The way we use language

March 20, 2009

Yesterday, Courtney over at Feministing posted a list of five issues she wishes feminist men were taking on and asked commenters to add their own.

I’ve been pondering which issues I wish feminist men were taking on, and then I came across this post, On Language and the Comodication of Sexism via Humor at Shakesville, by Melissa McEwan.

At the top of my list of things I wish feminist men were thinking about, talking about and addressing more is the use of sexist, reductive language. When I hear men, especially feminist men crack jokes using words like slut and cougar, it really depresses me. And as Ms. McEwan points out, often taking a stand and pointing out that these sorts of things are not acceptable results in being viewed as humorless, over-sensitive and weak.

Ponder this for a second. Everyone understands the ridiculous, sexist difference between studs and sluts. Men who have sex with a lot of women are praised as studs. Women who have sex with a lot of men (or maybe even not that many) are vilified as sluts. So why would any reasonable feminist man use the word?

Cougar is even more offensive. It likens any 30+ year old woman who considers dating younger men to a predatory animal. It’s reductive and disgusting. Full-stop.

I wish that people in general would give more thought to the language that they use, but particularly feminist men. The way we use language affects the way we think. Accepting the use of certain terms makes it harder to to battle the concepts behind them. Feminist men are in a good position to take on this issue, pointing out to their friends and acquaintances that such language is sexist, hurtful and gross.

So now that I’ve ranted a bit, here’s my list of four (’cause that’s what I came up with) things I wish feminist men would take on more:

  1. The use of sexist, racist and homophobic language.

  2. Sexist, racist and homophobic “jokes.
  3. Access to birth control.
  4. Sex Education in schools (See Courtney’s #1).

Oh, and as a bonus, how about crap like this? Read this post at feministing in response to a disgusting post over at


3 Responses to “The way we use language”

  1. kcullen Says:

    I completely agree that the use of sexist and demeaning language from men, especially men who claim themselves to be feminists, is just unacceptable. It’s ridiculous that men take pride on the number of women they sleep with, while a women could sleep with much less men and be labled a whore or slut. Isn’t being a feminist about equality? Feminist men need to think about this and use these beliefs to encourage other men or anyone who feels it is appropriate to use this type of language.

  2. ashivers Says:

    I would agree that the sexist comments against women are a little out of line. But, take a look at a different side. How about the women that call each others these names? Some may mean disrespect and others use these sexist comments as everyday use. So we can not blame the men 100% when we have flaws between the women community. Yes, everything is about equality, but sexiest jokes are not equality so to speak, to me it is like respect. Everyone having respect for everyone would get rid of these sexist comments and inappropriate language.

  3. brub Says:

    All the talk about men being cool if they sleep with alot of women and women being slutty if they sleep with alot of men makes me feel as if this issue is a victimization of women. I’ve talked to my sisters about this issue and they don’t see a man as a “pimp” if he sleeps with alot of girls. They would argue that he is a pig and wouldn’t want anything to do with him. I would agree and say that if a women sleeps with alot of men she is someone that isn’t worth my time. There are phrases such as “man whore” and “man slut” that are used in society to describe men who sleep with alot of women. I believe that virginity is somthing that is charished and would argue that most of society , men and women, are moving in a direction that doesn’t single out a particular sex as being cool to have alot of partners. Does anyone agree with this statement or am I being naieve?

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