First, a disclaimer is necessary: I’m just a female who happens to have noticed that even though men and women are getting pretty damn close to equal, sexism is still inherent in a lot of the language we use. Like it or not, some people are still in denial that the patriarchy ever existed. Locker-room talk still exists: it’s called Rape Culture, and it hits home: Anne-Marie Roy, the president for the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa was the victim of a nasty Facebook chat between four male student leaders. Bill Cosby and Jian Ghomeshi were pretty cool until about a year ago, too.
I dare you to Google slang terms for men and women right now. Actually, I did it already. Just keep reading. Here’s what I found:
Slang is elusive. It’s daunting to make a comprehensive list of every bad name you could call someone. Language is constantly evolving, degrees of offensiveness vary, and lots of words can be used to insult both sexes. I tried and my list of insults towards men is about half as long as my list for women.
Bottom line: the repertoire is a lot more extensive if you want to diss a lady.
Slang words towards women cut deeper too; there’s history behind them. The overt sexism of the past has trickled down into our vernacular. Some thematic similarities exist in the way we insult women and men. References to anatomy, assimilation to animals, and subverting constructs of masculinity/femininity exist for both, but most informal ways of referring to women objectify them in ways that men are not, no matter how nasty.
It’s not all bad: Lots of these terms are still perfectly reclaimable and subconsciously empowering. That's what I'm trying to do here. Maybe change some attitudes about how we talk about women. As Tina Fey would say, "Bitch is the new black."
So, follow me on my etymological journey of the y-chromosomally challenged. I hope we’ll all learn a thing or two.
Photo Credit: Emily Theelen
Emily is a spoiled firstborn and an aspiring editor. She has a Bachelor of General Social Sciences from the University of Ottawa and works part-time as a waitress. In her spare time, she can be found in her apartment compiling her imaginary sneaker collection on Pinterest, snacking, and balancing on her head (sometimes at the same time).