Q: Recently, jokingly my husband called me a “dependa.” I looked up the meaning- and I really don’t fit any of the meaning of a “dependa” and I know he was just joking. But my feelings are still hurt- why do these words exist when we should be building each other up and not tearing each other down?
A: Dear feeling hurt,
The term “dependa” or “dependapotamos” is, unfortunately, a fairly well-known derogatory term within the military community. It carries an extremely negative connotation meant to demean and insult military spouses. Just to give you an example, the Urban Dictionary defines it like this: “Dependapotamus: Traditionally a service-members dependent who is a “stay at home mom” that doesn’t do a damn thing all day besides sitting on the couch looking remarkably similar to Jabba the Hut leaching off of military benefits and eating anything that gets too close.” As you can see, it is a despicable and hurtful term; not a joking matter.
People, yes even our spouses, could use this term to jokingly define others. The problem is, it’s NOT a joke. Just reading the “definition” above made me cringe. So, it’s understandable that you would feel hurt and upset by its use, particularly by a loved one. At the crux of this is a stereotype. Stereotypes by definition are sweeping generalizations about a group or class of people solely based on erroneous assumptions. By stereotyping we infer that a person has a whole range of characteristics that we assume all members of that group have. Stereotypes lead to categorization which is one of the reasons for prejudice attitudes (i.e. “them” and “us” mentality).
My suggestion is that you speak frankly with your spouse about your feelings.The next time you see negativity and stereotypes call people out on it, it may seem harmless to poke fun at others, but the truth is stereotypes and derogatory terms like these truly can hurt. To use your own words: “We should be building each other up and not tearing each other down.” Very well said.
Yours in good health,