Comment: It’s Literally Up to You

By Imogen Dolen Parry

This is the article in which I break down and debunk the myths that surround gender, sexuality and feminism. This is a list of terms and phrases we continue to use despite their somewhat offensive and degrading connotations- this is when and where you abandon these terms and phrases.

  • Feminazi: An infinitely inappropriate and offensive term. The Holocaust is difficult to describe because none of the words in the English language are capable of demonstrating how atrocious it really was. I cannot pretend – none of us can – to know how awful such a time was. This is why, comparing a woman who is fighting on behalf of all those who fought and died before her and all those to come, to be simply paid justly, to a Nazi who took part in ruthless slaughter of a population is NOT OKAY. Feminism is the reason your mother is allowed to have a job or the reason your sister can go to school and take HL Physics. Do not compare us to a participant of a mass murder scheme, it’s disgusting. The suffering of others should not be used as a device to degrade a group or individual, nor should it be a means of furthering one’s own political agenda. 
  • Slut/Whore/Hoe: Here is the first thing you need to understand about these words. A SLUT ISN’T A REAL THING. NONE OF THESE ARE REAL. I will give you some time to absorb that.

“A slut” is a term we developed to label girls who have “more sex than we think they should”. Of course, sex can be very dangerous to your health and it is important to always use protection and to be cautious of STIs and STDs. However, if a girl has a lot of sex, she is in as much danger as a boy who is having a lot of sex! Just stay safe kids!

So, what is this term? The term’s meaning is based on a much antiquated idea that women should be pure, have no sexual desire and that their virginity is their most prized possession. This idea states that women are to be sexy and desirable but must NEVER be sexual creatures themselves. When their virginity is taken, they shall bleed, experience pain and a part of them will be taken by a man. This of course is A LIE you have been sold! You will not be soiled after you have had sex, you do not lose a part of you and become worth less, you have control of your sexuality and you may have as much or as little sex as you like.

So, if you use this term- please stop, you’re making a lot of people uncomfortable and perpetuating a culture that shames women for making choices of their own over their bodies.

  • “Divide yourselves up into boys and girls” I have never understood the point of doing this, but it is a tactic teachers constantly use and serves little purpose other than the perpetuation binary gender normativity. If you have been living under a rock, these words might be new to you. Gender is something completely socially constructed, it’s how you feel about yourself- how you identify. Sex, is your internal and external sex organs and your biological make-up, this is to say, your hormones and chromosomes. So from this we can deduce that there are more than two genders. By telling your students to suddenly be a boy or a girl is hugely exclusive of the individuals who wish to identify with neither or both genders. We are overdue in altering our vocabulary and attitudes towards the non-binary community- start now.

 

  • “Don’t be such a pussy!” There are a lot of YouTubers who speak about this term and tell stories of their male friends being seriously upset and embarrassed about being called this during their adolescence. The reason it’s used as an offensive term is because it compares boys to vulva and thus “womanhood” (of course by this point I hope you have understood that your genitalia is completely irrelevant to your gender but most people remain unaware of this, hence the popularity of the term), and being a woman is seen as weak and degrading! Not only does using this term perpetuate the stereotype that women are frail and it is a shame to be one, but also pressures boys to identify with the characteristics of the gender they were assigned at birth. This phrase alienates and demeans the non-binary community.

 

  • “Run like a girl” JUST STOP. I AM GOING TO LIST SOME FEMALE OLYMPIANS FOR YOU RIGHT NOW. Shelly-Ann Fraser. Florence Griffith-Joyner. Serena Williams. Lyudmila Kondratyeva. Annegret Richter. You don’t need me to tell you that women can run. So please, stop using this phrase.

 

  • “That’s so gay” This one is so simple. There is nothing wrong with being gay. In using this term, you are being inherently homophobic. You are not only encouraging and contributing to a culture that excludes and shames the gay community but also, making anyone around you who is gay/bi/pan feel insecure which very often will lead to self esteem issues, depression, anxiety and a great many other mental disorders. Why would you do that to anyone?

 

  • “She’s frigid” Here is a perfect example of the double standards girls face. We call girls sluts when we think they are having too much sex, but on TV we see so many perfume, food, car, clothes adverts where women are almost naked. So how do we dress? How do we act? How do we say “no” to sexual advances we don’t want? “She wouldn’t let me touch her- she’s frigid”. No. She is a person who is allowed to make decisions for herself. Maybe she isn’t ready, maybe she doesn’t like you. Maybe she is asexual. She isn’t frigid, you’re just not something she wants.

