The single story is when only one story is known about a person or place and because of that one story everyone is judged by it. It’s a stereotype, a critical misunderstanding, an incomplete picture.
We can all be guilty of believing the single story. It’s something that’s often portrayed in the media and when we hear the same thing over and over then we believe it to be real.
Take those on benefits for instance. The media makes them out to be lazy, never looking for work, just taking the money and smoking or drinking it away, or spending it on scratch cards in the hope they can get more money for doing nothing. This is how they are seen in TV documentaries and dramas or in newspapers or magazines. People believe this, people stereotype all benefit claimants as lazy scroungers. The truth is, benefit claimers come in all forms. Yes, there may be some lazy ones that have never done a days work, there are also pensioners who have worked all their lives and have to rely on a state pension to survive after retirement. There are also the families where Dad may work 40 hours per week and still not earn enough to pay the rent and put food on the table so he gets benefits to top up his wages. There are also disabled people who are too sick to work, or find it difficult to find a job that they are physically able to do. There are also single mums who’s partners have run off and left them to look after their child alone, they can only work part time because they can’t afford childcare and need a top up of benefits just to survive. Basically, there are many stories, not just a single one, but why are people so ready to believe just one? Should we not stop judging all by one story and just imagine what other stories there may be?
Stories are important, we all have our own stories to tell, we all have different lives, one story does not fit all. We need to share our stories and add diversity to the mix. Let people know that we are not all the same, we are not stereotypes.
As a parent of autistic children I’ve seen first hand how people judge. They may know that my child is autistic and then comment on why she doesn’t flap her arms, isn’t that what autistic children do? No, that’s just one story, my daughter doesn’t flap but she’s still autistic. My son was once reprimanded in the street because he touched someone’s car that had parked on the pavement. I was told to keep him away. That man thought my son was trying to damage his car because it had been scratched before by some wayward teenager. That was one story, my son’s story was different, he is autistic, he has to touch cars if they are on the pavement, it’s something he does, he can’t help it. He gets very stressed if he doesn’t, he has never damaged a car in his life.
Always look deeper, it’s too easy to judge people when you only know a small part of their story. Don’t assume, don’t stereotype, just think about why a person is like that, why they do the things they do. There is always another story that may not be as obvious. Read between the lines. Don’t assume that because some media has made you believe one story that that is the only story. It very rarely is, there is always more to find out.
The single story can be about a single person or an entire city, or even a nation. The stories come to us in newspapers, tv programs and novels. To get a full picture you need to read many stories, not just one.
My post today was inspired by a TED talk by Chimamanda Adichies who talks about the dangers of the single story. It’s an incredibly enlightening talk by a charming lady. If you have time do take a look.
I am fast becoming an addict of TED talks, you can find talks on all kinds of subjects that are enlightening, empowering, motivating, inspiring and educational. It’s a fantastic resource. You can even find TED talks for Teens and Tweens .
Have you discovered TED Talks?
I would love to hear some TED talks so will put it on my list of things to do – sound brilliant way to expand your mind in the face of all the media rubbish. x
TED talks are brilliant and I often watch one whilst I'm eating lunch or having a slow moving weekend morning! It is true that some people believe what they are fed by the media or one person, but be reassured – there are plenty of people who know that there are always two sides to every story and are not so gullible.
I like to make time to listen to them whenever I can, but especially when something interesting catches my eye.
I think in times like this it's quite easy to pick out those that look at both sides of the story. I think we are all guilty of being at least a little blinkered at times, just wanting to believe one side. x
Anne this is a lovely post and it really resonated with me. I completely agree, people form opinions, listen to speculation and are so quick to judge. xx
I don't think I have heard of TED Talks but will certainly check it out. I hate when people make assumptions without getting to know you or just jump on the bandwagon with everyone else. I always take time to form my own opinions of others 🙂
It's sadly true and there is a lot of it about right now, but hopefully the bigger story will be available for us all to see soon. It only takes a moment to stop and think about 'why' rather than just believe. xx
That's so good that you take the time to form your own opinions, the world needs more people like that. The TED talks are really good, it's worth taking 10-20minutes out of your day for a listen x
I really need to listen to some of the TED talks as they're supposed to be great x
Quite relevant in the context of perceptions about leave voters at the moment I think!
I don't read gossip magazines or even newspapers for this very reason. I would rather get both sides of the story and make my own decisions
My husband loves TED talks, I think I need to get into them as well.