Everyday Misogyny: 122 Subtly Sexist Words about Women (and what to do about them)


Everyday Misogyny: 122 Subtly Sexist Words about Women (and what to do about them) | Sacraparental.com


‘Feisty’ is one.

‘Bossy’ gets a lot of press.

And don’t get me started on ‘working mother’. How many men have you heard described as ‘working fathers’, let alone ‘dadpreneurs’?

Subtly sexist words about women and girls.

Not the obvious, awful insulting words (which are depressingly many and varied), but the ones that fly under the radar, and contribute to a culture that undervalues women.

I started writing them down a little while ago. I was musing on how men don’t get complimented on being ‘bubbly’ or ‘chatty’, and that these are behaviours that are, well, unthreatening to men: is that why they are compliments?

And doesn’t the act of writing for all the world to see sound less brave and revolutionary when you slap a label on it like ‘mummy blog’?

I got to a list of seventeen before asking my friends at the Feminist Mothers Aotearoa Facebook group for their un/favourite examples.

Last I looked, the thread had 425 comments and replies. I’ve added most of the suggestions to this list, though I’ve omitted a great number of the direct insults that we can all recognise as sexist (even if some people think they are acceptable for use.)

The list has gone from my seventeen to 122 words or phrases used against women.

Is this trivial? Should we spend our time on something more important? Here’s Dotty Winters’ take on the question:

Women are either equal to men, or they aren’t and language that goes unchallenged is one of the many ways we allow inequality to lurk around in the dusty corners of offices. There are huge and shocking implications for gender inequality worldwide. People die, are refused healthcare, or suffer attack as a result of gender. Faced with these atrocities it can feel petty to gently challenge the unequal use of the word ‘abrasive’ but the same system perpetuates both behaviours and it’s all based on the same flawed logic.

[Read more at Standard Issue.]

This is what I think: the world would be a better place if everyone stopped talking about and to women like this, especially if it’s because they’re identifying and eradicating their own, sometimes unconscious, sexism.

Remember this pyramid? The words in today’s post are sprinkled liberally through all three of the bottom layers, and even higher.


Violence Pyramid by Ashley Fairbanks | Sacraparental.com

Image description: Persona A: “It was just a joke! Why do you care?” Person B: “Sexual violence exists on a pyramid. Your joke contributes to a culture of violence.” Pyramid of five layers: 1: the top, pinnacle = murder; 2: rape, sexual assault, physical, emotional and financial abuse; 3: harassment, threats and verbal abuse; 4: traditional roles, glass ceiling, rigid gender-based stereotypes, 5: sexist/homophobic/transphobic jokes, problematic language, objectification. Artist: Ashley Fairbanks, used with kind permission.


And of course it’s not an either/or dichotomy. We can care about the language we use and still fight human rights abuses in Myanmar and child marriage around the world. Indeed, changing how we talk to and about women will help us dismantle rape culture and raise kids who are world-changers.

So here is my list so far of dozens of sneakily sexist words to get us all thinking. Please leave a comment with your response, and any ideas you have about making the world a better place for everyone.

You’ll nod in agreement with some of these examples, and be puzzled at the inclusion of others. Everything here is listed because a real woman has heard it in use and understood it to be used in a sexist way. Feel free to exclaim that you didn’t know a particular word could be sexist, but please don’t dismiss people’s experiences as you do so. I will be moderating the comments to ensure we have a friendly discussion. No sexist comments will be published.

A special thank you to my very favourite satirical Twitter account, @manwhohasitall, some of whose gems have been turned into graphics on Facebook, reproduced below. The best is on Twitter, though, so do go and follow her. (I’m going on record with my hunch that she’s a she.)

Double-standards: These words punish women for behaviour that is acceptable from men

These words are used against women who have ideas and opinions and are confident in expressing them



A ball-buster.









Opinion manwhohasitall


We can probably all agree that these are words people use to show criticism and disapproval. What’s less obvious is that they are sexist, for two key reasons:

  1. these words are used disproportionately often against women
  2. the behaviour they describe often goes unremarked in men.

Here’s some more context for this, again from Dotty Winters:

A 2014 study for Fortune.com by Kieran Snyder examined 248 reviews from 180 people, (105 men and 75 women). The reviews came from 28 different companies, all in the tech sector, and included a range of organisational sizes.

One word appeared 17 times in reviews of women, and never in any of the reviews of men: ‘abrasive’. Other words were disproportionately applied to women, including bossy, aggressive, strident, emotional and irrational. Aggressive did appear in two reviews of men, in the context of them being urged to be more aggressive. Reviews of women only ever used aggressive as a criticism. The gender of the person writing the review didn’t affect the results of the study.

[Read more at Standard Issue.]


From the Ban Bossy campaign, and heaps more in this post about subtly sexist language | Sacraparental.com


Take action

When men and women display the same behaviours in, say, a workplace, men are much more likely to be called ‘assertive’ ‘confident’, ‘powerful’ or ‘a strong leader’, while women get this list.

How can we change things for the better?

  1. If you find yourself describing a woman with one of these words, ask yourself what you would say if a man behaved this way. Would you comment at all? How would you describe him? Think carefully before letting any of these words out of your mouth. Here’s a tough question to think hard about: is the problem with the woman or with you?
  2. If you hear someone else describe a woman this way, what could you say? Please leave suggestions in the comments below! One possible script, to attempt to open up conversation: ‘Hm, it’s interesting you call her ‘shrill’. I don’t hear men with strong opinions called that. Have you ever thought about that?’
  3. If someone describes you with these words, especially in a performance appraisal setting, calling out sexism can be a big deal.
    Responding to professional (or any other) criticism is a complex dance of emotional intelligence, and each work setting has its own challenges. If you want to call someone on sexist feedback, you could try something like:
    ‘I’m interested that I’m being called ‘bossy’ and ‘opinionated.’ I wonder if you could help me sift through that feedback, and see what I can take from it. One concern I have is that studies show that women and men displaying the same professional behaviour get seen differently, with women being called ‘bossy’ and men ‘powerful’, for instance. How much of this feedback is because I’m a woman, do you think?’
    Again, please leave your suggestions and wisdom in the comments below.

Anyone who is involved in giving performance appraisals, mentoring people or otherwise evaluating and describing human beings as a job, might want to stick this advice to journalists from Gloria Steinem on their walls (feel free to copy it and pop it in someone’s in-tray):

The most workable definition of equality for journalists is reversibility. Don’t mention her young children unless you would also mention his, or describe her clothes unless you would describe his, or say she’s shrill or attractive unless the same adjectives would be applied to a man. Don’t say she’s had facial surgery unless you say he dyes his hair or has hair plugs. Don’t say she’s just out of graduate school but he’s a rising star. Don’t say she has no professional training but he worked his way up. Don’t ask her if she’s running as a women’s candidate unless you ask him if he’s running as a men’s candidate. A good test of whether or not you as a reporter are taking sexism seriously is whether you would cite race, class, ethnicity, or religion in the same context.

