The language we use.

June 10, 2013

My thoughts on how we speak about women came last year when I read a response Tina Fey wrote to a comment targeting her on the Net.

Before you read her succinct response, let me say that I think Tina is an awesomely, fantastic feminist (teeny crush along with Amy Poehler) using humour to point out the glaringly obvious, like the following:


I took pure delight in the way Tina composed her rebuttal to an unimpressed fan of her on Saturday Night Live – but I have to admit that the PS left me a tad disappointed:

Dear Internet

 Question #165: Why is it the mother who cops it in the end? 

As much as this world appears to put ‘mother’ on a pedestal – even argue that her prime location is at home, due to her very, very, imperative importance – it leaves me perplexed that mothers are the first to land the insult.


And it’s everywhere.

In some cases, merely uttering the words, “Your mother…” is enough to send (predominantly men) into a frenzied defence of their poor ma.

On further pondering, I realised something that even I was partaking in.

Not only have I said, Son of a Bitch, countless times – in Uruguay, my country of birth, we use a VERY common phrase – for both sexes:

Son of a Whore, as well as Daughter of a Whore.

Ironically, Tina Fey stated the following – which is bloody fantastic and spot on – and yet she did the exact opposite in her PS sentence:


Most of us are guilty of incorporating women in our insults – but why?

Why isn’t it son of a…what? Dickhead? Prick? Bastard? Well, the last one is not wholly connected to men.

The fact of the matter is that there aren’t really harsh and hurtful equivalent terms for males, compared to what females are called.
Logical really, seeing as females – especially mothers – are the tyrannous of the world, after all.

I found the following chart (the site I found it on, didn’t cite its origin):


As much as this is looking at terms relating to being sexually active, many of the negative phrases for women, spill over into day to day insults: slut – whore – bitch…
There are two words missing (actually, I’m sure many more exist) that I hear used often about women:

‘Ganga’ – a girl who likes a gang of men to please have sex with her (aka gang bang).
I’ve heard this ridiculous term said by teens – predominantly girls speaking of fellow girls. A disgrace.

‘C*nt’ – the harshest term to call anyone and a piece of the female anatomy.


How comforting it is; to know that our manner of insulting pits all its energy on women and mothers.

Women included. Lots of women.
Including me…but not any more.

Will you join me?

I leave you with the following:

“He actively maintains the power of naming through force and he justifies force through the power of naming. The world is his because he has named everything in it, including her. She uses this language against herself because it cannot be used any other way.”

~ Andrea Dworkin ‘Pornography: Men Possessing Women’

Deep breath.


9 Responses to “The language we use.”

  1. Ms LJ said

    I’ve been thinking about and raising this subject for a while now. Every time I hear or see someone use the word c**t I remind them that it is a part of my body that I am (and they probably are) very fond of, so are they insulting or praising?
    Same goes with Mother Fucker. You realise every man with two children is one?? They kinda have to be. Does that make them bad people?
    Plus I’ve been embracing the word Strumpet. It’s two fold support: In praise for being a woman who’s getting sex and in praise of Shakesperian language.

  2. Harls said

    I make it a bit of a personal mission to reclaim c*nt on behalf of women (like it was a female equivalent of dick) but it doesn’t work. I have offended several ladies (despite my feminist protestations, I’m first to admit I am kind of clumsy about it) but I’d love for ladies (and society) to reclaim c*nt as a playful and friendly word but sadly I don’t think it will happen. The only way to reclaim it is for it to become so commonplace nobody blinks, which seems very unlikely. I think it is in the nature of society that there needs to be an offensive word that is so offensive it towers above all the others. F*ck is already reclaimed, so c*nt is the only candidate. If we reclaim that as a playful word (which I do) then what is left for the wowsers? And if you are offended by my comment that if you you find c*nt offensive then you must be a wower, dig deep and explain to me (a male feminist) what is the problem here?

    • questionsforwomen said

      Funnily enough, I don’t have a problem with the word cunt, as I DID hear it ad nauseum in London when I lived there in ’98.
      My post is about much more than that word – it’s the casual way women are involved in every insult, either directly or indirectly.
      Bitches and whores the lot of us, it seems.
      PS You can’t compare fuck and cunt – two completely different words. Most people LOATHE the c-word, so I think it will be hard to make common here in Australia.

  3. Harls said

    Hey Paula, no argument about bitch, whore, etc. vs. Stud. etc.
    just make the point that fuck used to be shocking and now it’s not. Maybe cunt could be not shocking if enough people reclaimed it. Anyway you are correct it would do little to reverse the imbalance of sexist terminology (slut/stud whore/fanny magnet cunt/cock ) etc. just sayin’….

  4. afeministmother said

    A good book on the subject, which I was re-reading just last night is Dale Spender’s ‘Man Made Language’. One thing I recall, related to the list above, was that there are 220 words for a sexually active woman, compared to 20 for men. It was first published 1980 (or there-abouts) and is worth the read. My interest is also in the everyday language and how it makes women invisible or portrays them negatively. And also, how in conversation women are literally talked over and do not have their ideas taken as seriously as mens’ ideas are. Dale Spender talks about men taking women’s ideas frequently and presenting them as their own. Aren’t we all amazed when a man makes great pro feminist statements – yet women have done the background work for those statements and have already voiced the ideas very well.

    Mothers just can’t win. Even Disney kills us off. Women without children don’t fare any better either. I try to avoid using the negative words. I also avoid ‘bastard’, my old favourite, because all women know that their children are legitimate because they birthed them, thank you very much!

    • questionsforwomen said

      Thanks for letting me know about the book.
      Oh, I agree about women being talked over – literally and metaphorically – I find the silencing of women takes many forms.
      The irony of it all – how mothers (aka women) are entrusted with raising the future, and yet we’re told to shush at every given moment.
      Your last line rocks, thank YOU very much! 😀 x

  5. […] The language we use. Especially as women (and […]

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