20 Stereotypes to Remove from Your Vocab in 2019
New resolution: offend zero people this year.
The loud American. The lonely cat lady. The rich snob. No matter how open-minded you may think you are, chances are you frequently stereotype others—and you might not even realize you’re doing it.
Unfortunately, those stereotypes have a greater impact than you might imagine. According to one 2017 study, children as young as six had picked up on damaging stereotypes regarding the relative intelligence of boys versus girls. In other words: It’s a very real possibility that you’ve been carrying around incorrect (and unjustified) preconceived notions for years. So before you inadvertently offend someone or find your foot lodged in your mouth, make sure to ditch these stereotypes from your vocabulary.
Women are always nurturers.
There’s no denying that when most people think of a person particularly adept at drying tears, providing comfort after bad dreams, and generally taking care of a family, the image of a woman comes to mind. And while being perceived as kind and warm may not seem like a negative, it unfairly assumes that women always want to tackle those roles and can further perpetuate the idea that men simply don’t.
Worse yet, according to social psychologist Amy Cuddy, competence and warmth are often seen as diametrically opposed to one another. As a result, women who are seen as nurturing are also less likely to be seen as strong leaders.
Men are instinctively brave.
Just because someone identifies as male doesn’t mean they’re automatically the human equivalent of the Terminator. While men may have historically been the ones on the front lines in battle, the idea that men are required to be brave all the time is not only antiquated, it puts undue pressure on men and boys.
In one study published in the Journal of Health Psychology, researchers even found that the cultural pressure to appear brave actually made some men less likely to go to the doctor when they needed treatment, potentially putting their lives at risk.
British people are always polite.
No group of people is polite all the time. Just because a British accent may sound more sophisticated to American ears, that doesn’t actually mean you’re more likely to have a door held for you or to hear “please” and “thank you” across the pond.
Religious people are judgmental.
Religion can be a polarizing topic, especially among those who don’t typically subscribe to any particular set of beliefs. However, the assumption that everyone who does go to a church, synagogue, mosque, or any other house of worship is automatically judging those who don’t share their beliefs is more than a little damaging. There are plenty of people who enjoy a spiritual life and still manage to maintain a “live and let live” philosophy when it comes to others.
Older people don’t understand technology.
There are countless stereotypes that negate the agency of older people, and this is one of the most insidious ones. While many people believe—and aren’t afraid to say—that older people can’t possible have the same handle on technology as their younger counterparts, research actually indicates otherwise. According to the Pew Research Center, 80 percent of Americans 65 and over have a cell phone. On top of that, an impressive 42 percent have a smartphone, which is a more than 200 percent increase in the past five years.
People who love cats are lonely.
Just because someone prefers cats as pets doesn’t mean they’re sad, antisocial, or destined to be alone. While research suggests that cat people do tend to be more introverted than their dog-favoring counterparts, one study found that they’re actually more open than those who prefer canine companions. Also, there’s another thing you need to remove from your lexicon when it comes to felines: the term “cat lady.” Cat ownership is hardly as gendered as people make it out to be.
Americans are rude.
While every country has its faults, assuming that all Americans are rude is more than a little simplistic. Our trucks may be bigger and our chicken more fried, but you’re just as likely to meet a polite American as you are a well-mannered individual of any other nationality. Like any other country, the United States has its mix of people who fall everywhere on the politeness spectrum, after all.
“Real men” don’t cry.
For whatever reason, many people still claim there’s something innately un-masculine about crying. But, considering that men are friends, parents, and caregivers—just like their female counterparts—why would we want them to be unemotional? After all, expressing your feelings—especially when people and society at large are constantly telling you not to—is pretty darn brave.
People without college degrees aren’t smart.
Sure, people with college degrees may have more years of formal education under their belts than those who didn’t attend or didn’t finish college. But there are countless factors that go into a person’s ability and desire to go to college.
Considering how cost-prohibitive college is for many families in the United States, and how crushing student loan debt can be, it makes more sense for some people to attend trade school or go directly into the workforce after high school. Doing that doesn’t mean that those people aren’t still expanding their knowledge base outside of the classroom. And just because someone doesn’t start college at 18 doesn’t mean they won’t ever go, anyway!