[Read more in the The Women’s Media Center’s Media Guide to Gender Neutral Coverage of Women Candidates and Politicians, by Rachel Joy Larris and Rosalie Maggio, available as a PDF.]


From the Ban Bossy campaign, and heaps more in this post about subtly sexist language | Sacraparental.com


These words are used against women, when similar behaviour by men goes unremarked


Dramatic (as in Drama Queen).





Ice queen.





Words about women - what not to say! | Sacraparental.com






-nazi, eg, Feminazi

Militant, eg, militant feminist.

-zilla, eg, Bridezilla


Prima donna.

Blonde (how many men are said to have ‘blonde moments’?)

Have you ever heard a man called a gossip? I’ve certainly heard men engage in the activity, but not criticised for it very often. And as I read somewhere recently, if you think men don’t start ‘drama’, you need to pick up a history book.

Take action

Unkindness is unkindness, whatever the gender of the person practising it. If we need to speak about poor behaviour, let’s choose words that are not unfairly gendered.

  1. Before you comment on a woman’s tone or attitude, consider whether you need to at all. Seriously.
  2. If you do need to, choose a word that could equally describe a man’s behaviour. Say that someone is being unkind, rude, selfish or inconsiderate. English has plenty of options.
  3. Ask yourself if you speak critically about men as often as you do about women.

The Women’s Media Center has a several-page glossary of sexist terms with context and, critically, gender-neutral synonyms. Check it out whenever you think of a sexist word that you are in the habit of using and would like to change. Here’s their entry for ‘strident’, for example:

strident used primarily to describe women (especially feminists) indiscriminately and discriminatingly, “strident” (as well as “shrill”) has become a stereotype that means little more than “She makes me sick!” Alternatives include: harsh, jarring, raucous, dissonant, discordant, unharmonious, clashing, sharp.

[Read more in the The Women’s Media Center’s Media Guide to Gender Neutral Coverage of Women Candidates and Politicians, by Rachel Joy Larris and Rosalie Maggio, available as a PDF.]


Patronising words, with no male equivalent



Working mother.

Career woman (have you heard of ‘career men’? Or as they’re usually known, ‘men’?)

Yummy mummy.

Little old lady (I like to imagine that woman driving an ambulance in the World War II, or doing a family’s laundry without electricity.)

WAHM (Work-at-home mum): As Katie Macintyre wrote, “When I work from home I’m a “working from home Mum”. When my husband works from home he “has his own business” with no mention of the fact that he’s a Dad.”

Fierce. This one is newish, and seems to be used mostly by women applying it to themselves, and each other, without pejorative or patronising intention, but I reckon it can go either way. See for instance how flowery the illustrations of Shakespeare’s use of the word are in this Pinterest search:

And though she be but little she is fierce.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, III, ii

Spirited. I can’t think that I’ve heard it of a man, except for groups and teams: ‘a spirited defence’.

(I’m not your) mother:


westpac ad sexist


Take action

Stop using these words, eh? Or be careful to use words like ‘spirited’ and ‘feisty’ of men and boys too, if you enjoy using them in a positive way.

‘Working mother’ is a tricky one. It’s probably more useful for society to see both fathers and mothers as people who work both at home and in other jobs, so rather than abolish ‘working mother’, it might be nice to popularise seeing men as ‘working fathers’.

Andie Fox at Blue Milk writes some of my favourite stuff on how women’s care work is largely unacknowledged and unpaid. She’s an economist and a brilliant writer. Check out her stuff for more nuance:

On the economics of divorce: What Scott Morrison fails to understand about how divorce affects women

The truth about how your home life interferes with your work life

On in/equality in parenting (This one hit me like a train.)


These words insult women based on their sexuality and sexual expression









Asking for it.


The town bike.

And yes, about a hundred more, including some examples of things men had called real women I know that made me feel ill.

Take action

This one’s easy. Don’t comment on other people’s sexuality or sexual expression if you’re not, you know, participating in it.

A good test to use, if you really do need to talk about sexual behaviour – perhaps in the abstract, with a teenager – is, again, only to use language that fits people of any gender.

Try to take all the judgment and emotion out of what you’re talking about. It might be a challenge, and it’ll be good for everyone.

These sexist words about physical appearance aren’t used for men

Mutton dressed as lamb.





(That dress is) flattering.


Let herself go.

Faded beauty.


Plus-size (have you ever heard of a plus-size model who was male?)



Take action

How other people choose to dress is none of anyone else’s damn business.

My mother was, of course, correct in her advice: if you can’t think of anything nice to say, just say nothing at all.

For more on this, I really love Andie Fox’s practice:

A little while ago while sitting on the beach I realised how good I am at picking faults in women’s bodies, my own included of course but that’s not really so surprising because I know my own body very well and I’ve been living in a misogynist world, oh all my life. What I found while sitting on the beach was that I could size up a woman in 10 seconds flat. So well trained was my eye that I could spot her imperfections in an instant. Worst of all I could do it completely without thinking. Hi, could you tell me which way to the cafe? Hey, thick ankles by the way.

I was repulsed by myself. So I tried something new. When I was next at the beach I made it my mission to find something I liked about every female body that my eyes came to rest upon. Once I got going it wasn’t even that difficult. And the most surprising thing for me? Not how differently I started to view other women (for that had been the whole point of the exercise) but how differently I started to view myself. My participation in the hatred of women’s bodies had been every bit a form of self-hatred.

[Read more at Blue Milk.]


These words praise women for behaviour that is unthreatening to the patriarchy









I think people often use these words (probably unconsciously) to praise women for being unthreatening.

There’s nothing wrong with being bubbly, but if it’s a word used to underestimate and undervalue women’s other qualities, maybe it’s one to relegate.

These words dismiss women as pawns of their hormones and physicality




Menstrual or pre-menstrual.




These basically mean ‘disagreeing while female’.


emotional manwhohasitall



Maternal (when not about one’s own children).



Baby brain (As someone said on the Fem Mamas page: ‘Ffs give exhaustion its real name’).

Baby weight.

These are problematic for a few reasons.

  1. Men can and ought to feel emotions, just as much as women, right? Colours are for everyone. Feelings are for everyone.
  2. Emotions are good things!
  3. It is patronising, presumptuous and insulting to dismiss a woman’s argument or behaviour by blaming it on her biology. If you don’t agree with her, say so. If you think she’s being unreasonable, say so. Don’t pretend you know anything about her personal biochemistry.
  4. It’s also tone policing, and that really has to stop.
  5. Some men and some women love small children. Some don’t. Let’s try to take people on their own terms without making assumptions about how they feel about kids.
  6. Women experience a lot of pressure in the realm of child-bearing. Lay off! A person can enjoy holding one baby without being ‘clucky’ or hearing her ‘clock tick’. As Sarah writes, ‘Get out of my uterus!’



