Our language matters a great deal, and that silly nursery rhyme of:
Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.
…is categorically and 100% untrue.
Names and words DO and CAN hurt.
I refuse to start calling people gender-neutral names, and I am not advocating for an overhaul of the language but if we think about other languages and how they’ve evolved from those cultures.
If you consider these examples:
BACHELOR versus SPINSTER
Admit it, the first thing you thought when you heard those words were:
Fun-loving single guy
Sad cat lady
Why are men swinging, fun-loving bachelors (watch: Last Vegas which by the way was actually quite funny), and older single women are sad, lonely spinsters looking for love while petting their 30 cats at night while watching The Bachelor?
MARI versus FEMME
Or that we say in French “mari” for husband but “femme” (also means woman) for wife it makes you wonder why it isn’t “marié‘ for women instead which would follow the word convention.
I have no basis in this as fact, but I wonder if it is because women are not accorded a proper status in society in the past when that language was created, and therefore “femme” was good enough because it meant “woman”, and whether she was a wife or a woman, it was the same thing with zero distinction in status, in fact, relegating her to a status of an object of the husband.
EACH CULTURE HAS ITS OWN WORDS TO SEE THE WORLD
Each culture has different words and ways of phrasing things that make them see the world differently.
For instance in French, we say the word ‘eighty’ as “quatre-vingt” or four twenties.
Or ‘seventy’ as “soixante-dix” or sixty plus ten.
That shapes how you see numbers and how you do math.
In Québecois, they say in slang “ma blonde” for “my girlfriend”, even if she isn’t blonde!
Or they use religious words like “tabernacle” or “chalice” as swear words, based on the way religion shaped their language. We wouldn’t see the same sort of words as swear words in other languages or cultures that are not Christian.
I encourage you to think about it deeply — if you start looking and digging into language, you’ll see more and more of it appear.
I’d love to hear more examples in other languages!
And in our North American culture, specifically with gender?
A WOMAN IS HYSTERICAL BUT A MAN IS SELF-ASSURED AND CONFIDENT WHEN THEY COMPLAIN
When I am forceful at work with my words or my tone, I’m hysterical. I’m emotional and I’m unable to concentrate on the issue even if my words are rational and logical, but my voice is firm.
When a man says the same things I do, they’re self-assured, a real firecracker and “a boss”.
So I have to not only be friendly and warm, but also firm, without being too firm, but not too emotional with my tone because I am a woman.
Men? They get to say what they want in any manner they choose and people interpret it differently.
This is not all the time that it happens but it is also not a one-off situation where it only happened once in my life.
It happens on every project I have ever been on.
“YOU THROW/LIFT/CRY/WHATEVER LIKE A GIRL”
You’re just insulting girls now, and by extension, all the important women in your life.
Being sensitive is not a bad thing, and frankly, I am going to encourage Baby Bun’s empathy and sensitivity to the world.
You don’t have to be tough and manly all the time to be a man, you SHOULD also recognize you’re a human being first, and human beings (all of us) crave love, acceptance and understanding.
Other phrases to cut out of your language:
- Sissy mary
- Mama’s boy
- Girlie (does anyone say “boy-ie” in the same derogatory manner?)
Add more in the comments!
IT STARTS WITH US & THE YOUNGER GENERATION
Your girls, your boys, anyone younger than you, should all be educated that language hurts.
If Baby Bun comes home saying things about girls (AND BOYS!) in a mean, derogatory manner, I’ll have to simply point out that Mommy is a Girl and Daddy is a Boy, so are you saying that about us?
I won’t discredit his feelings or say that he’s being silly, but I will point out that he can say someone is being mean to him without being rude or condescending about it.
(And that it’s real life.)
WHY DOES IT CHANGE FROM COLLEGE?
More follow-up questions from Ida’s previous emails said:
Why is everything so much more complicated than I thought?! In college, I have always felt I was treated as an equal to male classmates, but it seems like that all shifts after school? Is that accurate? If so, why the dramatic shift?
To be clear, in school (10+ years ago), I felt that half the guys treated me as their equals and the other half looked down on me because I was a woman and therefore unable to understand numbers or really technical details like in investing.
(Ironic really if you see me as a blogger now & with my career.)
I am happy, VERY happy to hear that women like Ida are experiencing full equality in classrooms.
I think you’re lucky that in your generation men are having mothers who were raised with more liberal outlooks.
Your mothers are about 10 years younger than mine, and my son has me as a mother which means he will be raised with very liberal views as well, and I’ll not be using language like “mamas boy” or “throw like a girl” as derogatory terms.. Which I think a lot of that happened in my generation and older.
With each passing generation I have a greater hope that the men will stand up and fight for women alongside them instead of defending against them.
“It is a joint fight not a divisive gender war.”
In school you may feel equal but when you’re in the workforce you’re not working for your peers, you’re working with them and they may learn quickly what they have to change to get ahead.
Or I hope not and these young men may refuse to play the game.
For now, you’ll be working for people raised under very different times and until they phase out into retirement and your cohort eventually takes over it will be a while before what we are saying is accepted as fact.
EVERYONE is a feminist if they want equal rights for women and until everyone learns that, it will not change.
Starts with us, and our children and so on.
I’m starting to see some progress but it is slow to overturn the bureaucracy that exists at the top, celebrating and promoting older white males.
Not every “older white male” is bad (I should know, my partner is one), but even he recognizes that they do have a significant privilege which they may not want to relinquish.
Some fight to keep it and others act differently.
It is all a question of education and working alongside like minded women who show them that they can be equal or better, and not just inferior.