 

  • “A real man” Again, NOT A REAL THING. This phrase is often used when trying to encourage a boy or man to behave in a more “masculine” way. This is generally not a useful piece of advice as it forces the individual to believe that their way of being isn’t valid, isn’t “manly” enough and that to be a “real man” they need to demonstrate that they are strong and powerful. There are those who are assigned male at birth and who never feel in touch with that gender and by telling them they need to “be a man”, you pressure them into a gender they may not be. Not only this but by putting pressure on boys to demonstrate outdated “male” characteristics we are nudging them into a life of feeling constantly dissatisfied and insecure about their masculinity- they feel they must incessantly prove their masculinity in carrying out acts of strength and control, this is one of the reasons rape is so prominent.

  

I hope that if you are someone who uses terms such as these, you will henceforth make an effort to refrain and maybe make sure your friends do the same. Of course, if you do need to tell your friend to stop using the term “slut” then make sure to tell them gently and in private.

We all make these mistakes so don’t feel anxious if you have used some of these- most people have, it’s what much of society has taught us to do. But this is your opportunity to make it less likely for your best friend to be called “frigid” when she tells someone she isn’t ready to have sex with them, less likely for your classmate to feel alienated and excluded because they can’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth and less likely for your sister, your niece, your mother, your best friend or your aunt to experience sexual violence during her life. It’s literally up to you.


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13 Comments

  1. While I agree with most of your article, I am disgusted with one thing in particular…

    YOUR SPELLING OF THE WORD HOE!

    Ho’ is the proper term (abbreviation of whore)

    A ‘hoe’ is a tool commonly used in agriculture.

    *Exits to rejoin the legions of Grammar Nazis*

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  2. I think we just have to accept the fact that people are going to keep saying these things whether we like them or not. Even if we do “raise awareness” and point out that these things happen to be “offensive and degrading”, there are going to be people out there who just ignore it, and so they will call a girl a slut, for example, even though others say it is wrong. I dunno, sometimes these things just don’t have an effect on some people, as I see lots of people on the internet constantly calling feminists “feminazis” without a care in the world. I guess you can’t change some people.

    Which is why i would personally suggest you just ignore the person who says these things if it really bothers you. But that’s just what I think. also, there are just a few of your points that have honestly left me sort of confused. I hope you don’t mind if I refute a few of them.

    “Gender is something completely socially constructed,” Um, I thought gender is a biological thing. but okay..?

    “So, if you use this term- please stop, you’re making a lot of people uncomfortable and perpetuating a culture that shames women for making choices of their own over their bodies.”
    Perpetuating a culture that shames women? How? how does this culture/society shame women? If you call someone a slut, you’re calling them a slut, not enforcing some women-shaming cultural-social anti-sex hate club. What are you even talking about here? Rape culture? The thing is, people aren’t being put down by society for making their own choices. If a women wants to have a lot of sex, she most certainly can, but people ARE going to judge her for it. People are judgemental over everything. Which is why it is important to not let words get to you if this happens.

    “We all make these mistakes so don’t feel anxious if you have used some of these- most people have, it’s what much of society has taught us to do.”
    How exactly has society taught us to say “that’s so gay” or “don’t be such a pussy”, or “wow, she’s such a whore,”? People choose to say these things to others. Society isn’t doing anything to make us say these things. If someone is insulting a girl by calling her a slut, they do it because they choose to insult her.

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    1. (I was going to add a few more points but i’ll do that later)

      Well, my point is, basically what I just said above. In my view, the best thing is to just ignore these the people using these terms if they offend you so much

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    2. Hey, so I will try to explain to you some of the things you appear to have misunderstood here.

      no. 1: HOW WORTHY IS AWARENESS-RAISING
      I think that actually raising awareness is hugely valid and important. In the 90’s, the gay community in England was being totally and utterly ignored. Peter Tatchell among a large number of others, began carrying out silent, peaceful acts of resistance to raise awareness to the importance of gay rights. Banners and chants in the streets became unavoidable- the ears and the eyes could not steer clear of the revolution England was clearly on the brink of. I know a few people who have written to me and talked to me at school telling me they liked this article and had not realised the offensive connotations of what they were saying until now. Most people react in a similar way to you: “It’s not that necessary, there are bigger things going on” etc. But really- language is our main channel of communication. The more we put down women in a world where they are already suffering economically, bureaucratically etc, the more of a bystander to the feminist movement we become. The same applies for the queer and trans community. The more we let people here us alienating gay people, calling them “faggots”, the more we normalise the view that they are abnormal and overall unwelcome here. Welcome these people, they deserve everything the cis, straight community has had since the beginning of time.

