By James Duff
There seems to be an inherent desire among most people to create a sense of order out of what does not appear to them to be right.
The need to rationalize and compartmentalize most people into a few distinct streams is prevalent from hairstyle to footwear to who you fall in love with. Don’t believe me? Ask your friendly neighborhood barber to give you a mohawk and see what happens. Stereotypes are everywhere, for the tall or short, fat or thin, loud or quiet. Hair colour, faith, skin color, gender, all are targets for stereotyping.
One stereotype that has come to the forefront of my mind over the past three years at Ryerson is the one of the engineer student: macho, rowdy, heterosexual, self-centred males.
Few engineering students actually fit this mold. To believe that the above assumption are true is totally unjust and does a disservice to all students. Let’s put a few of the more common assumptions under the microscope:
Heterosexuality. Few people would ever consider that lesbians and gays would or could ever become competent top-of-the-line engineers in their field. Surprise! Despite this stereotype, that isn’t true. The horrors suffered by lesbian and gay engineering students who are not yet identified as homosexual but feel required to buy into that mindset are massive. Is living a life of charades acceptable or not? For the record, I will not become the first gay engineer to have graduated from Ryerson, nor will I be the last.
Sex. This isn’t as easy to hide as one’s orientation, so there have been changes to the old belief that engineers can only be men. Nevertheless, there are still people out there who believe that women should be in maternity wings, not designing aircraft. Walking through Kerr Hall, how can any women forget the dangers (both verbal and physical) of being an engineer? Overdramatic? Take a walk through the Quad by the main entrance to East Kerr and check the monument there. Find out its significance, if you don’t already know.
Self-centred: Engineers only worry about classes and partying, right? Wrong. Look around — RESS organizes Shinerama every year, and the mechanical engineers have a food drive every Christmas. Hardly acts of selfishness.
“No smoke without fire” is a phrase that can’t be associated with stereotypes. The harm that is done to those who do not fit the common image far outweighs any other view.