Gender specific insults

22 Nov

So earlier today some lady on the road really pissed me off. Being human, I mentally shouted a slur at her as I swerved past.  Afterwards I realized that the slur I had mentally shouted had been a sexualized slur. I did it unconsciously, not actually giving any thought to this woman or her sexuality, but nonetheless I realized this after the fact.

Have you ever realized how sexualized insults are in American English? I wonder if it’s a cultural thing. I studied German back in university and I remember that a lot more of their insults revolved around cleanliness. Sure they had sexual insults, but you would never hear an American calling someone filthy swine.

It seems that in my culture when you want to insult a woman, you make some claim about her sexuality and promiscuity. When you want to insult a man, you make some comment about his manhood, usually equating him to being a woman. What gives? I know patriarchal Victorian attitudes about sex and gender roles are at the heart of it, but I’m dismayed that such attitudes have survived subconsciously in our language.

Driving in that car, I had no grounds from which to speculate as to the other driver’s sexuality or promiscuity. I’m a little ashamed that I automatically mentally spit out such an insult. At least it provided me with some food for thought. I’m going to have to work to undo the subconscious societal training and come up with more creative, gender neutral insults for idiots.

One Response to “Gender specific insults”

  1. Genderqueerperson November 10, 2012 at 2:29 am #

    What a great post, thank you. I’ve wondered about this for a long time. Sometimes I’ll be in, say, a political forum and maybe a woman will say something that rubs someone the wrong way and, bam! those sexuality-based insults. I’m sad to say I’m basically used to it.

    Let’s not even go into the double standards that exist for sexual behavior. I seldom encounter disgust for males who’ve had a lot of partners (provided these partners were consensual and there was no cheating or lying involved). Now a females number of partners? That’s another story, and in her case the fact that these partners were consensual and there was no cheating/lying or using involved is absolutely irrelevant to people’s reactions.

    I was recently watching a female youtuber who was talking about her dating experiences (very bad move if you’re a woman in our 1912 times. Oops, I meant 2012!). A lot of people kept leaving “slut” comments just based on the fact that she had had partners at all.

    She responded to one of them by saying that she was in her late 30’s (not a spring chicken) and had been with 8 men which isn’t that low but definitely not shocking. Her saying that made things SO much worse. I guess people still expect women to remain virgins unless they marry (some even said that! They said something along the lines of “well you are a s**t because you gave it up before having a ring around your finger” WTF?). How many men wait until they “have a ring around their finger”? And who would say that to a man in his late 30’s?

    Seriously, can you even imagine someone saying that to a male in his late 30’s?

    People want to believe there is no more sexism because this is the 21st century but I think it’s just less overt. I believe that privately, most people, still think along the same lines they did in the early 1900’s.

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