Take action

  1. Choose gender neutral words if you must refer to someone’s irritability or unreasonableness. But first: is she being unreasonable, or is she just disagreeing with you?
  2. Don’t let these comments slide when you hear them.If you’re feeling sarky:
    ‘Exactly which hormone do you think makes her disagree with you?’
    ‘I might be interested in my endocrinologist’s opinion of my hormone levels, but not yours.’For a more opening-the-conversation callout:
    ‘When you call me ‘hormonal’, it feels icky. I don’t want you talking about my body like that.’
    ‘You know emotions are good things, right? Let’s talk sensibly about the issue, but let’s not pretend we aren’t human beings who feel things while we do it.’
    ‘Please don’t dismiss my argument in such a sexist, rude way.’What else could we say? Pop a comment below with your suggestions, please!


[A brief interruption…]

I still have lots of sexist words and phrase to cover here!

Just before we get to them, I wanted to mention that I’ve just started a Patreon account. If you’ve found this article thoughtful and useful, and would like to support me to write more stuff like this, head on over. You can leave your suggestions, vote for what the next article will be, and make my writing possible. Thanks!


I don't take advertising or sponsorship for anything on Sacraparental. A new way you can give me time to write this kind of article is through Patreon. Come on over and have a look - you even get some behind-the-scenes stuff :)

I don’t take advertising or sponsorship for anything on Sacraparental. A new way you can give me time to write this kind of article is through Patreon. Come on over and have a look – you even get some behind-the-scenes stuff 🙂


These sexist words minimise women’s achievements

Mummy blogger.

Female engineer.

That’s good, for a girl.

Like a girl (run like a girl, throw like a girl).



Dadpreneur manwhohasitall



Take action

Swap these words for gender neutral ones:

Blogger. Business owner. Entrepreneur. Good.


mia hamm run like a girl


Words that define women by their relationship to men and children



She wears the pants.



Soccer mom.


Kept woman.


Words about women’s health that should be renamed

These brilliant suggestions came from a member of the Facebook group.

I bet there are plenty more that women would like to rename or reclaim, since pretty much everyone doing the anatomical, physiological and medical naming over the years has been male.

Incompetent cervix.

Failure to progress.

Elderly primagravida.

Irritable uterus.

What would make your list? Please leave a comment below.

These words limit girls and boys and perpetuate sexism.

How we speak to and about kids is a larger topic, of course. Here are just a few words to be careful about:

Princess (as a default term of address to a girl you don’t know well.)

Tomboy (because a girl who likes to climb is no less a girl.)

Girly (‘a girly girl’) (because boys can like pink and sparkles, and not all girls do.)

Little lady.


Heart-breaker (and any other words that sexualise little kids, suggesting they are into romance or sex when they’re only four years old.)

Pretty (I’m just suggesting that if you use this, it’s not the first thing you say, or the thing you say most often to a child. Another opinion here, though.)

And let’s put bossy in here again, too.


Bossy holds girls back | Sacraparental.com


Take action

Think hard about why you use any of these, and whether your use of them dismantles or reinforces a sexist world. Consider ditching them and looking for replacements you’ll enjoy using to build up the kids you love.

For dozens of phrases for feminist parenting, check out my post here.


Colours are for everyone - and heaps of other ideas of things to say with kids to help them experience freedom | Sacraparental.com


These words pit women against one another



Mommy wars

When two men or groups of men are debating, we call it debating, or discussion. If they yell, we call it robust, or heated. Or Parliament.

When two groups of women are debating, let’s call it debating, too.

These words damn with faint praise

There’s nothing wrong with these words in themselves, but research on the references people write for graduates (see below) has shown that they are more often used for women than for men, who are more likely to get words of more ringing endorsement like ‘excellent’, ‘accomplished’ or ‘successful’.












These words come from this fantastic tip-sheet from the University of Arizona Commission on the Status of Women, available as a PDF here:

Avoiding sexism in reference writing

I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit tired after all of that. Shall we chat further in the comments?

If you’re so inclined, you can also follow me on Facebook (for daily links and resources), Twitter (for general ranting) and Pinterest (for plantations of links including my Gender Politics board).

You can also make more articles like this possible – and weigh in on what I should write next – by joining my Patreon.


Everyday Misogyny: 122 Subtly Sexist Words about Women (and what to do about them) | Sacraparental.com

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94 comments on “Everyday Misogyny: 122 Subtly Sexist Words about Women (and what to do about them)”

  1. Francesca Reply

    Fantastic list! Reading it I kept nodding and wincing as I thought how often I’ve heard all of these. Love the quote at the beginning too, especially ‘People die, are refused healthcare, or suffer attack as a result of gender’ . There is a serious problem in the healthcare industry where female patients are assumed to be ‘dramatic’ or ‘hysterical’ about their symptoms (or their children’s) , and this can be very, very costly.

      • Rachel Reply

        Also, how do we get this demeaning language out of movies and shows?
        Why is it when a woman is strong and advocates her rights as an equal human men automatically are threatened and attempt to gaslight.? Just like all the male haters of Ellen. It’s up to narrow minded people to educate themselves and develop empathy, however, males don’t comprehend what it’s been like for women and lack the empathy to try to understand it. I suppose they are just simply extremely fragile humans.

    • Robert Reply

      Upon reading this article, I was saddened to see what this society has come to. You complain about words like ‘bubbly, working mother, etc.’ but there are words that are used to describe exclusively to men too. ‘Macho, effeminate, house husband, etc.’

      This hypersensitive nation is encouraging people to feel offended, but feminism is a dying cause. You are doing more harm than good, and your fellow women know it! The same happened to me. I am a gay man, and in the 15 years that I have been out, I’ve never faced abuse. But I have taught to takenoffence to a slew of questions and comments that simply aren’t offensive, unless you convince yourself that they are.

      The gender wage gap does not take into consideration women’s career choice, that in general just happen to be different from those of men. Furthermore, I can tell you that I have NEVER come across a woman who earned a single cent less than me for doing the same job. That’s illegal.

      It’s commonplace to come across feminists inventing new, creative ways to feel offended, and it’s SO damaging.

      What used to be a fine cause that helped secure the female vote and the female’s right to work has turned into something bitter and man-hating. I am sorry if this post offends.

      • thaliakr Reply

        Robert, I’m afraid you are incorrect in a few of your assumptions here, and missing a few points.

        1. This is an article about language used against women. You are welcome to write one about words like macho and effeminate. That would be a different article. See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whataboutism

        2. You speak about a society and nation, but don’t identify your own. I live in New Zealand, and I would definitely not describe it as hypersensitive to offence.

        3. Feminism is neither a dying cause, nor one that is doing more harm than good.

        4. I’m glad you have had the pleasant experience of never being abused. You are in a minority. It would be wise and compassionate for you to listen to those who are in the majority here.

