While we find ourselves in the midst of a presidential scandal in which a candidate was recorded making derogatory comments about women and using less-than-politically-correct words to describe parts of their bodies, it’s interesting that a group of researchers set out to find exactly what it is that angers women – names they are called, and adjectives used to describe women. What makes a woman angry to be characterized as? As it turns out, some terms long regarded as harmless or even “terms of endearment” do nothing but set a woman’s teeth on edge.
According to FHM, there are nicknames that women find especially grating. This may not be true for all women, but few things are true of all people. Who decided to study this? The cereal brand “Special K” as part of their campaign “Strength is…” The cereal, long advertised as being part of a diet that makes women lean and fit, is a product whose company ownership apparently wishes to understand women and their thought patterns better. Studies about how women like to be treated and pet names they like to be called are likely more plentiful than what they do not wish to be called, so the “Special K” crew set about to poll 2,000 British women on names and adjectives that especially angered them.
Because British women were polled, it’s likely that some of these pet names or terms may not be popular in the United States or other primarily English-Speaking countries. Since culture is often the result of social norms, it is difficult to translate one culture to the next. But the general idea behind the irritation regarding these names is likely one that is, to a certain extent, universal. The universal theme seems to be that what some people think of as “innocent pet names” may not be perceived in that manner by the woman they are aimed at – in fact, she may consider herself pigeon-holed, stereotyped, marginalized, or worse – discriminated against.
Never fear, though, there are terms of endearment that don’t make the list. That doesn’t necessarily mean than no woman is offended by them, but rather that the majority of women are not offended. Two of those are “honey” and “love.” That may be because they are terms that women sometimes use endearingly towards each other, their children, or even men. Any “term of endearment” can be used condescendingly, but when said sincerely, there are some that women don’t seem to mind.
Others, however, you’re best to steer clear of.
The number one pet name British women hate to be called is “Bird.” American women are likely left puzzling over that one – is it because birds are chirpy? Noisy? Annoying? The true problem, according to The Mirror, is that the term is sexist. Would a man ever be referred to as a bird? “Hey, Bird, let’s go grab a beer after the football game” sounds rather odd. Men, feel free to chime in – Have you been called a bird?
Other names women detest? “Doll”, which refers to a pretty but lifeless inanimate object that is traditionally used to play with, “Chick” (somehow tying in with the bird reference?) “Babe” (which women may feel reduces them to infant-like status) and “Queen Bee” – which is thought of as a bossy, uncaring dominant that rules the hive.
That’s not all! There’s a list of twenty words that women would like banned, including “Hormonal,” “ball breaker,” “bitchy,” “high maintenance” and “diva.”
Nicola Roberts says the problem is that the names are sexist or meant to undermine women because of their gender.
“It is a strange thing that in a modern society we still have room for language that holds strong women back. It is very important young women in society grow up learning that you are not a ‘ball breaker’. If you are successful – you are simply a strong woman succeeding. Women should not allow themselves to be referred to as anything other than who they are in a professional setting.”
Readers, share your thoughts – are these terms sexist?
[Featured Image by Pater Griffith/Getty Images]