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Gendered Language: Everyday Phrases That Harm Equality

Though things are getting better, gender equality is still a problem in most countries, including the United States.  Taking a Marxist perspective, institutions of one’s culture are called ideologies, and are seen as negative entities because they only reinforce one way thinking. Gender can definitely be considered this way. It’s often hard for us to consider different possibilities for gender relations. A woman as the dominant relationship figure? A man who enjoys wearing dresses? A boy’s favorite color is pink? All of these examples seem abnormal in our society, but only because we conceive them in that way. Naturally, there are no set differences between males and females except that women can give birth. The behavioral attributes that make up feminine and masculine descriptions are all created by people. Evidence of this ideology can be found in our language. These everyday phrases help perpetuate the boundaries of gender. Don’t feel bad if you’ve uttered any of these sayings, most of us have without giving them a second thought. The key is awareness; continue reading and become more aware!

 

“Boys will be boys.”

This typical saying takes away personal responsibility from men, placing the blame on their culturally constructed sex drive. Men are perceived to be dominant, sexual beings, so much of their sexual nature is simply shrugged off, their actions never reprimanded. Often, this phrase is used when boys sexually harass others. You know in kindergarten when that one boy always picked on your and your mom said he simply liked you? Or when a guy in your chemistry class won’t stop staring down your shirt? Or how about that guy who had sex with a girl at a party without actually getting clear consent? Well *shrugs shoulders and rolls eyes* you know, that’s how boys are supposed to act. Except, it’s not. There is no reason that men shouldn’t be taught self-control, and there is no biological reason men should be expected to act in this way.

The B-word

Listen to Tina, y’all. Bitch is, though popularized and frequently used, a term charged with misogyny. Often, you hear people saying things like “that bitch wanted it” or “that bitch deserved it”; you never hear “that woman wanted it” or “that woman deserved it.” Referring to women as bitches is an effective tool because it dehumanizes them, portraying women as submissive and almost animalistic. When a women is called a bitch, it serves as a signifier for different traits, such as deceptive, sneaky, catty, and overall unpleasant. Many women use bitch to demean other women as well (it’s not just the guys saying it, ladies). And for those of you saying, “No, we’re taking back the word,” think again. Tina says it right: it will only make it okay for guys to call you that.

 

“Sorry, I have a boyfriend”

It’s something we all do. If a guy comes up and shows interest, a lot of women will automatically say “sorry, I have a boyfriend,” to deter him, even if they are single. Why can’t we just say “I’m not interested” instead? Well, because more often than not, we will either not be taken seriously, or pestered further, or we’re considered to be a bitch (see the above paragraph). It does seem like the only way someone will let you be is if you’re already spoken for, and why is that? The blatant disregard for women’s feelings could stem from the logic behind “no means yes.” Women are simply playing hard to get if they push you away without justifiable cause (which is having a significant other, apparently). Next time you’re hit on and don’t want to pursue anything further, try standing your ground and telling the person that you’re just not interested, point blank.

(Unless you talk about Lady Gaga’s outfit, don’t call someone a piece of meat)

“Piece of meat.”

This is an extremely dehumanizing statement that takes a man or woman and portrays them as an object: a piece of meat. Idolizing someone for their body diminishes the importance of their actual self, their mind, personality, and spirit. It’s not empowering to be solely valued for your body. Women and men should not be praised for how they look. So, before you snap a picture of a hot guy you see in the gym to send to all your gals, remember that you’re only perpetuating the ideal of beauty. 

Katie is a sophomore studying English Literature and Anthropology at Mercer University. When not reading for her classes, she is still reading for pleasure! Katie is a major bookworm whose dream in life is to simply read all day (but, unfortunately, being a well-rounded reader doesn't pay the bills) or be a manatee princess...which isn't very realistic either. Other than books and manatees, Katie has a passion for song, piano, and nature. You can often catch her gazing at the clouds or looking up at tree branches. "The stars gleam, the poets dream..." -Jonathan Larson
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