Feminist Chronicles Part 3: Derogatory Words Used to Offend Women

by Jayla Shanmugam,, Editor-in-Chief

Women take back the words formerly used against them. Photo by Unsplash.
Women take back the words formerly used against them. Photo by Unsplash.

Words have extreme power and it is something I believe a lot of people in our world have forgotten. Many of us have gotten too comfortable with inviting sexist words into our vernacular.


It is something I think about often because I hear misogynistic words and phrases thrown around all of the time in casual conversations, but there are specific terms that really irritate me.


When I observe people using b****, s****,w****, or p**** in a negative way I literally hold in the urge to scream. This is because all of these slurs have a horrible connotation towards women, even when they are directed towards men.


So, I decided for my last story at The Jaguar Times to see how the students and staff of our building feel about these words and if their opinions are in alignment with my own.


B****:

I personally am very conflicted about this powerful five letter word. In some settings b***** has become a term of empowerment amongst friends, but it can also be incredibly offensive in other environments. Ms. Thomas agrees stating, “It has a lot of different connotations and like many words in the English language it is morphed a lot. It can be a term of endearment but it can also be a slur, but I think it is context.” I also believe another reason this word can be an issue is because it is such a degrading term used against strong, independent women. I for one have been called a b***** in numerous situations, most of them being times that I expressed my opinions or was assertive in a work environment. B***** is a word that many use when they are uncomfortable with having to take a back seat to a woman. On the flip side men are also called this frequently. It is usually when they are being perceived as “weak” or “too girly” so they are condemned for it. This term is particularly used to insult men in the LGBTQAI+ community. This creates another dilemma because the usage of b***** in that way implies that being feminine is wrong. When asked if she feels this word has sexist undertones she commented, “Absolutely! Usually, this word is reserved for women. When it is used to describe a man, it often means he is being 'womanly.' This implies being womanly is a bad thing- it's obviously not!”


S***/W****:

Now, these words are ones that I absolutely abhor. There is no argument that these terms are quite literally only reserved for women as the dictionary definition is, “a woman who has many casual sexual partners”. To me, it is incredibly frustrating that this word is even used at all in 2021. Speaking in broad terms, men are encouraged to own their sexuality (if they subscribing to heteronormative standards). Yet, women are absolutely obliterated for it. If girls do not conform to a specific quota they are called a s*** or a w*****. This could be for expressing your sexuality in any way, even if it’s just wearing a mini skirt. While men can be called this, it is usually in a joking manner that is not meant to be degrading to their sexuality. Hayley Lauve (12) agrees stating, “It is more pointed towards women than it is men.” These types of comments create a plethora of issues. For one it creates a standard that women can never meet because if she is too sexually “promiscuous” she is called a s*** , but if she is more conservative with her sexuality she is considered a prude. It also makes women feel ashamed of their sexuality and that is not okay. Women should be allowed to freely express themselves in the same way that men are.


P****:

This word is frequently used as an insult against men when they are not acting “manly”,like the word b****. Obviously this is sexist because it is equating weakness with cis female genitalia. But, this comparison is also confusing to me because of how incorrect it is on an anatomical basis. When asked on how he feels about this word Hunter Wilson (12) stated, “ It is totally wrong. It totally downplays the existence of the other sex, and it’s totally ridiculous when you actually think about it.” This is a fantastic point because when someone uses this word it completely degrades all of the amazing things that people who menstruate can do. In my opinion it is the opposite of weak because that piece of the body is actually incredibly strong.


In essence, all of these words can be very problematic. In some circumstances it could be argued that it is okay to use them, but that is also a very tricky game to play. These terms have a deep history behind them and have been used as weapons against women and men for years. It all goes back to the conversation that being feminine is considered repulsive and wrong. This creates a toxic environment where again people are scared to express their femininity. So I encourage you to educate yourself on these words, so you can better understand the pain and damage it can cause to those around you. This way we can all take a small step towards a society where misogyny isn’t so socially acceptable.


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