For instance:

I thought it was a she, but then I noticed you didn't specify what gender your dance teacher was. I realized that I was being ______.

I think stereotypical kind of fits here, but I don't think it's as accurate. It seems a bit too harsh and intentional.

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    "making assumptions", "being prejudiced"? Feb 6, 2015 at 17:44
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    ... If 'stereotyp[er]' is deemed 'too harsh and intentional', how can 'being prejudiced' not be so? I don't think you'll do better than 'I was stereotyping', forTruce. Feb 6, 2015 at 17:57
  • 3
    Sexist surely ?
    – Dan
    Feb 6, 2015 at 18:14
  • 1
    @espertus I like 'making assumptions' though it does lose the gender role connotation. I could always expand it to 'making stereotypical assumptions'. EdwinAshworth As far as a single word I think you're right. I guess the 'realization' covers the unconscious portion anyway.
    – forTruce
    Feb 6, 2015 at 18:29
  • 1
    There are other words than stereotyping, which is drastically overworked. If it is necessary to "apologise", I would call it typecasting. It is more general and includes other things than gender, such as social class, and physical appearance, neither of which discriminations, disgracefully, are unlawful.
    – WS2
    Feb 6, 2015 at 22:53

4 Answers 4


Confronting paucity of thought is part of overthrowing deeply entrenched ancient conventions.

I thought it was a she, but then I noticed you didn't specify what gender your dance teacher was. I realized that I was being ___________.



Unwilling or unable to change because of tradition or convention:


1550s, from hide (n.1) + past tense of bind (v.).

Original reference is to emaciated cattle with skin sticking closely to backbones and ribs;

metaphoric sense of "restricted by narrow attitudes" is first recorded c.1600.

I like the self-effacing word picture, because it acknowledges the destructive consequences without conceding the intentional bigotry implied by sexist. Alternately, I was being:

  • thoughtless
  • narrow
  • naïve
  • obtuse
  • witless
  • stupid
  • 2
    I like 'thoughtless'. Feb 7, 2015 at 3:58
  • 1
    I like 'hidebound', new to me.
    – user98990
    Feb 7, 2015 at 13:32

OP requests a single word which would carry the concepts of unconsciousness/unintentionality + reinforcement + gender role = ?

Because no single word can carry that load I sought a two-word term that would satisfy the sense of the OP without merely recycling its terms: I realized I was being "subliminally sexist."

As OP notes, the simplest, most direct answer to the explicit request is: stereotyping i.e., “I realized I was stereotyping the dance teacher.”

However, OP feels “stereotyping” is too “harsh,” and has connotations of intentionality which are unacceptable. So, let’s neutralize any lingering connotation of intentionality by abandoning the single-word requirement and modify the verb "stereotyping" with the adverb “unconsciously”; now the most direct and simplest answer becomes, “I realized I was unconsciously stereotyping the dance teacher.”

A less direct and slightly more complex approach to OP’s request---the one I have taken---addresses, not only the explicit question, but also the implicit and (to my mind) more important question “Why ... am I making stereotypical assumptions based on gender?”

One explanation, which I find compelling, is because our language---that medium through which we do much of our thinking---is embedded with outdated sexist terminology that continues to influence our thought processes, subliminally i.e., below the threshold of awareness.

Therefore, I offer this answer: "I realized I was being subliminally sexist by presuming that the dance teacher was a female."

A keyword search of "subliminal sexism" (because “genderism” has come to mean: the cultural belief that there are, or should be, only two genders—man and woman—and that the characteristics of gender are inherently linked to the sex in which they were assigned at birth) returned numerous descriptions of subliminal sexism in our everyday language and in our educational textbooks (I’ve embedded a couple of those) and innumerable articles describing how our mass media is saturated with both blatant and subliminal sexist content like this: We are bombarded by 5,000 advertisements a day, many of which contain blatant and subliminal sexist messages.