        5. Your information on the gender pay gap is simply incorrect. You may like to do some further reading. Here’s a place to start if you need it: http://women.govt.nz/work-skills/income/gender-pay-gap

        6. I don’t hate men, and I don’t see anything in this article that suggests I do. You seem to be creating a straw, er, person.

        • Rachel Reply

          Way to put the mansplaining it it’s place! Also, men haven’t been oppressed for centuries!!! EAT THAT!

      • Youredoingamazing Reply

        This post still makes me chuckle. “You’re just offended! You’re sensitive!” is one of my favorite protest-phrases for “I disagree”, because it manages to make the writer look…offended. When I see something that offends me, I roll my eyes and move on. I can’t say I’ve ever read an article that I’ve disagreed with just to comment “You’re all just overly-sensitive and offended!” But maybe that’s just not my personality. Anyone that doesn’t know that WW make .75 cents on the dollar, and WOC- even less *when adjusted for job title* doesn’t care to know. That study has been out for so long, there’s no excuse to not be aware of it, especially if you’re going to position yourself as someone who can disprove it. As a woman in tech with the exact same (down to college and post-grad university) credentials as my husband I can tell you that our salaries have never been close, even while working for the same (progressive) company in the same position at the same time. (No, it’s not because I didn’t ask for a raise, I did- he didn’t have to, it was just offered to him because “he had/has potential”.) “Potential” is another great word. Whereas a man “has great potential” a female candidate often “lacks prior experience”. When I managed people, I had to do countless interviews, evaluations, etc. If you don’t think this happens during the hiring process, then you either conveniently fail to notice because you benefit from said system or you’ve never worked in a hiring capacity before. And that’s before a company even thinks about hiring a woman of child-bearing age. Ever go to a an interview workshop? Men are encouraged to wear wedding rings as to appear “stable”. While women (of child-bearing age) are discouraged from wearing a wedding ring to interviews because “Well, she’s just going to get pregnant and leave in a year, and the on-boarding process is expensive.” (Forget about the health insurance!) Do these everyday things “offend” me? Not really. But we deal with them as inevitable facts. For example, we knew that going into the same company with the same title, same educational background, and same certifications, he’d get paid more, get bigger bonuses, get a better benefits package, and receive more promotions. We just deal with it as part of our reality. Believe it or not, I’m not hysterically upset over life, but I’m not going to lie and pretend that we live in some fantasy where everyone is treated fairly and gets the same interview. Race, gender, and sexual orientation are legally protected classes for a reason. The Supreme Court wasn’t just having PMS that day.

    • JC Reply

      It’s true. I’ve lived it and its not something I’d wish on anyone. I’m so grateful that in the 21st centuary doctors are being trained differently than they were when i was a child and I’m very pleased that I can stand my ground with the doctors despite being unwell and stressed. Being calm and talking about how you feel and making it clear that you want to help them help you is important. I tell them what I need too in a respectful way. I feel it’s my duty as the majority of the doctors who treat me are younger than me.

  2. Jenni Reply

    I was just mulling this over and it occurred to me that even the words used to describe physical attractiveness are, in themselves, quite telling. Think ‘pretty’ & ‘beautiful’, words that are also used to describe scenery and objects. I don’t recall hearing of many handsome paintings, for example.

    • thaliakr Reply

      I feel like ‘handsome’ as a general adjective was more common 100-200 years ago (I’m thinking Anne of Green Gables usage!), also used to describe women. But you’re right, it’s definitely not used now for anything other than men, whereas pretty and beautiful are general-purpose.

    • Angela Reply

      Words like “pretty” and “beautiful” are used to describe things that evoke strong emotion. Sometimes it is used to describe objects and scenery, but that is because the thing in question is evoking strong emotion from the person describing it. It doesn’t mean that women are being compared to objects.

  3. Jessica Parsons Reply

    Loved reading this! If you’re still adding, then on medical terms that should be reclaimed, then “hysterectomy” is top of my list.

      • Lori Reply

        Well… except that “hyst” part is the Greek-derived root word referring to the uterus. Equivalent to the medical term “oophorectomy” – there’s no judgement there, it’s just a descriptive term. “Hysteria” and “hysterical”, however, came from the idea that intensely and intrusively emotional states (in women) were due to the uterus, and those terms *do* need to be eradicated.
        (this from a person who learned medical terminology as part of training to be a medical office assistant, and again later in training to be a pharmacist)

  4. Sarah Reply

    Long time reader, first time commenter 🙂 Reading your posts always takes me so long because I have to follow so many links and I get all distracted and don’t come back to comment. You make me think really hard with posts like this. I grew up with two older brothers, and a father who is pretty dominant, and so much of this is just (I think) completely unconscious for them, and so for me too. And my brothers have daughters, and it’s likely the same for them too. It’s so so so hard to swim against the tide. But so important when I look at that pyrimid. I think my first step is to share this on my (recently revived) and see how that does. Thanks so much for putting this on my radar. Have to go follow some of those links now.

  5. FC Reply

    Brilliant post, (as usual!) Thank you. Lots of to think about, and in the mean time, my husband and I can play bingo when we go to visit my f-in-law next week!

  6. Mary Sea Reply

    What a valuable post. Flip. It certainly warrants multiple re-reads as many of those words are part of my everyday lexicon. Or should that be EXicon? Thanks for the enriching piece of writing!

  7. Charlene Reply

    Ooh I needed this. I was speaking to a friend today and she has just started a new job. She said, I’m so glad there’s more guys in this job – hopefully it will be less bitchy. I felt hurt and offended on behalf of my sisters but I didn’t want to sound preachy so I said nothing. In reading this I realise that if you expect ‘bitchiness’ surely that is what you’ll experience.

  8. Shan Reply

    Great article I have said why isnt it incompetent penis for erectile dysfynction if it is incompetent cervix? It’s also the lack of lexemes for women. What’s the female equivalent of emasculate?

  9. Pingback: The Ninety-Seventh Down Under Feminists Carnival | Zero at the Bone

  10. Steph Reply

    Nurturing. That’s one I get a lot — also “Co -dependent.” When was the last time you’ve seen a man labeled “nurturing” or “co-dependent”? I could probably think of others… for myself, I have certainly told men that they are “sensitive,” “co-dependent,” a “drama queen,” etc in an attempt to balance the playing field. Looking at this post is helpful in so many ways.

    • Chris Reply

      What I don’t understand is why words like “nurturing” should be taken as such an insult. Many women DO come across as more nurturing, and I for one would take it as a compliment.

    • Angela Reply

      I’m pretty sure “sensitive”, “co-dependent”, and “drama queen” are used for both genders. I actually wan’t sure why some of those words were in the list, a few of them weren’t female-exclusive. I know straight men who call themselves drama queens all the time.

