Fate is Chance. Destiny is Choice.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Language that p**ses me off!

I've been thinking about language and the subtle messages that it sends out to people.

For example, the use of 'girl' instead of 'woman'; the use of 'bitch' and 'ho'; the fact that swear words aimed at women always seem to degrade them to their sex or to animals, therefore less than human; and also the ways in which these words are used.

Part of the problem with the usage of 'girl' instead of 'woman' is that young men are called exactly that: young MEN. Instead of 'boys', males past a certain age are definitely called 'young men'. I rarely pick up hearing (well, lipreading) the word 'young woman' when a woman reaches 18 and onwards - even into their 20's some young women are called 'girls'. I think this comes from infantilizing and viewing women as non-threatening, a way of "putting them in their place". It slips out of everyone's mouth, often without them thinking about it. Does language subconciously mean anything or is it just subtle unthinking use that filters in from the media or whatever?

I've found a lot of people, often young women, using the word 'bitch' a lot. I stopped using this word a while ago realising that it degrades women to less than men. I've got nothing against animals (I love them of course!) but degrading women to 'bitch' is like saying "she's inferior, she's animalistic, she's beneath us". Basically, people use the word in terms of a woman being loud or 'bitchy' and so on. But I've noticed young women using the word referring, for example, to their girlfriends as 'my bitch' and so on. I assume this usage comes from rap/hip hop/rnb (its all rubbbish, misogynistic crap) - which is alarming, and also where the words 'pimp' and 'ho' are coming from.

I also notice that whenever a man/boy is saying someone is 'weak' they call them a 'girl'. I get SO pissed off with the use of 'girl' as implying weak, incapable, etc etc. It just reinforces the whole stereotypical idea that women are weak.

And women are also cut down to their body parts when swearing about them (for example, c**t, fanny, etc). This pulls women right down to their body parts and nothing but. I, however, object to the idea that women's body parts should be obscene in the first place - the word 'c**t' is just another word for 'vagina' and what is so obscene about a woman's nether regions (especially in its natural, hairy state)?

The media acts as though the word c**t is the most obscene word in the world, which implies that they view the female body as obscene (incidentally, I think this is what keeps porn going - the fact that there is that polarity between obscenity and purity - the 'guilt/rush' that goes with porn as viewing something "obscene" may keep men coming back).

These are just starting thoughts and I will probably come back to this subject when I've thought about it more clearly.

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  • I get called a 'girl' sometimes - and, sometimes, I even get called a "lady" - that so pisses me off.

    I saw 'The Apprentice' this week (don't ask!) and everyone, but everyone referred to the 'girls' and the 'boys'. I was screaming at the telly!

    Your point about the polarity between obscenity and purity really interests me - it could be the crux of this whole thing but I'm not quite there yet.

    My thoughts are that pornography and mainstream religion are flip sides of the same coin in that they both deem women, our bodies bodies and our sexuality as "dirty" as a reflection of their own perceived "dirtiness". As a result, c**t is a 'dirty' word and it's used as the most base form of 'insult' because it represents femaleness.

    I was interrupted halfway through making this comment and totally lost my train of thought. My apologies.

    By Anonymous witchy-woo, At 10:32 pm  

  • I know, I hate it when someone calls me a 'girl'! 'Lady' seems overly feminine, drawing attention to the fact that we are female!!

    The polarity thing is just something I've been trying to figure out myself - your comment about mainstream religion and porn is spot on.

    I definitely think that mainstream religion has a lot to answer for - because obviously men think that by viewing porn (aka 'dirtiness', base desires etc) they are being 'dirty' or whatever. I think guilt is part of the equation when they get a 'rush' from viewing the 'dirty, degraded female body':(

    I'll probably post more about this when I've actually figured it out myself! :)

    By Blogger FallingStar, At 11:55 am  

  • When I was doing some writing the other day and picked up my thesaurus, I randomly decided to look up the words "man" and "woman" to see what other words you could use for these terms instead. Lo and behold, for woman was "lady", something else I can't remember, as well as "bird" and "chick". There was no other words for "man". A man is a man, but a woman can also be described as something akin to an animal...

    By Blogger Michelle, At 12:37 pm  

  • Hmm, well I'm not 18 yet
    (only another 6 months to go :D) so I'm not technically an adult yet, and so, it wouldn't be the biggest deal if I were to be referred to as a girl. "Young woman" is better though.

    "Lady" is a weird word, but "young lady" is just damnright patronising. I don't know why. It's probably because of the tone often used.

    And you're right, cunt shouldn't be seen as obscene. It's that use of the word cunt, the use with the taboo/vaginas-are-bad connotations, which gets me mad.


    Good post.


    By Blogger Amy, At 12:11 pm  

  • By the way, may I ask why you have used asterisks in the word "cunt"?
    If you disagree with the taboo connotations of cunt, and the nature in which the media and people use it, why do you yourself make it an expletive?
    Just curious.
    I'm guessing that maybe you're generally not comfortable with taboo lexis, since you also expleted "pisses" in the title. I, on the other hand, swear like a sailor ;) to use something of an idiom.

    By Blogger Amy, At 6:14 pm  

  • I think I just feel uncomfortable with written expletives generally!

    Although IRL I do tend to swear when the fancy takes me, I suppose I'm just aware of using expletives in writing, if that makes sense? Like when I come across them in books etc it actually comes across as stronger than when we actually say them. Ah, I dunno :) I suppose it's something I need to work on - I just feel uncomfortable using stuff like the f word (hehe) when it's written!

    Also, I agree with saying that it depends how young you are when it comes to 'girl'. But men get called men when they reach 18 I think, sometimes women don't get called Woman until they are around 30!!

    Michelle - that's interesting and also very annoying. I can think of other words for man though - like guy or bloke or gentleman (eww). Strange that they're not in a thesaurus!!

    By Blogger FallingStar, At 6:38 pm  

  • I agree about the way calling someone "young lady" sounds so patronising - it is often said to girls and young women by adults in a very condescending tone - and it also implies that girls and women are meant to "behave like ladies". I can't understand why people are afraid to use the word "woman" and why they think it is so insulting, but so many people still avoid using it - I even saw a message on a website recently that referred to a "rude lady" - I don't get why they used "lady" when this woman was rude. People do not think there is anything wrong on many occasions with calling or referring to a man as a "man".

    I've noticed that women's football teams are often called "ladies" teams - I wonder why they feel uncomfortable with calling themselves women's teams? Considering the true meaning of "lady", it surprises me that the word has now become so commonly and widely used that women-only club nights, often featuring stripping acts, are called "ladies nights".

    As fallingstar pointed out, women get called "girls" much more than men are called "boys" and it seems that a lot of people are reluctant even to call boys "boys" - using the term "lads" (which I hate-it sounds so blokey) instead. What is wrong with the proper term "boy"? It seems that many people would rather address boys and young men as "lads" (uggh).

    By Blogger Matt, At 8:27 pm  

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