Single women over 30 are sad.
Far too many people out there believe that 30 is essentially a “use by” date when it comes to women, prescribing to the notion that those who haven’t gotten married by then are destined to be single forever. Not only is that sexist, it’s pretty inaccurate, too. Couples are getting married and having children later than ever these days. In fact, the only age group with birth rates on the rise in the United States in 2017 were women over 40.
Bisexual people are promiscuous.
Being bisexual may mean a person is attracted to more than one gender, but it certainly doesn’t mean they’re attracted to everyone indiscriminately. Much like their straight and gay counterparts, bisexual people are completely capable of having monogamous or otherwise committed relationships.
Women aren’t strong leaders.
Countless women in positions of power will eagerly rattle off the number of times they’ve been mistaken for a secretary or assistant at their own workplace. Many people still trust male leadership more than female leaders with similar qualifications. One Pew study even revealed that, despite believing women to be more hardworking, intelligent, and honest than their male counterparts, 21 percent of those surveyed said men made better political leaders, whereas just 6 percent said the same about women.
Wealthy people are snobs.
While wealth certainly comes with its fair share of benefits, the idea that having money and being snobbish go hand-in-hand is simplistic and unfair. For example, despite having a net worth of more than $84 billion, Warren Buffett still lives in the same Omaha house he bought for $31,500 six decades ago. You probably know some rich people without realizing it—because they’re constantly disproving your notion that all wealthy people turn up their noses at those who don’t share their socioeconomic bracket.
Female breadwinners emasculate their spouses.
The idea that there’s anything wrong with a woman making more than her spouse is pretty absurd to begin with. And the notion that straight men automatically feel like their high-earning partner is taking something away from them is equally outrageous. In many couples, having a partner who earns more than you is, if anything, a bonus, regardless of gender.
Poor people aren’t working hard enough.
Poverty isn’t a moral failure—it’s often the result of a number of factors, many of which are no fault of the individual on the receiving end. Not only is intergenerational poverty a self-perpetuating cycle in many countries, including the United States, many people who remain in poverty are working well beyond 40 hours a week; after all, at $7.25 an hour, you’d have to work 80 hours a week just to earn $600 a week before taxes, and that’s hardly enough to live a life of luxury.
Women love to be pursued.
It’s almost 2019. We should be tossing phrases like “the thrill of the chase” and “playing hard to get” right into the garbage where they belong. While there’s nothing wrong with asking someone out, the idea that women are constantly playing coy is a problem for both women and those who choose to pursue them. If a woman says she’s not interested, take that statement at face value. When it comes to dating, “no” is a complete sentence.
Senior citizens aren’t all there mentally.
While some older people do lose their faculties with age, assuming this is true of every older person is seriously damaging. Not only is it simply false that all older people are not as cognitively fit as their younger counterparts, a study published in The Journal of Social Issues reveals that these stereotypes make it harder for older individuals to get hired for jobs, giving them fewer opportunities to prove their competence to begin with.
Women in power are cold.
On the flip side of the “nurturing equals incompetent” coin, many people are all too eager to claim that women in positions of power are inherently cold. There’s no reason to imagine that earning a position of power and being an empath are mutually exclusive to begin with. And before you let phrases like “ice queen” slip from your lips again, remember this: If a female superior is telling you what to do, it’s not because she’s being “bossy;” it’s because she’s your boss.
Single people are always looking for a partner.
Just like “female leader” does not equal “cold,” it’s time to retire the notion that “single” and “sad” are always synonymous. There are plenty of things to love about being single, and to assume otherwise neglects the agency of people who are single by choice. And, while you’re at it, stop trying to set up your single friends up on unexpected dates—they know how to download dating apps, just like everyone else.
Rural people are unsophisticated.
What is it about enjoying the sound of crickets chirping at night and the smell of cut grass that automatically makes other people assume you’re a rube? While rural areas may not typically afford their residents the same cultural opportunities as big cities, that hardly means that people who choose to live in the country are, as some might put it, “bumpkins.”
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