  11. Eve Reply

    Excellent. I have a thing about misogyny and ‘putting women in their place’ language. I’m taking an educated guess here, but I think the Bible was written by males, from a male point of view. In the name “Eve” is the lesson: Everything bad that happens is because of you females. Males were created good; females were created bad. Except for Mary the Virgin: she was a good girl. Mary Magdalen: now she was a very bad girl – it took a man to make her good. Other examples, too many to mention. Most cultures are male dominated as we know. So many of these cultures have a clear message in their language about women and behaviours toward them: females must be controlled and dominated. It happens in our so-called enlightened nations, too. I feel that this may be an integral part of homo sapiens behaviour. We can challenge and vent all we like – but will it ever change?

    • Jotunn Reply

      I like how you comment really gets to the meat of the matter. And no the Bible was written by GOD, cough cough…short men cough cough.

      Honestly I don’t feel like it ever will change, its down to the basic fact that women have been systematicly oppressed and controlled because they have allot of power, and if you don’t control them hard, most men wouldn’t have a chance. And that is why violence is often towards women, that is the one area where men usually are more powerful. Women have so much sexual and psychological power, most men are fucking terrified, just take a look at the red pill blogs, its thousands of scared little 40 year old boys.

      However in more enlighten circles of people, lots of equality is currently happening, more confident men that know there value are much less threatened by women and value the equal companionship. The issue is allot more deeply rooted than allot of the feminist propaganda will admit. Its not a matter of stop saying these words and it will go away, maybe if you police hard enough the insecure men that are afraid of women will hide it better, I guess that’s good, better to be around. But the core dynamic will still be there, damn Im ranting, anyway, I liked your comment. I think the key is to always search out the good people, that will respect you. Amen praise god…..

  12. Alyce Reply

    I agree with a lot of these things BUT I feel some of these things almost make it out that we are ashamed to be women or embarrassed. Women do get their periods and menstruate and also have curvy bodies. And, I definitely no, that we do get moody and emotional. It is what we are and what our bodies are meant to do due to the increase in hormones. Therefore, there’s no need to lie about this, because it’s a fact. I’d rather embrace it and be open about it, not deny what I can’t control.
    AND baby weight is not an insult. That word is just for women and it is nothing to be ashamed about as women put on weight for childbirth.
    YES, a lot of these words are things we can attempt stop using, and the same goes for certain words towards men. However, in regards to the hormonal and emotional part; I can definitely tell you a lot more women have cried at work, compared to men. Women are more emotional than men, that is just how it is. Rather than make it a taboo topic and run away from it. I say just embrace it. Show them emotions are good and keep doing what you’re doing; then we may confront the issue that men hide their emotions and decrease the male suicide rate. We can all learn from each other. Respect and understanding is key

  13. Lorraine Reply

    One word that drives me crazy is “harridan”. I suppose curmudgeon is the male version but I still cringe over harridan.

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  15. Rachel Reveley Reply

    I was away from home with my 2 year old daughter for a few days and needed to distract her for a few minutes so found some kids TV. It was a programme called Milkshake which is basically an MC between shows.

    A programme about a princess finished and the male presenter started talking about the Princess being bossy. I emailed them immediately in disgust and of course had no reply.

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  18. Francine Reply

    I am also bothered by the use of “woman!” as a pejorative; typically used in frustration or anger. I have also heard “wench” used similarly-but that’s a little more obvious.

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  21. Crystal Reply

    Great list! I’m a little surprised MILF didn’t make the list. Men who use it seem to think it’s a compliment but It’s disgusting and I’ve never heard anyone talk about DILF’s

  22. Lauren Reply

    Great list, I am currently doing a design project on language and feminism focusing on the way we use ‘just’. It is something that women tend to do to ourselves, when we have achieved something some women tend to say “I’ve just done this” or “I was just about to get that to you” or “sorry I just…” thus in turn can diminish our reputation and put less value on the completed task. Men don’t tend to use it nearly as often. Maybe you could add a section on things we do ourselves without realising it. I know I said this far to often and is a very hard habit to break, but now I am aware of it and I think that’s the first step in change! I hope to find more words like this to add to the research so if you have any that would be great!

  23. Cortney Reply

    Earlier today, I suggested an alternate solution to a coworker. He told me not to get “worked up.” I’d add that somewhere on the list.

  24. Eve Reply

    I went to a Round Table ‘Ladies Night’ last night – the one night of the year when the wives are allowed to join their husbands at an evening meal. We women were toasted for our ‘beauty’. My husband remarked casually (and just for our table) that he could see a few ‘mingers’.

    I looked ‘minger’ up today – and all its synonyms and related idioms.

    I would like minger banned.

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  26. Marian Reply

    Thank you for this article! I came upon it while searching for guidance in addressing a colleague who refers to me as “supermom” (sigh). This article is quite validating and I feel better about initiating the conversation. Thank you!

  27. dave Reply

    I’d add “calculating” to this list. Seems very gender-specific in current times. Successful females are calculating, successful men are smart. As if rising in a chosen endeavor is trickery and subterfuge for a female, but aptitude and perseverance for a male

  28. Simon whorrall Reply

    I agree with 4 or the non gender specific terms but most of the rest are not good. X

  29. James Reply

    This information was meaningful to me. I have better understanding and am a better person having read it. Thank you, James

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  31. Rose Reply

    I was accused of bleating while trying to explain why it may be inappropriate for men to fundraise for a hospital by doing a bed push dressed as female nurses
    I was also told to
    Grow up
    Get a life
    And generally sneered at by men some of whom were also nurses
    I have a reasoned explanation which was followed by uneducated unthinking personal attacks

    • El Reply

      Hi Rose,

      I read your reply, and felt a pang of upset, because it reminded me of some very personal experiences of being insulted in a sexist way by – NURSES, SOME OF WHOM WERE MALE.

      For example, I worked in a Hospital as a Social Worker and my boss was a MALE NURSE. I am a female, and unfortunately I have been diagnosed with Endometriosis (please feel free to look this term up if you need to better understand it). Suffice it to say, my Endometriosis made me feel very ill, as it caused chronic pain, heavy periods, anaemia, and was growing very close to my bowel risking damaging it. I had time off work due to these symptoms, and was told by my MALE NURSE BOSS, “Why can’t you take an aspirin? Isn’t it just period pain?!” Talk about insensitive – and ill-educated!

      Also, my mother-in-law is an ex-nurse and still cannot understand that my inability to have given her grandchildren is directly related to my Endometriosis. Duh! She even accused me of being “a selfish career-woman”!

      Finally, my husband, also trained as a Nurse, makes offensive and sexist comments to me when I am suffering from painful periods and this makes me feel unwell. He has accused me of being “Hormonal”, and often tries to imply that I am “premenstrual” when actually I am annoyed at him because he has done something wrong or said something stupid. For example, he might have done something annoying like walk mud all over the floor, or burn food into the bottom of a pan, but if I point it out (e.g. ask why he left a pan unattended on the cooker and burned something) he will sometimes argue that I am only annoyed because I am “clearly suffering PMT”!

