Watch Your Language!

So we all know that we’re not there yet in terms of gender equality. We see and experience a patriarchal society every day. Here are some of the commonplace words and phrases that, in my opinion, further cement this on a day to day basis.

Girlboss – what does this even mean? The implications seem to be that it’s so extraordinary for a woman/girl to be a boss that we need a separate phrase to describe it.

Bossy – When was the last time you heard a man or boy being described as bossy? Need I say more. Maybe this isn’t as much of an issue with children growing up now, I’d genuinely be interested to know, but certainly growing up in the 90s assertive young women were shamed for being bossy meanwhile their male peers could take the lead without comment. “She’s not bossy, she’s the boss.’

Man up – I catch myself using this phrase still. I call myself out on it of course, and I’m using it less and less, but growing up this was a totally normal phrase. It’s damaging for men and women by instilling the ideal that men can’t show emotion and can’t be weak and that women are required be more like men.

Skinnie Minnie – This one on first glance maybe doesn’t fit with the theme of this post however when we note that this is apparently the ultimate compliment for women in our culture. Congratulations for not taking up space… Ummm ok. Women seem to be on the receiving end of the worst of diet culture and by using phrases like this we are encouraging our own oppression.

“That’s so gay” – Thankfully people are using this less and less but I still hear it, particularly when the school kids are out at lunchtime. Another phrase I’ve heard from them was “you’re such a bender” which is particularly troubling as you have to question where they are learning this. We no longer get that kind of language in the media so they must be getting this stuff at home. It’s not difficult to understand how wrong these phrases are – gay is not a synonym for rubbish. No matter which definition for the word gay you use this makes no sense. Homophobic slurs are not cool, witty or clever so why are children still hearing this, learning it and repeating it?

“[Insert adjective] for a girl.” (Strong, clever, articulate etc etc.) Why are we still using these phrases as “compliments”? There is nothing complimentary about it. And while we’re at it why are we infantilizing grown women.  

In that same vein “the girls in the office” is a phrase I hear at work A LOT and it makes me squirm with rage. Let’s stop belittling women, it’s very tiresome to be fighting this same nonsense day in and day out in 2017.

Are there any phrases that you think I’ve forgotten? Leave them in the comments below.

V ❤

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4 thoughts on “Watch Your Language!

  1. Rebecca Claire says:

    I love that you’ve got so many in here that I didn’t manage to squeeze into my post. Girlboss is one that I hate but really loved her book and her story when I read it… which is a total shame. But more than anything calling grown women girls is something we all do! Then again, I would call most of my male friends lads or guys rather than men. I feel like man/woman is more used for the over 40s and lad/ladies is what I would say for anyone who’s in their twenties/thirties. I’m gonna really watch myself now and see if I say girl!

    Rebecca, libfemblog.com xo

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  2. Hannah says:

    I totally still use some of these and kick myself every time I do. However, I take real acception to the derogatory use of the word ‘gay’ and even to this day find myself having the conversation as to why it’s such a crap thing to do on a weekly basis.

    Last week I had a blazing row with someone using t ‘ironically’ if love to hear your views on it. He wasn’t gay and he believed that using it ironically was fine. I don’t think it should be used in any way, even to poke fun at the people who use it in place of ‘crap’ and it really upsets me how prevalent it still is.

    I used to use it as a child (and I’m in no way proud of that) until a relative called me out on it and explained the issue. My heart literally sunk at the idea of them hearing me refer to such a huge part of who they were in that way and it still upsets me to this day.

    I think I need to start having the same attitude to the other terms in your list – no way do I want my younger sister thinking she needs the prefix ‘girl’ before she can be a boss.

    I’m not sure about bossy though – I’m aware of the problems, but I tend to tackle them by using it to refer to either gender when they’re being a bit mard about giving orders. What are your thoughts on that?

    H xx

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  3. Sarah Athow-Frost says:

    Interesting article- some good points to consider. I slightly disagree with ‘bossy’ though- because I literally call my husband bossy all the damn time! That’s what he is! And I call him on it. I don’t think bossy is always uniquely female. Good post!

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