Last Wednesday night (or a couple of weeks ago by the time this post is published) I spontaneously ended up going out for ‘a drink’ which escalated to several drinks and a lot of shots and a very hung-over Thursday at work. None-the-less I had a great time but there was a moment where I felt myself almost try to suck my words back into my mouth.
I told a guy to man up.
Yep. I instantly clapped my hand over my mouth. I caught myself being a bad feminist.
I’d bought him a shot of tequila and it was buy one get one free, he couldn’t handle both and the expression just kinda slipped out. He called me out, I called myself out and shots were had. But ultimately, even those who are fighting for gender equality can come out with the wrong turn of phrase.
This is because ideologies and gender assumptions are so ingrained in our language that we perpetuate gender inequality without a second thought.
Here are just a few of the phrases that really grind my gears…
Boys will be boys. Easily my least favourite saying ever. Let’s just excuse these boys and let them behave however they like because boys will be boys. It’s as if boys don’t need to take responsibility for their actions and it’s a very clear cut way of saying that we’ll allow boys to behave out of line and punish girls for behaving the same way. Gross.
Like a girl. You may have seen the Always campaign reclaiming the phrase Like a Girl and trying to eliminate the negativity of it by redefining what it means to throw like a girl, run like a girl and fight like a girl. It comes down to the same old idea that girls are weaker therefore femininity is a sign of weakness and therefore comparing a man to a girl is an insult.
You’re not like other girls. We need to eliminate this kind of compliment or at least repurpose this phrase altogether. It stems from the idea that being like other girls is a bad thing, which is bloody well isn’t ‘cos other girls are awesome. It’s like this whole special snowflake syndrome combined with the idea of ‘like a girl’ being a negative and it’s a very damaging phrase that promotes internalised misogyny.
Man whore. As if a man whore means anything different than a woman whore. But that’s what is so problematic with this phrase! It suggests that a whore is just a whore but a man whore is a more acceptable level of whore, almost something to be proud of. It’s a little bit like saying ‘female builder’, it’s pretty irrelevant to put someone’s gender directly in front of another word you’re using to describe them but the reason we do it is because we treat men and women differently; one set of rules for one and one set for another.
Bitch. Why is that a woman who stands her ground, doesn’t take shit and all-in-all acts like a man is referred to as a bitch? I’ve seen it time and time again, the female boss is a bitch/bossy/savage while the male equivalent is well liked. It’s because society cannot stand a strong woman… but a strong woman cannot stand society.
Grow a pair. Because growing a pair of balls instantly turns you into a fearless, kick ass man and you’ll suddenly be able to muster the courage to do absolutely anything you want. Nope. We don’t tell women to grow a pair of ovaries when they need to be more courageous do we?
That’s so gay. Perhaps this isn’t a gender issue but it certainly falls into the same category as the rest of these phrases. It slips out so easily from our playground days but we never think about who we could be hurting and what we really mean when we say it. What’s wrong with being gay? Literally nothing. And most people who let this one slip are quite level headed and against homophobia.
You could always start flipping these phrases on their head. Start telling people to grow a pair of ovaries, excuse shitty behaviour with ‘girls will be girls’ or compliment women with ‘you are like other girls and other girls are cool.’
Alternatively you could call yourself out. Call your mates out. Call your colleagues out. Call your parents out. Hell, call your fucking dentist out.
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all photos by Rebecca Claire, libfemblog.com (Sony Xperia X, edited with VSCO) // all rights reserved