Stereotypes exist everywhere. Be it in your mind, in the media or in how you’re served over a counter.
Linked to the concept of stereotypes is the ‘single story’ – Chimamanda Adichie, in her TED talk, speaks about the danger of a single story, whereby hearing only one story about a particular place or person can lead to many misunderstandings. When you are constantly beset by only one viewpoint or perspective about a place, person or event, that viewpoint becomes the “truth” of the matter at hand as opposed to just one way to look at it.
Currently, the story making headlines in India is the news that one of its tennis stars, Sania Mirza, is engaged to be married to Pakistani cricketeer Shoaib Malik. Where’s the single story in that? The constant hype of how the two sub-continent countries are at war with each other is what made this story hit headlines across the newswires.
The single story about India and Pakistan? That they hate each other, are constantly at war and can never get along.
There is no denying that problems do exist between both countries, but a distinction must be made between tension between governments and tension between the people. Tempers run at cricket matches, true, but on the whole, the people of the two countries don’t have bones to pick with each other. The single story of how Indians hate Pakistanis and vice versa does nothing to help the peace process and largely serves to irritate the people, who are the ones assumed to be filled with hatred, when they’re not.
Perhaps picking up on this cue, the international media has covered this story as well, also blending in the story of how India and Pakistan are constantly at loggerheads with each other. Read the coverage of the story at The Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian.
The media needs to be responsible and while they should go ahead and report a story, they also need to exercise caution with regard to the extent of coverage given to a story and also ensure communal undertones don’t creep into it.