There was a diary today which I didn’t read because the term “pussy” was used in a derogatory way to imply cowardice. I replied by reprinting an old diary I wrote providing non-sexist and non-homophobic slurs for cowardice. I did this because I truly think we can find better words to use that don’t have that hint of misogyny behind them, as if being a woman is somehow bad. And this wa the charming reply I got:
When someome calls someone a "dick" I don't get offended.
"Oh my, you're using my genatalia as a derogatory remark, oh I'm so offended"
Talk about manufactured outrage.
You're just being hypersensitive.
Here's a clue... There's plenty going on out there in the world to be outraged over.
For example: The possibility of hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of children being kicked off medicaid rolls to be left without healthcare.
That pisses me off.
The word 'pussy' somehow loosely implying that all women are weak - not so much.
Why? It is a contrived outrage.
Are you weak? Yes or no? If the inference doesn't apply then ignore it.
I disagree. I think that there’s something pretty serious going on when the worst thing a man can call another man—a coward—uses terms that imply that being a woman or being gay is somehow cowardly or weak. And I think a MAN telling a WOMAN not to be upset about it is pretty damned sexist. And also pretty damned typical. It’s a lot like white people telling African Americans that they are seeing discrimination where it doesn’t exist. It indicates to me that the person informing others how they should feel or react is avoiding examining his or her own sexism or racism or homophobia.
I have a pussy. I like it. So does my husband, and the other men I’ve slept with over the years. It also serves a useful purpose. It’s the passage by which sperm make their way northward to fertilize an egg. If that fertilized egg makes it through 9 months of pregnancy (something which only happens to women, may I point out), it’s the passageway to life outside the uterus. It’s also the way that an egg that either didn’t get fertilized by some hardy sperm or that failed to implant gets sloughed off along with the endometrial lining which would have formed the vagina, thus serving as a way of cleansing the uterus for next month’s try.
I am damned sick and tired of MEN telling me what I am allowed to be outraged over. And my outrage is neither faux, nor due to hypersensitivity.
Because WORDS MATTER.
Words tell us a lot about what people really think. And using words related to femininity to denote cowardice, weakness, spinelessness, or which imply that gay men are inferior to straight men because they are like women and thus weak, says a LOT about the person using those words. And when a man then puts you down for being annoyed at the insult—and my comment was framed in a fairly joking way—it says even more, none of it complimentary to the one saying it.
It says that person believes women are somehow less than men, that we are weak, that we are flawed for being not-men. The same is true for gay men—they’re lesser than straight men because in some ways they seem closer to women than real men, who are straight.
Women are not weak. Hell no. Every single month from puberty to menopause—was time period which lasts around 40 years, depending upon the woman—we menstruate, a process which is messy and generally painful. We put up with bloating for days before, pain in our lower backs, and, in some cases, cramps that are debilitating enough to require pain meds. Most of us manage to sail through this without whining or losing it with annoying family members or co-workers. If that isn’t enough, we also get pregnant, nine months of backaches, nausea, and weight gain, culminating in hours of painful labor. And at the end of our reproductive cycle, we have the fun of menopause, with hot flashes and other unpleasant symptoms. Just being female means you can’t be weak, or you’d fold after the first pregnancy or bout of cramps. Most of us handle this with Motrin, and a sense of humor.
If these attitudes didn't have an impact in real women's lives, I might cut the person some slack. But they do have an effect. Women's weakness was used for centuries to keep women out of gaining an education beyond the basics necessary to run a household. They were used to keep women out of professions like medicine (Florence Nightingale's first nurses were regarded as not much better than prostitutes because they did "unwomanly" things") and law and the military. For years, in the military, women's weakness was used to restrict us to clerical tasks or nursing. They were used to deny us the right to vote.
Even today we work at jobs where we are paid less than the guy in the cubicle next to us, even though we have the same experience and education and get similarly good evaluations. We come home from that job and we still do more of the housework and childcare. If we are raped, our manner of dress and behavior is used to prove we asked for it somehow. We put up with a lot of crap in this world—yet we still manage to love and respect our male friends and spouses.
What it comes down to is simple: there’s a lot of unacknowledged misogyny and homophobia swirling around. If the worst thing you can say about a man is that he’s like a woman, then it indicates a certain lack of respect for women, and a certain devaluation of us. And when you then tell a woman she shouldn’t bother her pretty little head about it, and if she does express anger, she’s oversensitive and should worry about real problems—ones that concern the particular man—it is rather damned insulting.
Because words DO matter. They reflect the way the world thinks, and the speaker thinks. It’s why LGBT people want full marriage, rather than civil unions, even if a civil union confers all the same benefits (they don’t, but even if they did, it indicates that gays have a separate-but-equal status, and we know how well that works). And when someone uses an offensively sexist term, it tells me they think less of me because I have a pussy.
As for the commenter not being offended when someone calls him a dick—it’s a bit different when you belong to the reigning power structure, which is still predominantly white and male. I don’t much like calling someone a dick—I’d rather call them something non-gender-related like a jackass or an asshole, because calling them a dick implies that there’s something not so nice about having a penis, and I tend to be rather fond of the penises I’ve been intimate with. Unless the Dick you are referring to is Dick Cheney, in which case, make that clear, or you’re being sexist.
So, yeah, I am mad—and I plan to stay mad. We are more than our genitalia. We are more than our sexual orientation. And I believe Kossacks are well-educated enough to find better words to describe spinelessness or weakness—or even aggressive asshattery—than to use terms which denigrate vaginas, gay men, and, yes, penises.