      It seems that Nurses can be extraordinarily sexist, despite their so-called “training”. Or, maybe, I have just met bad examples?

  32. Ray Reply

    Excellent article. I’m going to link this on a piece I’m writing I’m working on about rape culture, a term, that as a man, I had to look up and figure out how it applied to me and to our culture. I was looking for language that propagates violence against women, and while this list isn’t that exactly, it was still helpful. Language makes a difference in how we think and act, and we can train ourselves to stop using words with negative connotations, too many of which are focused on women.
    Very helpful

  33. Maureen Reply

    I have considered myself a feminist since The Women’s Room was published. That book really opened my eyes and changed my thinking and behaviour
    What a wake up call reading this has been.
    So many words and suggestions and facts to consider ! Overwhelming. Like another person suggested, I will start with “Would you say that or use that about a man?”
    Thank you. This is inspirational. Another medical tern “Boggy uterus”

  34. JC Reply

    Thank you for your video and the lists; I found them to be helpful, however I do not agree with some points with Tone Policing. It is never appropriate for someone to be around anger if they do not want to be. This is basic self respect. I think men and women need to understand masculine and feminine ways of expressing what is going on within. Debate is masculine and can harm depending on intention of the individual. I will never listen to a two year old small child in any adults body getting very upset and aggressive with me. People need to respect an individual and their life experience and adhere to my clear boundaries about how to treat me with respect and consideration for my feelings. This is true equality in action.

    • El Reply

      Just a bit baffled, J.C. – in what way do you imply that debate is “masculine”? Do you mean exclusively so? Are you inferring that females are incapable of debate? Might that not be somewhat sexist? I mean, ARE there truly “masculine” and “feminine” ways of expressing what goes on within, or is this just a way of viewing things based solely upon stereotypical notions of males and females? It is not really possible to say with any accuracy whether debate is “masculine”, or whether females do things differently. Some women may actually enjoy, and be very good at debate. Some men may be absolutely useless at it. Sadly, it seems to me your opinions here are a little confused, and gender stereotypical.

      And, yes, whilst I agree that people need to “respect an individual and their life experience” the fact that you then go on to say “adhere to MY clear boundaries about how to treat ME with respect and consideration for MY feelings” makes me wonder why the emphasis suddenly flips exclusively to YOU? After all, if this is what you expect, then one has to ask whether YOU respect other people’s boundaries, etc.

  35. JC Reply

    I really do think we must stop fighting and demanding equality. I find it is much healthier to accept others as doing their best given their upbringing and experience. I fully accept there is gender bias, however, chipping away at it through healthy discussion is the key. If people feel angry I am ok with what they feel but i never have to subject myself to emotional abuse by listening to their right to have their voice heard. Men are people too and i think a large majority of men born in later decades of 20th centuary are doing what they can to find true equality in society. I think accepting people as they are and educate with heart using masculine and feminine aspects of ourselves is helpful. It is important to mature from 20th centuary concept of feminism and ways of dealing with it as it can harm and keep us stuck in unintentional models of patriarchy that is unfair to both men and women and the generations they are raising.

  36. JC Reply

    How would you describe male childminders, nurses, homemakers, parents? I want to see feminism value the home and care of the vulnerable as it is fundamental to the health of the workplace. Each adult is responsible for the care of children and older generation through taxes and this needs to be worthy of respect for those who are skilled at this . It is important that people are valued for themselves and what they bring to the table.

    • El Reply

      Why the veiled criticism of Feminism? It appears you do not actually fully understand it. Because, if you did, you might understand that there are feminist schools of thought that study the division of labour, and which concentrate on understanding the value of things like work in the home, caring for children, and so forth. The point being, however, that society is erring when it tries to suggest that such things are exclusively female roles – this is what Feminists try to point out. NOT that such things are valueless. So, get your facts straight!

      Besides, it should be a PERSONAL CHOICE, irrespective of gender, as to whether a person wants a career, or wants to stay at home and raise babies. NOBODY other than that person, and their spouse/partner, should get to have a say in this. Problems occur when people (alas, including you) start trying to infer that roles are gender-oriented. Or that we should place value on x, y, or z. And when people start incorrectly accusing Feminists of devaluing the home or care of the vulnerable. This is WRONG, not only in that the facts are inaccurate (as I pointed out above), but also in that once you start trying to emphasize the value of one person’s choice compared to another, you fall into an endless and pointless argument. People’s lifestyle choices are THEIR OWN, and thus the value that they hold can only be measured in terms of how the PERSON CHOOSING VALUES IT. Anyone else’s judgement of what is valuable, or not, is subjective TO THEM, and thus not relevant to somebody else’s circumstances.

      It is sad that you get so mixed up in the points you want to make, by talking about valuing people for themselves, but then wrongly accusing Feminists of not valuing the home. This seems to infer that you would place extra emphasis upon the home, and child care – which, at the end of the day, risks becoming sexist, because these things are stereotypically female roles. In YOUR eyes, just WHO do you think should be working, and WHO should be caring for the vulnerable kids at home? I note you avoid tackling THAT!

      WHY do I get the impression that you are probably an embittered ex-nurse, or child carer, or housewife who feels somehow overlooked in their contribution to society? Or maybe a male nurse, or homemaker who has perhaps felt uncertainty about the choices he made? You use a lot of very emotive language (e.g. “vulnerable”, “fundamental”). You also make quite a lot of demands (e.g. “I want to see…” and “this needs to be…”). Whilst it is important to value people for themselves, it is also important to understand issues before you start making comments about them. And to understand that from a Feminist perspective, the problem with home-making and child-care is that it has traditionally been seen as an exclusively FEMALE domain, which reinforces stereotype and limits opportunities for both women and men who want to do things differently (e.g. women who want careers, not kids). THAT is the purpose of this blog – to address the language that is subtly demeaning to WOMEN and which reinforces age old gender role stereotypes. I am sorry you missed that point!

  37. TM Reply

    I really like that you’ve not only pointed out words that diminish women, but also given the reasons why AND ALTERNATIVES. I’ve had this conversation a lot, particularly lately–my father is having a hard time processing the #metoo movement and all it entails. I’ve been able to point out words that make my shoulders clench, but I haven’t always been able to explain why it bothers me or what to say differently. As a “bossy” girl who “doesn’t need an education” because I’m “just going to get married anyway” (gotta love the advice my parents received and didn’t follow), I’ve been struggling with the straight jacket of gender expectations my whole life. I’m so glad we’re finally calling this language out.

