While most Americans — men, boys, women and girls — would never classify themselves as misogynistic or purveyors of injustice and inequality between the sexes, it remains quite clear that our society is plagued by silent prejudice against women. This is easily observable in the objectification of women, the prevalence and acceptance of sexual assault and rape, the commoditization of young women through the availability and popularity of pornography, the sexualization of girls, and the trafficking and exploitation of both poor and minority women. Less talked about, yet equally impactful is the silent prejudice that is the continual passive and subconscious enforcement of outdated gender stereotypes that make even the most successful women harbor physical insecurities about their bodies and continue to stop today’s girls from dreaming big and remaining autonomous.
If you think you’re immune and not participating in an unequal gender culture, think again. We don’t realize that even in the tiny things we do, say, purchase and consume, we are enforcing and tolerating unequal gender stereotypes. If you want to make a tiny difference to help move our culture forward for women, I have a very simple and easy suggestions: review the following five words, think about the impact of a flippant phrase on a child or your female coworker, and consider banning them from your vocabulary.
Bitch. A bitch is a dog in heat. A dog in heat is driven by instinct to have one thing on her mind: to mate and be mated with. A dog is subservient to human beings and used as a companion. A dog is owned and is considered property under the law. Now, insert “woman” for dog in the preceding sentences. Enough said.
Bossy. Sheryl Sandberg and other high-profile ladies such as former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, designer Diane Von Furstenburg, “Queen Bey” and Jennifer Garner have taken part in the #BanBossy campaign. It was designed to fight against not just the use of the “other B” word, but also the idea that strong-minded, little girls with leadership qualities are taught to stay quiet and be subjugated to the background, while little boys with the same skill sets are identified as “driven,” “ambitious” and “born leaders.” The result is generations of women that have been taught to shut up, stay quiet, let the men talk, and navigate leadership and the road to success by hemming, hawing and not trying to tick anyone off. While #BanBossy has been criticized for focusing on a symptom, as opposed to a problem, I challenge you to try and think of the last time you called a boy or a man “bossy.”
Keep thinking….I’ll wait….keep going….still here, don’t fret…
Yeah. I figured. You haven’t.
In the brilliant words of Beyonce: “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss.” So, get used to it.
Slut. In “Mean Girls,” Tina Fey’s character tells the female high school seniors, “girls, you have to stop calling each other sluts and whores.” Ms. Norbury was never so right.
This word is used to describe any woman who is sleeping around. Or not. It’s often used to imply that a teenage girl or a young woman is sleeping around. It is the word of choice to demean a woman’s character, aligning a woman’s desire to have sex with a man, or several men, as a sign that she is less valuable as a human being or not as worthy of respect than those women who do not.
Recently on the TV sitcom “New Girl,” one character said to the other, “It’s time to do the Walk of Shame.” Zoe Deschanel’s character looked her in the eye and said, “You know, men just call it leaving.”
There is an inherent paradox in our society. Men are congratulated and admired for their sexual promiscuity and ability to convince women to engage in sex. Women are cast out and judged. Our society celebrates one gender for its ability to do what we consider devaluing to the other gender. That message tells us that women are not only unequal, but women are here to be used as instruments for men’s pleasure.
Just knock it off.
C–T. This word is disgusting and one of the most vulgar in the English language. By using it, you are referring to a woman’s genitalia in a derogatory manner. Get with the program: vaginas are beautiful. They give life. Everyone came out of one (unless your mom had a C-section; if she did, she still used her beautiful vagina to make you.). We don’t have to give you access to ours because you demand it. Next time you want to use the C-word, as in the commonly heard phrase, “YOU are a C–t Face!,” may I suggest you insert “Vagina,” instead? Vagina Face may not have the same impact for which you were searching, but at least you won’t be verbally assaulting the woman to whom you are speaking.
Have a little respect.
PMSing. “What bleeds for five days and doesn’t die? A bitch on her period! Ha ha!”
That is super, duper funny, right?
Please stop using the word “PMSing” as a verb to describe actions that do not give you pleasure. Perhaps you used this word as part of a question to your girlfriend after she reacted angrily because, I don’t know, maybe you woke her up in the middle of the night when she had bronchitis to have sex with you.
As in, “What is wrong with you? Are you PMSing or something?”
Or maybe you used it when your wife suggested you go out for a high-caloric meal or orders popcorn WITH butter at the movies.
As in, “Are you seriously going to eat that? Remember, a minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips. You must be PMSing or something, right?”
Women are taught to value other people’s perception of them above their own desires, needs and feelings. A woman has a uterus. It is her nature to have a uterus. It is her nature to menstruate. Menstruation is a gift that indicates a healthy body and gives women the superpower to have babies. When you use the word “PMSing,” you disrespect her nature. You tell her that who she is by nature is bad and displeasing.
During a month heralded as National Women’s History Month and the one that holds International Women’s Day, we should all take a second to figure out how to make a culture of inclusion and equality possible. Unfortunately, March has also been full of stories about rape culture, domestic abuse (thanks for nothing, “Fifty Shades of Grey”), sexual assault and drugging, sexual trafficking, and the murder and systematic rape and subjugation of women. When will it stop? We need to start telling our girls that princess stories are fun, but princesses can save themselves, and THEY can save themselves by not tolerating or perpetuating verbal abuse.