By Isabelle Tyner
Naturally, there are many things in society that we don’t give a second thought to, because they are so deeply imbedded into our behaviour. Whether it is right or wrong, a lot of the things we do, we don’t ever stop to think about the implications or hidden messages behind it.
Though this can sound frightening, not being wholly aware of who we are and the things we do, there is always room for education. So, right now, you're going to have a little lesson in awakening your awareness to some of the words you might use.
Swear words, curse words, or however you collectively identify the synonyms that are offensive, are a small aspect of life we don’t tend to think much about the meaning of. They’re thrown around at social events; in arguments; even in intimate moments and yet, do you know why you are using the words that you choose?
Firstly, swear words have 2 main categories, deistic and visceral (to do with religion or the body). A study in 2016 suggests that there is no correlation between the use of swear words and low IQ or a narrow vocabulary, yet there remains a prevalent misunderstanding of what certain words stand for when they are being used. With the amount that people swear in day to day life, I think it is important that we know what we are saying and understand the background.
Of course, there are malicious and rude people out there who may very well deserve to be called out. However, must the insulting words we use always be so female orientated?
I cannot stress enough the importance of moving away from the usage of female focused insults. Why? Because it leads to the normalisation that being a woman is offensive or derogatory. By using female focused insults in our everyday language, existing as a woman or a girl is depicted as though it is insulting or inferior. It is, of course, just one example of how the world is innately and unconsciously sexist. And yes, I get it, we all sometimes slip up. However, any way that we can sieve out these words in our own vocabulary and acknowledge their implications could be a tiny step forwards.
Let's assess the classics...
P*ssy/C*nt/Tw*t- THESE ARE ALL WORDS FOR FEMALE GENITALS. Have you ever stopped to think, that person you swore at for swerving out of that side road, that person who split their drink down you or that guy who never replied to your message…You’re calling them a vagina! Excuse me, but vaginas are pretty damn amazing. They literally give life. Why is our society so backwards to use women genitalia to offend people?
B*tch- A FEMALE dog? Now that’s just underwhelming. Yet this word is used so often, especially in social situations and the work place. That woman who asserted her authority, the lady who turned down the Christmas staff party, the girl who is now dating your ex…No! This word is so often used when women start to act out of their gender role. Being bossy, assertive and even selfish are traits that men are constantly allowed to do, but the moment a woman does, she’s a b*tch. Maybe she wanted a quiet night in? Maybe she had a long day of being spoken down to? It isn’t her fault your ex has moved on. Let’s build each other up. Not tear each other down.
Sl*t/Sl*g/Wh*re- Women should be sexually free, the way men have been since, like, forever? These words are probably the most problematic for me. Women are constantly shamed and judged for their enjoyment of sex, while men are praised. As long as it is legal (age), safe (contraception/location/sober) and consensual (you have both acknowledged that you want to do it), there should be nothing wrong with sexual liberation. These words need to be sieved out of your vocabulary! So maybe check why you feel that you need to label women with these words. Jealous? Concerned? Traditional? Maybe it's something you need to fix within yourself first.
Now that we've covered the basics, I want to provide you with a list of alternative words to use for people or situations that deserve it ( a couple of my favourites) :
Personally, I think these kinds of words will work just as well!
While it might not seem like a big difference, using these words instead could help move us away from using aspects of being female as some sort of weapon. Next time you go to use a certain word, I just ask that you think about it's meaning and the connotations behind it.