Would you believe me if I told you that misogyny is not only alive but you’re also playing a part in promoting it? Probably not.
Misogyny- dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women- has become so entrenched in our daily speech and popular culture that we don’t even realize its presence. In our everyday usage of these words, we fail to notice the overall implications it has on putting one gender ahead of the other. That said, just because it is popular and common does not mean it is okay. The evolution of language is a very complex process with its own intricate history, and our common and colloquial phrases, over time, have largely been shaped by societal views and values. Hence, the fact that women are looked down upon in our everyday lingo is not a mere coincidence, but has its roots in the ages of societal and structural sexism and misogyny built up in our language — whether we’re conscious of it or not.
Uncovered below are certain seemingly innocent everyday phrases which contain underlying misogyny.
1. “__________ like a girl.”
We have all seen movies in which a condescending coach scolds a player who is playing badly by saying “You throw like a girl”. Another phrase used very commonly is “Stop crying like a girl”. The use of such statements emphasise that attributes such as being weak, timid and emotional are reserved for one gender. The other gender has to exclusively be the stronger one, both physically and emotionally. It ends up making women feel that by being born into their gender, they have already done something wrong and no matter how hard they try, theirs will always be the weaker gender.
2. “Man up.”
This phrase equating strength to masculinity is harmful to both men and women. While women are made to totally dismiss their gender as being inferior and weak, men who are not “masculine” are made to feel bad about themselves for not being “man enough” and being associated with the so called “weak gender”, thereby generating under-confidence in even the more privileged gender. This is another example of society attaching assertiveness and power to men, thereby bringing out an overall aversion and prejudice against females, leading us to asking both men and women to emulate an ideal of courage that only results in the emphasis of a gender bias.
3. “You should grow a pair.”
People often use the phrase “grow a pair” as a way of belittling someone who has shown weakness, or vulnerability – someone who didn’t show the requisite assertiveness that apparently lives in the testes, implying that the only perquisite for being brave and strong is having this organ exclusive to males. This proposition which is biologically impossible for women is intended to demean women. An interesting observation to make would be that a well aimed kick from an attacker, or punch from a young child to this organ so “essential to turn a coward into a brave heart” would be enough to make any man reduce to a quivering foetal position of helplessness. What it means, is that men’s testicles, far from being a centre of their strength, are their most visible sign of weakness. So no, I will not grow a pair, I urge you to broaden your thinking instead.
4. “…I’m not like other girls.”
When everyone tells you that yours is the inferior gender, it’s hard not to start believing it. When we proudly exclaim that we’re different from “other girls”, we imply that those “other girls” are inferior in some ways and lie in a category which we would not want to be associated with. The fact that you feel the need to differentiate yourself from a group implies that according to you, being a part of that group is a bad thing. Some females say things like, “I’m not like most girls. I like football”, or that “I’m not like most women. I don’t gossip, I’m quite a deep person.” This implies that the vast majority of females dislike sports or are shallow and superficial which simply cannot be true. The phrase “I’m not like other girls” buys into the idea that gender stereotypes are all true – especially since we often say the phrase before we describe ourselves as having traditionally “unfeminine” traits.
One of the easiest critiques against the arguments given above (and in defence of the usage of these misogynistic phrases) could be the non availability of easy substitutes for the misogynistic phrases. However, saying that there is a lack of substitutes would be an uninformed argument. Any language gives its users the freedom to express themselves freely and effectively without demeaning a certain section of the society.
If you are one of those people who use these phrases (or any other similar phrase) regularly, don’t start panicking or beating yourself over it. What you need to do is eliminate these problematic statements from your everyday vocabulary, consciously trying to ensure that your language is non-discriminatory and is not offensive. Let’s put an end to this everyday misogyny.