All of us, it seems, are to some degree both unwitting victims and unknowing perpetrators of both blatant and subliminal sexism, which has the effect of reinforcing constrictive gender roles in each of us. We unconsciously and unintentionally categorize and limit each other, because our expectations of male and female roles are conditioned and reified by the myriad of sexist stereotypes embedded in our everyday speech and in the media we consume.

First example:

Subliminal Sexism in Current ESL/EFL Textbooks

[T]he express purpose of this investigation is to explore the treatment of sexism, as an ideology or a system of beliefs, in current ESL/EFL textbooks. It is assumed here that sexism, though embarrassing and undesirable, is subliminal and mirrors the institutionalized, unfair, and inexcusable sex discrimination to the disadvantage of women in society.

In light of these findings, one may strongly claim that since the first study of sexism in ESL/EFL materials in the 70's, little has changed over the past three decades (see also Macaulay & Brice, 1997). It is, in fact, remarkable that ESL/EFL teachers still, in the age of dot-coms, use materials which are loaded with a lot of male-as norm elements and are fraught with the unfair and inexcusable language of a male-dominated society.

It is suggested here that attempts to portray females in ESL/EFL textbooks in current use through one-sided role allocation, overt put-downs, and/or omissions like many other cultural aspects of a foreign language learning have been made, on the face of it, mostly at a subliminal level of knowledge. Indeed, language plays such an involuntary social function in our life and is so intertwined with culture that it is often quite difficult to stand back and take an objective look at one's own language.

Subliminal Sexism in Current ESL/EFL Textbooks

Second example:

Gender Variation and Sexist Bias in the English Language

Submitted by Nassima SACI


Truly then, and to sum it all up, throughout all the aforementioned points; i.e. the relation between language and gender and between gender and sexism in the English language, one can assume on firm grounds that gender variation is a tremendously complex topic in sociolinguistics. It has since its birth in early 70s with the emergence of Second Wave Feminism raised a lot of controversial debates that are still on up to nowadays for mainly ideological reasons.

Still, it enabled us to highlight interesting facts as to what extent women’s talk is different from men’s and how far daily discourse can embed subliminal sexist messages. Accordingly one becomes more careful and self-conscious as to the use of language and the choice of diction.

Gender Variation and Sexist Bias in the English Language

  • 1
    I don't think the question was about sexism in language. He wants to know the word for making sexist assumptions in general. I.e. what describes his assumption that a dance teacher would be a woman?
    – Barmar
    Feb 6, 2015 at 23:37
  • Where in the language does dance teacher reinforce gender roles?
    – Barmar
    Feb 7, 2015 at 0:01
  • This is a very fine answer, except that it answers a different question. I don't have an answer myself, does that mean I'm not allowed to criticise?
    – Barmar
    Feb 7, 2015 at 0:07
  • Actually, my answer was in my comment above, I think the word he's looking for is simply sexist. But I haven't done the research to put more meat into the answer.
    – Barmar
    Feb 7, 2015 at 0:08
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    unconscious sexism could be it. I just don't think the reference to language is particularly relevant. Yes, there's lots of sexism inherent in language, but that's somewhat orthogonal to this particular issue.
    – Barmar
    Feb 7, 2015 at 1:13

The words "but then I realized" show that you were not conscious of your bias.

Now the subjective part comes into play. In a sense, the more harsh you are with yourself, the stronger it implies that you think it's important to acknowledge or correct the stereotypical assumption. It's not like you are in danger of saying The more I realized that I'm an intolerant bigot and I should be clubbed to death by my local feminist organization chapter.

So why not simply and accurately say what you realized you did? Obviously you can. You would use your tone of voice to suggest how defensive, guilty, comfortable, (etc.), you are in making the self-observation.

Now back into your cave. I just know you're a man!


The American Psychological Association defines gender-normative as

Behavior that is compatible with cultural expectations [associated with a person’s biological sex]

which could arguably be applied here. (Only arguably because we have to go from you assuming a dance teacher would have a certain gender to you thinking all other genders would likely not be dance teachers.)

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