What is it called when people/society expect you to be something because of your gender/nationality? Like when people expect you to be smart because you're Asian, etc. We had to make a persuasive speech and I think that this is an uncommon but important topic but I can't make up a name for it.

My speech:

We all tried to fit in the society’s standards, but no matter how perfect we are and how noble our personality is, society will always throw shade at you. All of the boys are expected to be sporty. All of the girl are expected to be smart. All of the teachers are expected to be perfect. We all are humans and we deserve to be unlabelled.

  • 11
    Aren't you referring to stereotypes?
    – shin
    Aug 5, 2016 at 9:48
  • 4
    We do not do proofreading topic suggestions on ELL. But word requests are generally welcome, as long as you clearly explain what kind of word you would like.
    – Em.
    Aug 5, 2016 at 9:58
  • 1
    Are you only looking for nouns, such as stereotype, or would a verb such as pigeonhole (check the fifth meaning: "to classify or categorize, esp in a rigid manner") also work?
    – Tsundoku
    Aug 5, 2016 at 14:46

9 Answers 9


These kinds of standards and expectations, as you have called them, are

  1. stereotypes
    : something conforming to a fixed or general pattern; especially : a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment


A stereotype is a preconceived notion, especially about a group of people. Many stereotypes are racist, sexist, or homophobic.
You most often hear about negative stereotypes, but some are positive. For example, there's a stereotype that Asian people do better in school.

It might be beneficial to become familiar with some related words

  1. preconceived notions
    an opinion formed beforehand without adequate evidence; "he did not even try to confirm his preconceptions"
  2. prejudice
    1. a (1) : preconceived judgment or opinion (2) : an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge
  • 7
    "Many stereotypes are ..." Is this a stereotype on stereotypes?
    – njzk2
    Aug 5, 2016 at 15:32
  • 1
    Another common word used in this situation is bias. Aug 5, 2016 at 18:34
  • @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft I think bias is usually used when the source of the prejudice matters (i.e. I am a white male and therefore I have these and these biases), while stereotype is used when the target of the prejudice matters (i.e. he is Asian so the rest of us expect him to be this and that).
    – T. C.
    Aug 6, 2016 at 14:27
  • @TheodorosChatzigiannakis: "He has a bias towards Asians" etc. Aug 6, 2016 at 17:08
  • @TechnikEmpire It is possible for words to have multiple definitions. Both your definition and "synonymous with 'prejudice'" are valid definitions. See dictionary.com/browse/bias?s=t Aug 6, 2016 at 19:12

I think this word might be useful to you: stereotype.

A stereotype is a rigid, oversimplified, often exaggerated belief that is applied both to an entire social category of people and to each individual within it. Stereotypes form the basis for prejudice, which in turn is used to justify discrimination and attitudes. They can be positive as well as negative.

Also, from this link,

Stereotypes are characteristics ascribed to groups of people involving gender, race, national origin and other factors. These characteristics tend to be oversimplifications of the groups involved, however. For example, someone who meets a few individuals from a particular country and finds them to be quiet and reserved may spread the word that all citizens from the country in question are quiet and reserved. A generalization such as this doesn’t allow for diversity within groups and may result in stigmatization and discrimination of groups if the stereotypes linked to them are largely negative. That said, even so-called positive stereotypes can be harmful due to their limiting nature.

About your request for persuasive speech topics, unfortunately, I don't think this is the appropriate site for such.


I'd rather add this as a comment to answer Max gave, but I'm new to the site.

Think that presumption could also fit

presumption pre·sump·tion

prəˈzəm(p)SH(ə)n/ noun

an act or instance of taking something to be true or adopting a particular attitude toward something, especially at the start of a chain of argument or action. "the presumption of guilt has changed to a presumption of innocence"

a legal inference as to the existence or truth of a fact not certainly known that is drawn from the known or proved existence of some other fact

Especially if it's something you never agreed to, and now others except or believe you will act in a specific manner.


Given that you used the less formal “throw shade,” you might like the idiom paint with a broad brush. The idea is a broad brush applies paint to more area than intended or warranted. For example:

Yes, many Asians do well in school, but expecting every Asian to be brilliant is painting with a broad brush.

Unfair generalization is another generic heading for stereotypes, prejudices, and preconceived notions.

Believing that all Italians are involved in organized crime is an unfair generalization.


Prejudice and presumption are synonyms. Technically, prejudice does not necessarily imply a negative (as in the "Asians are good at math" prejudice.)

Often incorrectly used as a synonym for bigotry which is negative prejudice. Also technically different is racism, which for most experts implies systematic or institutional negative prejudice. Also different is racialism which is synonymous with (in cases of "race") discrimination, although obviously discrimination has wider applicable usage than these other words.


I read your question and I remembered Pip in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

There's irony in the title. Expectations in this novel could mean the 19th Century meaning of expected wealth and also the expected behavior of Pip by Londoners given his birth place and country manners which do not match their actual expectations.

So STEREOTYPE is your best take. But if you look at it from a literary point of view, EXPECTATION can mean all you want it to mean in a subtle way.

I would put this in a comment but the site wouldn't let me.


Treating things differently based upon a certain characteristic, is called discrimination.

If that characteristic is race or skincolour, it's called racism.

If that characteristic is sex/gender, it's called sexism.

Discrimination in itself isn't always a bad thing. For example: having a packet of winegums and not eating the purple ones because you don't like the taste of them, that's discrimination too. Or, another example: buying a beer for your friends, except for one of them whom you buy an orange juice because he's an alcoholic, that's discrimination too.


I'm 3 years late, but I definitely had this question too. It's called the labeling theory. I learned it in criminal justice, in the case that police officers and teachers criminalize at-risk youth before they even cause trouble, and as a result, they live up to the expectation because that is how they are treated.

From Wikipedia:

Labeling theory posits that self-identity and the behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them. It is associated with the concepts of self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotyping. Labeling theory holds that deviance is not inherent in an act, but instead focuses on the tendency of majorities to negatively label minorities or those seen as deviant from standard cultural norms. The theory was prominent during the 1960s and 1970s, and some modified versions of the theory have developed and are still currently popular. Stigma is defined as a powerfully negative label that changes a person's self-concept and social identity.


While it's true that there are many words that describe each of these things individually, were I to refer to them as a group, I would simply use the word "bias," as this covers all of those cases and more.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .