to the spread of such stigmas. Focusing on the bad and projecting only the single incomplete story without finding the finished one is our fault. Not educating ourselves and examining the facts of the situation is our fault. It is our duty to create awareness around stigmas such as these and not fall prey to manipulated media. Which is why it is not only the danger of a single story but the danger of the readers and listeners not seeking the many stories there might be.