As my son and I were driving to school one morning, the morning show we were listening to was talking about guys being bad dancers. The broadcaster said men can’t dance, their dancing is goofy, they look terrible, etc. The hosts were even taking calls from anyone willing to talk about a particularly bad dancer they had encountered. It was mostly women, calling in to give the details of some man in their life who had made some embarrassing moves on the dance floor.
I was smiling a little bit, as I listened, because I have, in fact, witnessed some of what these callers and DJs were talking about. All of a sudden, from the back seat, I heard, “Mom, do you believe that?”
“Believe what?” I said, though I was pretty sure I knew what my son was thinking.
“Do you believe that all boys are bad dancers? Do you think I’m a bad dancer?” he asked, in all seriousness.
“No, I think there are some boys that can dance well and there are some girls who can’t. Just like there are some boys who can’t dance well and some girls that can. I think you’re a great dancer, though.”
It took a little more convincing, but I think my son was finally persuaded that not everyone shares the opinion of those DJs. It did make me wonder: how many of us make statements like that? How many of us laugh when others make that kind of statement?
The stereotype that men can’t dance may seem rather harmless, but it greatly upset my son—even after I tried explaining that they didn’t really mean all men. Stereotypes of any kind can be harmful—even the ones that our culture seems to accept as OK.
My challenge to you: the next time you are talking about a group of people identified by a particular characteristic—gender, race, size, hair color, even political party (to name a few!)—think of a way to say it that avoids the use of stereotypes. You might just be surprised at the way a simple word or two can make a difference.