The first day of my gender communication class, one of the male students dropped the c-word. But, to be fair, he was quoting a female musician.
Some of the students giggled while others gasped. Our teacher, however, remained cool.
“I’m glad you brought that up,” she said to the male student. “We’re going to be talking about language and its effects on gender in this class.”
She then proceeded to divide the class into a sexist, boys vs. girls formation. Both sides were given the same list of gender-related words and told to define them as a group.
It was encouraging to see both male and female students come up with relatively similar definitions for many of the same words. However, when it came to the definitions of derogatory words such as femme, dyke and butch, the sexes differed.
The boys’ side defined the words accurately, minus the negative connotation. For example, the word dyke was defined by the males as only meaning “lesbian” while the girls took much more offense to the word.
So why the difference? Are the sexes not equally educated on gender and sexist language? Are girls, by nature, perhaps more sensitive to the feelings of others? It’s unlikely.
A more plausible explanation is that the words themselves were created by males for a male-dominated language. Sex-specific insults are almost always in reference to the fairer sex. To make an insult masculine, it’s usually necessary to add the word man, as in “man-whore.”
For this reason, It’s important for both men and women to refrain form using words such as slut and whore. Not only are the words cruel and derogatory, they are rooted in an archaic sexist mindset.
A mindset we would all be better off without.