      no. 2: GENDER
      A common misconception. Gender is how you feel, how you express yourself- and at the end of the day, regardless of what it says on your passport, how your body looks, how much hair you grow and where, whether or not you menstruate and what you genitalia is- you decide your gender. YOUR SEX is what you are born with. Your hormones, your chromosomes and your genitalia. Therefore, I can have a penis, testicles and XY chromosomes and be a woman. I can have a penis, testicles and breasts and be a woman. I can have none of those and be a woman. I can have a vagina and breasts and be a man. I am what I choose to be.

      no. 3: WOMAN-SHAMING
      Right now, next to me, my friend is writing an article which she may or may not publish precisely about how we are living in a culture wherein women are constantly shunned for the decisions they make throughout their lives. By calling a woman a slut you are stating that there is a problem with her having so many sexual relations. A man does just the same, sleeps with as many women as he wishes and we CONGRATULATE HIM. Yes, I am talking about rape culture too. Women are at fault for not putting out, women are at fault for wearing what they want and therefore “asking for it”, women are at fault for being asexual, women are at fault for having as much sex as they want. Women need to be freed. The year 9 that was past you while you call the girl a slut, has already seen a movie where a woman sleeps around a lot and then eventually settles down with this one man who cures her of her manic, attention seeking, self-destructive life choices. He has seen that and has learnt that a woman having a lot of sex is emotionally corrupt and needs help. He hears you call a girl a slut. He thinks back to the movie and remembers that crazy girl. He gets into the mind set that a woman can’t possibly enjoy that lifestyle, she needs a man to sit her down and solve the whole thing by being in love with her/marrying her. It is more or less undebatable that we live in a world where women are shamed for making their own choices. I choose to go out wearing what I want, I get assaulted and I am blamed for choosing those clothes. Like I said, women need to freed.

      no. 4: SOCIETY IS TO BLAME
      Ok so what you’re saying here is that it is the individual’s fault. Not society’s. But then tell me this- who taught that individual to think there was something alien and wrong with homosexuality? The religion that says that hell is the abode of he who engages in sexual relations with his same-sex friend. Or the parent who comes home, outraged after America legalises gay marriage, saying “it’s unnatural!”. Or the boy who is sexually assaulted by a boy in his class and who then decides that all gay men are perverted. Regardless that there are 78 American women raped per hour. Regardless of the fact that the majority of those rapes will have been carried out by men. Yet there is no stigma that constantly surrounds straight men. We meet straight men and are friends them, their sexuality barely crosses our mind. The queer community and the trans community are oppressed and its because we do not see them in films being average people- they are “the transgender friend” or “the guy who turns out to be gay”. They are not just people to us, we see them as accessories that make our lives exotic. White gay male couples are “SO CUTE” and white female couples are “SO HOT” and “DO YOU WANNA HAVE A THREESOME LATER ON”. You aren’t born like this, you are born into it.

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      1. Apologies for my hilarious and appalling spelling mistakes I am typing hecka fast and passionately!! Sorry!!!!!!

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  3. What about “You’re such a dick” doesn’t it also have a negative connotation towards people with penis’s?

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    1. YES! We should be aiming to eradicate all kinds of offensive language! Women are globally oppressed and thus they are the priority at the moment. The larger problem with the “you’re such a pussy” comment is the idea of “emasculation” that it entails. But yes! You are absolutely right!

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    1. This is a joke referenced from Jamie Vardy, please do not see it as more or overthink it.

      Urban Dictionary’s explanation of it is : Expression used to humiliate people who hate on someone or something

      However, in this case it was simply for laughter, nothing more. Please do not view this as more.

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  4. I agree with most of your points except for the following:
    “Don’t be such a pussy!” pussy is an abbreviation for the word: pusillanimous, it’s definition being ; showing a lack of courage or determination, timid.
    “A real man” When this is said I believe it’s used not to make someone act more masculine but act more mature. To “man up” is not to saying one should stop being a woman but instead stop being a child. It’s asking one to distance themselves from acting like a child and instead to act more like a grown person.

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