Stop Using “Pit Bull” As a Metaphor for Human Behavior

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How many times have you heard it? “So and So is a “pit bull.” Whenever we hear it, it makes us roll our eyes so far back into our heads that we can see our brains.

We’re well into the new year and before we know it, January will be over. Statistically, you’ve probably given up on those resolutions you made a few weeks ago. But here’s a resolution you need to make and keep:

Stop comparing people to “pit bulls.”

In the past several months, we’ve heard this comparison a lot, especially in relation to politics (and seriously, people, can we not?). People say it to indicate that a person is aggressive in their speech patterns or stance on an issue. They’re someone who won’t give up or back down.

As much as we love metaphors, this is a lazy way to describe someone. Just say the words “aggressive” or “won’t back down.” Comparing people to “pit bulls” in this way enforces false and harmful stereotypes. We know what some of you are thinking, “it’s just a metaphor. It doesn’t have anything to do with actual dogs. Get over it.” But here’s the thing, everything we say reverberates through society. Everything we say affects the people who hear it.

When you say that someone is “like a pit bull,” you are enforcing age-old, false stereotypes about an arbitrarily labeled group of dogs. When you say it, you are contributing to the mindset that separates dogs and people through housing bans or city or state-wide breed-specific legislation. Statements like that tell Delta that when they discriminate against people with service dogs, that it’s okay for them to do it.

The language we use can give people permission to discriminate, whether it’s our intention or not. It’s 2020. It’s time for us to remember that people and dogs are individuals – and that stereotypes about dogs perceived as “pit bulls” are total bunk.

For more information about the language we use to talk about dogs and animal welfare in general, listen to the podcast episodes below.

The Individual Animal is available on iTunesStitcherSpotifyGoogle Play, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

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