  38. Silvia Reply

    Empire building! This is the favourite term of disparagement in my workplace towards any female manager who has a vision she wants to implement. Never heard it used toward a man

  39. Niki Stashuk Reply

    Yesterday event at work: Him: “He’s a son-of-a-bitch”. Me: “That’s a sexist term.” Him: “No it isn’t. Don’t…you’re just being politically correct. It just means the mother is an a-hole. You don’t make any sense. Do you think calling someone a bastard should be offensive to a guy?” Me: “Yes.” Him: “That’s stupid. You don’t make any sense.” He went on to accuse me of expecting everyone to conform to my way of thinking.
    Men are denying sexist terminology even when it is blatant swearing. They’re hiding behind saying others are “being politically correct” (that’s a bad thing to them). The accusation he made is cloaking his fear that I am somehow taking away his freedom of speech. Social norms are cultural, but he doesn’t see how he is a part of and influence on that culture as a whole.

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  41. Wendy Reply

    I was reading a book recently and came across the term ‘planted his seed in her’. It grated on me and I pondered why this might be. Then I realised how this term gives excess credit to the man for the creation of a baby. The suggestion is that the man plants ‘his’ seed in the woman. I’m no expert on plants but isn’t the seed formed by the female plant after pollination has taken place. The term becomes non-sensical, unless you live in the dark ages and believe that the baby comes from the man and is just carried by the woman for the man. These terms have their roots in the distant past but are still well rooted in todays society.

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  43. Elaine Reply

    I was in tears whilst reading this article – that was how moving your words were. What you write, here, is both so important, and so true. There is a whole glossary of terms that are utilised linguistically to denigrate women. It is crucial that people articulate this; and articulate the fact that, compared to insults against males, the language that insults women and girls is extensive in reach and vast in quantity. Perhaps you should have a look at the book “The Dance Of Anger” by Harriet Lerner, a book in which she describes gender role stereotyping, and the language that is sued to frame it. Interestingly, Lerner points out that although anger is a natural emotion shared by both males and females, angry is an insulting term to describe WOMEN, but rarely if ever men. Lerner, in one of the chapters, also points out that for every one insult linguistically available to describe a male, there are about ten that describe a female. She points out that of the insults we use to discuss men and boys, some of them are actually words that INSULT WOMEN. For example, if you call a man a “bastard” you are actually also insulting his MOTHER by inferring she had illicit sex! If you call a man “emasculated” you are actually blaming WOMEN for doing this to him. If you insultingly say a man is “effeminate” you compare him to FEMALES and imply that this makes him somehow an object of ridicule. So, in sum, many words used ostensibly to insult males actually indirectly INSULT FEMALES.

    By the way, I have my own personal experience of this subtly denigrating language, and sadly most of it was aimed at my by people I should be able to call my “nearest and dearest” – my family, friends and workplace colleagues. Now, I’ll let you know that I am an academic, well-educated woman who has held down a career, and has now returned to University to do postgraduate study (the only person in my immediate family to do this). Neither of my parents is University educated, and my younger brother went to University not once, but TWICE, and quit/failed BOTH times without actually completing his degree. My husband and his WHOLE family are also less well-qualified and educated than me. However, my family and my husband’s are religious, and of the belief that women should be subservient to men. Therefore they have subjected me my whole life to sexism in the form of overt, and veiled, comments, as follows…

    1. When I was a little kid at infant school I was unkindly labelled “spitfire” because I had a strong personality and lots of energy, and I stood up for myself. Why this insult?
    2. I was highly academic, but got labelled “swot” and “teacher’s pet”. Why are these insults levelled at hard-working girls?
    3. I was labelled a “tomboy” because I played cricket, ran about a lot, and liked climbing and cycling and judo. Wasn’t this a bit sexist?
    4. I have variously been unfairly called “difficult”, “disobedient”, “rebellious” and “challenging” by both my parents, and teachers because I was an active girl, who asked a lot of detailed questions about subjects in class, had a passion for learning, wanted to study in greater depth than teachers allowed, and was always curious and inquisitive. Had I been a boy, would I have been treated the same, or would my traits then have been seen as acceptable?
    5. My father insultingly called my interest in English Literature “piss assed” and “arty-farty”, whilst clearly showing a preference for stereotypically male topics like football.
    6. My father also insulted my interest in things like ballet, theatre, museums and art galleries by variously calling these interests “pretentious”, “snobby”, “stuck up” and “arty-farty”. My husband’s family do the same. Yet all of them consider stereotypically male interests like football, rugby, cricket and computer games to be acceptable, and do not insult them!
    7. I have been called a “selfish career woman” by my prudish, hyper-religious mother-in-law. She has also insinuated that I “emasculate” her son.
    8. My brother-in-law (husband’s brother) – who, incidentally, calls his wife things like “the little woman” – says things like accusing me of “wearing the trousers” in my marriage to my husband. Why is this an insult? Am I wrong for wanting to work hard and achieve?
    9. On several occasions, and by various different family members, my choice of attire has been criticized and insulted – for example, if I went out in a short skirt as a teen, my mother would say “boys will only want you for one thing”! My morbidly obese sister-in-law has said several nasty things about me, including trying to say I am “vain”, and criticizing my outfits by saying “who does she think she is wearing that?”. The only reason I can think of that she does this is because I am a lot thinner than her!
    10. Also, I was accused by a bloke I wasn’t even interested in of being “jailbait” because when I was a teen he asked me out and I refused. Another lad from sixth form who asked me out accused me of being “snooty” when I said I didn’t fancy him, and then went and told all his friends that I refused to date him because I was “vain” and “thought I was better than him”!
    11. I had a creepy male colleague in the Civil Service who thought it was acceptable to tell me I “would be attractive if only I smiled more”. Like that is o.k. conversation in a workplace!
    12. I had another creepy bunch of colleagues in the NHS (a bunch of Nurses!) who said things about me including that I was “pushy for promotion” and that I was “stuck up, with my qualifications”. The funny thing is, I never even mentioned wanting a promotion!!
    Finally, my WHOLE family have constantly failed to support me, undermined my achievements, thwarted my progress, and constantly insulted me. This came to a head when I started my Postgrad, because it seems most of my relatives think I should not be doing it. The worst offenders are MY OWN FATHER, who accused me of being “stuck up”; and my MOTHER-IN-LAW, who insults me at every opportunity she gets in such a wide range of ways that I sense all she can do is throw insults. SHE cannot even bear to MENTION THE FACT I AM DOING POSTGRADUTE STUDY! Interestingly, I can tell you for a FACT that if my FATHER, or my BROTHER, or my HUSBAND, or my BROTHER-IN-LAW did a Postgrad, we would never hear the last of how special and clever they were! And if my MOTHER-IN-LAW did one, well… that would surely make her on a par with GOD!
    Though the comments they make may not overtly come across as really blatant offenses, they are still insulting. Sure does prove to everyone that SEXISM STARTS AT HOME!

