Photo contest takes shot at breaking stereotypes

(Edmonton) Just because you can’t see Sasha Platz’s ancestry, it doesn’t mean your discrimination doesn’t hurt her.

Platz, a third-year business student majoring in economics and law, and a member of the Aboriginal Student Council at the University of Alberta, has seen first-hand how stereotyping and discrimination are a problem that affects everyone.

That’s why she decided to enter the Breaking Stereotypes student photo contest.

“The photo contest gave me the chance to bring awareness to the vast cultural diversities throughout campus—many of which cannot be distinguished based on appearance,” she said. “I think it is a great opportunity for students to reflect on themselves and be mindful of others as we foster the community of the U of A.”

The contest, a collaboration between the U of A’s Office of Safe Disclosure and Human Rights and the Multimedia and Multiculturalism Programme of the United Nations Association in Canada, is meant to spark discussion among the university community about how discrimination and stereotypes affect people’s daily life on campus—and about how they can help break down those stereotypes through education and cultural interaction.

“This student photo contest is an important step for our office to engage and educate students about their human rights on campus,” says Marjorie Henderson with the Office of Safe Disclosure and Human Rights. “Through the medium of photography, highlighting a stereotype that a student may experience on campus will help our campus community to understand this issue more fully. Through the creative process, those differences identified in a photograph can be very powerful.”

The idea is simple—students send in photos of themselves holding handwritten placards that put the lie to stereotypes they have experienced about their race, gender, sexuality, even their program of study. But as the entries people have already submitted to the contest photo blog show, the impact is powerful.

Henderson says that by putting individual human faces on harmful generalizations, the photo contest represents a chance to help make the U of A a more respectful and inclusive place to live, work and study.

“The contest has stimulated some very meaningful conversations with staff, students and faculty members about the impact that stereotypes and discrimination can have, particularly related to the unintended consequences of casual stereotyping."

The Breaking Stereotypes student photo contest runs until Nov. 15.

The contest is sponsored by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Alberta Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund.

View photos from the Breaking Stereotypes contest