Margaret Atwood warned in her dystopian contemporary fiction novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, that if people begin to categorize others only according to on what they can do, dehumanization will take place, and the human connection will be lost. Once the human connection is lost, people do not see others as people and do not treat them as if they harbor the same emotions and aspirations as they do. Even among these warnings, dehumanization occurs today, specifically on college campuses.
Dehumanizing according to college majors is a way that individualism is throttled in today’s world and how this generation is already beginning to lose its human connection. Just like Emilie de Raven refused to “date sociology majors” in the 2010 movie, Remember Me, stereotypes are projected onto the students within a major, which most likely are not true for these students. Atwood warned against these dehumanizing projections because when a person loses the human connection, the result is the forfeit of personal thoughts for an identity given by those who created the stereotypes.
In terms of The Handmaid’s Tale, when Offred, the heroine of the novel, stopped seeing herself as a person who had a past as a mother and a wife before the rise of the Republic of Gilead and only saw herself as someone whose purpose was to get pregnant, Offred gave the government the reins to her thoughts and began to shed her human connection. The government dehumanized all the citizens so that they were only seen and called by what they did to contribute to the society. One example of this dehumanization is the way the Marthas treated Offred and Ofglen when the Marthas were passing on the street. Offred rationalized the reason why the Marthas scowled at the two handmaids was simply because Mathas do not like handmaids. The Marthas had no actual reason to dislike Offred and Ofglen—they never met the two girls! When such stereotypes, such as Marthas not liking handmaids, begin to rise, the first sign of dehumanization has appeared and the loss of human connection has begun.
Stereotypes are oppressive actions enacted by those who want to suppress individualism, dehumanize others until gradually they are only seen as objects, and numb the human connection between people. Stereotypes projected specifically onto students within a particular major may ring true for the majority, but as Atwood warned, there is power in these stereotypes. When those under the stereotypes allow themselves to be dehumanized, those enforcing the stereotypes now have a power over others that is neither good nor right. The power only lasts as long as those under the stereotypes allow themselves to be. Power can be regained if belief in the stereotypes is disproven by those who allow themselves to be under it.