    • Lou Reply

      Agree with you Elaine. I too have sexist parents and inlaws. I have worked hard all my life (3 degrees) and have received no help from any of my family, only criticism. It was my fault that I only had one child as I was too much of a career woman and too selfish. It wasn’t anything to do with that actually, in fact my husband and I were very lucky to have our one child due to medical reasons but we rightfully didn’t let anyone know this – none of their business.

      When we see our family, I am not allowed to talk about my career. If I do, I am met with a stony silence and they look past me as though I haven’t spoken. My husband on the other hand can talk about his career until the cows come home and they hang on every word – he is the great ‘breadwinner’.

      I have also met with blatant sexism in all the jobs I have ever held and have often been told to get back in my box if I have been too outspoken (ie outspoken by female standards only).
      I feel for the younger generation of women coming through and hope they are not subjected to the same level of sexism but alas, a lot of young men are still being brought up as being the privileged gender, expecting to be the main breadwinner and having a wife at home to raise the children and do all the housework. Gender equality, unless it starts at home, is decades, if not centuries, away.

  44. El Reply

    Oh… and whilst I’m still thinking about it, can we please consider adding the following to the list? They come from various sources, such as medical terms, terms used in dating, workplace talk… But I have hears ALL of them, and been personally subjected to some, including…

    Dating insults:
    MILF/GILF (yuck!)
    Frigid prick tease
    The Little Woman
    Her Indoors
    The Missus
    The Little Lady
    Sugar tits
    Babe (reminds me of the pig!)

    Insulting names for female body parts (makes me want to vomit if somebody talks about bodies this way):
    Lady lumps
    Love pillows (usually pronounced “luuurv pilloz”)
    Junk in the trunk
    Thunder thighs
    Mosquito bites
    Fried egg tits
    Pancake chest

    Insulting sexist medical (or pseudo-medical) terms:
    Smear test
    Period pain (when used by somebody in the insulting phrase “Oh, it’s just period pain”)
    Women’s troubles
    Female disorders
    Menstrual blues
    Baby blues
    Baby brain
    PMS moodiness
    And ANYTHING that infers only females suffer depression, anxiety and eating disorders

    Vile workplace terms for women:
    Selfish career-woman
    Baby-hater (or any implication that working females hate kids)
    Lezzer (or any implication that working females must be gay)
    Queen bee
    Wearing the trousers
    Token female

    Insulting general terms:
    Baby mother/Baby momma
    Her indoors
    Little woman/lady
    Bit of stuff
    The Missus
    Trophy Wife
    Gold Digger

    I could probably list pages, and pages, of these words. And how I wish that all of them cold be somehow eradicated, or have their insulting message diffused. Guess they must be commonplace terminology where I grew up on the Fylde Coast, UK!!

  45. Dawn Reply

    I appreciate both the article and comments. I cannot count how many times I have been called “politically correct” or flat out “wrong” for raising issues of gendered language. The amount of “mansplaining” has been epic! I am a minister who serves a mainline tradition in the U.S., a tradition that has been ordaining women for a century. People are often surprised when I raise issues of discrimination in the church. Of course, when God is a man that is not surprising. What is surprising is people’s inability to understand that. I have lost count how many people proclaim that they know God is not “really” a man; God is spirit, but exclusively use male language. Folks are still startled when I use female pronouns or talk about God, our Mother. I am judged on physical appearance daily. Comments about my hair, make up, clothing, weight loss, nail polish are heard every Sunday. (My mother recently overheard people commenting on the color of my toenail polish and promptly went over to my male colleague and asked him what color nail polish he was wearing as his shoes didn’t allow her to see it. The look on his face was priceless.) Even though I have four college degrees, including a doctorate, I am referred to as, “sweetie, hun, babe, …” I have asked if folks address my male colleague that way. They do not. They also do not change the way I am addressed. Financial matters, salary, study leave, reimbursement for expenses are not equal. Women in the church continue to earn significantly less than their male counterparts and have less access to “senior pastor” roles than men, even if they have more education and experience.

    None of the above is new or surprising. Your article caused me to consider how I encourage the use of the divine feminine. By actively working to have folks see God as more than a male, deity who uses power over others, I have unintentionally claimed as feminine the characteristics of compassion, mutuality, empowerment, etc. Thank you for helping me to see through this new lens my own complicity in the life-limiting system of patriarchy.

  46. Naomi Reply

    This is the best goddam article I’ve ever read on the subject. I was promoted to research this subject after my daughter told me she’s been told she’s bossy. And a few months ago a friend labelled me as bossy.

    Thank you so much for putting what I felt and feel, into such elegant words!

  47. Helen le Vann Reply

    I just had an email from a man replying to my description of Greta Thunberg as ‘brave’ In his opinion her ‘self-certainty and scolding’ of others was not brave, simply chutzpah. I object to the assessment and have never heard a man accused of scolding. I think this should be added to the list.

  48. Chris Reply

    This is a great article. Much food for thought to discuss in my positive relationships lesson with 14-15 year students next week. I usually start off the lesson with a list of descriptive words and encourage my students to decide which gender they would normally associate them. There are certainly some here that I have not considered before and will update my list accordingly. Many thanks!

  49. donna peterson Reply

    This article is spot on. I was looking for references to share with my team. The men call male guests “boss” and “chief”. They call the women guest “dear” and “sweetheart”. I don’t even think they realize it. But, they should start calling everyone “boss” and “chief” or just switch to sir and madam.

    We are going to talk about this tomorrow, I can’t wait!

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  51. Martyna Reply

    Great list! That is why i left my ex, he was constantly putting me down and maked macho comment. My self estim went down, I nearly wanted to suicide.
    1 year to recover!

  52. Jasmine Reply

    And lovely, when used to praise women for being an idea of perfect. Some people are lovely, but I often hear it used by men and women who clearly have an issue with women who do not fit the lovely mould and reserve it for those women who meet the lovely criteria. “Oh she’s lovely” is basically like saying “oh she knows her place.”

  53. Kate Rose Reply

    It’s terms like this which conditioned me into thinking men were superior. Up until about 10 years ago I thought men were stronger, more logical, naturally apt at maths and the use of tools and other stereotypes.

    Then I opened my eyes and took a good hard look at the world. Men were not all that. They were not smarter, did not work harder and they were not “brilliant” or “legends”. They were being praised simply because of what was between their legs, because the perception was that they were better.

    I looked at the woman at work who was described as a “bitch”. Actually she was highly intelligent and accomplished beyond belief and her mind just raced forward and she didn’t have time for bullshit because of her enormous workload. She had that workload because those above her knew just how effective she was but didn’t want their balls to shrink by acknowledging it.

    Then I saw all these celebs gushing over how much of a genius “Eminem” was. When I really looked at it, I thought “the guy is a degenerate loser. A white guy trying to emulate a black rapper with overtly sexist, hateful lyrics. The most privileged asshole in the world trying to convince everyone how hard done by he is, by his own stupid life choices.

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