THE PRINCESS AND THE PEA – “Female” as a slur

Believe it or not……

Did you know that “female” is now considered a misogynistic slur in some quarters? Oh yes, and you are a woman-hating oppressor if you don’t fall into line.

There several kinds of dysfunction on display in this one:

First there is the appropriation of opprobrium over genuinely offensive and more to the point, actually dangerous terms such as “nigger’ or “faggot” that have a long history of licensing actual violence, both mid to high level terrorist violence up to and including murder by torture. “Female”? Not so much.

But that doesn’t stop them from trying, does it? It doesn’t stop them from putting on the wounded little voices and let their big, round eyes brim with tears and when that has worked its usual magic of painting them as righteous victims, putting on their anger face and getting all serious and demanding that people take them and their heinous oppression seriously. Heinous indeed – you’d think they had come home and found you had washed their favorite jeans or something.

Of course there can be gender discrimination that doesn’t quite reach the level of horror of lynching. So they are free to make the case as to how “female” gets us there.

Then there is just the Orwellian totalitarianism of the exercise of power in presuming to dictate what words are acceptable or not. It’s straight out of 1984. We’re all very used to this kind of thing by now but it really never loses its power to disgust.

And then finally there is the irritating attempt to make a mountain out of a molehill we call the Princess and the Pea. Is this all just about projecting power, imposing their will on the language? Is this about showing how dainty and hyper-sensitive they can be? Who knows, but it sure is pathetic.

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  • JDCyran

    Is this why we have to say things like “Woman Astronaut” instead of “Female Astronaut,” but saying “Man Astronaut” instead of “Male Astronaut” sounds ridiculous, if we feel compelled use such categories for whatever reason?

  • typhonblue

    How come we don’t clue in that gagging someone by restricting their speech or ejaculating hatred all over them are forms of assault?

    Ironically it’s usually the same group doing both; both gagging another group and spewing venom all over them.

    And, yes, I’ve heard “male” used as an insult. As I said at reddit… even if “female” is an insult, why is it blasphemous that it’s possible to insult women? Is it because they are angels from on high, sent down by god to elevate the unwashed masses?

  • IogSotot

    The comment thread is blank. I guess there was too much offensive verbiage.

    Serious question time: is this rape culture?

  • Jolly McFats

    This has been a common theme on /r/againstmensrights for a few months now. As far as I can tell, the logic is as follows:

    1) MRAs use the word “female” in the place of “woman” a lot

    2) MRAs are misogynist.

    3) Therefore, this practice must be misogynist.

    4) Look- the MRAs are calling women “females”! misogynists!

  • Wilson

    The appropriate language is of course “comrade”. “Feminists” are a bunch of reactionaries for clinging to patriarchal terms like “women”.

  • Snake Oil Baron

    From now on I may make an effort to say things like “Hello assembled males and females” instead of “hello everyone”. I may even say “Hello assembled females and males” just to show I am not always giving males top billing. Instead of the men’s room and women’s room it shall be the males’ room and the females’ room. And Wonder Woman is now Wonder Female as far as I am concerned. I like to be difficult.

  • Cicero

    Off :topic question. Someone in a dicussion about feminism mentioned that there was a name for conflating the numbers for men and women and presenting them as numbers only for women and linked to a wikipedia article about it. Or maybe it was just a name for general conflating of numbers for two groups and presenting them as numbers for just one with many examples of conflating male and female numbers as an example. Regardless, I am trying to find out what this effect is called and to find the wikipedia page as it had such great examples such as presenting violence against men and women as only against women. Does anyone know what I am talking about?

  • Schala

    You mean presenting the 12 million victims of DV in Canada (6 million men, 6 million women) according to stats can as being victims of “violence against women”?

  • Cicero

    You mean presenting the 12 million victims of DV in Canada (6 million men, 6 million women) according to stats can as being victims of “violence against women”?

    Yes exactly, Schala. But the guy who wrote about this had some sort of word for it. Woosing or worth and then something effect or something and that word had an article on wikipedia defining it and giving great examples. By the way do you have a link to the “stats can” (statistics Canada?) misrepresentation if it is still presented that way?

  • HidingFromtheDinosaurs

    Are they all speaking Japanese now? Because this would actually kind of make sense in Japanese.

    You see, normally, one ought to use ‘josei’ when talking about human women as a gender, but there’s another word, ‘mesu,’ that means the female gender when talking about animals (the male equivalents are ‘dansei’ and ‘osu’). Both terms translate into English as ‘female,’ but using ‘mesu’ to refer to human women is insulting (being, in a sense, dehumanizing), and the term is sometimes used as a slur.

  • Uriełe

    Hell, why not. Shit testing never stops escalating.
    I hope “bitch” stays perfectly acceptable, as well as referring to every participant of the proud and dignified Sluts Walk as “that slut” for the rest of their lives.

  • Tamen
  • Endless Summer

    While I don’t consider “female” a slur, I must admit that when I see someone start talking about “females” where one would expect someone to use the word “women”, I do generally brace myself for the point where they go off the deep end and say something really shitty.

  • Cicero

    Thanks Tamen. That was exactly what I was looking for.

  • Ginkgo

    Jolly Mcfats, welcome!

    That doesn’t surprise me at all.

  • dungone

    In our battalion we got banned from saying “women Marines” or “WMs” because some of the female Marines got offended by that and wanted to just be “Marines.” The problem is that they had so many different standards from the men that it was impossible to talk about anything having to do with women without pointing out that you were talking about them and not all Marines in general. So everyone started saying “female Marines.” And that seemed to be okay, for some reason. It doesn’t really matter what you start off calling them and what you end up calling them; the real aim is to give them the satisfaction of knowing they have control over you. It’s passive aggressive, but it’s still about controlling men and nothing more.

  • Ginkgo

    “It’s passive aggressive, but it’s still about controlling men and nothing more”

    This is an exercise of the Moral Guardian role. I may start calling it the Female Censorate after the office in Imperial China. It is all about power and it and quite a lot of the other norming and policing under the “patriarchy” is carried out by women. It’s a feature of toxic femininity.

  • gwallan

    The woozle effect occurs when incorrect or misinterpreted research is cited repeatedly thus becoming “truth” as a consequence.

    “a name for conflating the numbers for men and women and presenting them as numbers only for women”

    I’m uncertain of any specific label for the type of misrepresentation asked about. Possibly “conflation”.

    A similar, albeit reversed, Australian example would be the interference by federal Labor politicians in the creation of our Bureau of Statistic’s first “Personal Safety Survey” in the mid nineties. They forced the removal of any questions which might reveal the sex of an individual who had abused any study participant. The study will have identified abuse actually committed by women as having been committed by men.

  • dungone

    It’s the ecological fallacy. See this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_fallacy#Group_and_total_averages

    Suppose one knows the number of Protestants and the suicide rate in the USA, but one does not have data linking religion and suicide at the individual level. If one is interested in the suicide rate of Protestants, it is a mistake to estimate it by the total suicide rate divided by the number of Protestants.

    In Cicero’s example, they’re trying to link women to total DV victims even though they don’t have data linking women to DV on the individual level. In gwallan’s Australian example, they’re trying to link men to DV abusers, but they maliciously removed data linking men to abusers at the individual level. So they’re dividing the total number of incidents in the entire population by just the number of men or just the number of women in order to inflate the numbers for that particular group.

  • Ginkgo

    “Figures lie and liars figure.”

    It’s all fun with numbers. I recognize the utility of statistics as a way to analyze a situation, but mostly I see them used to obscure it.

  • dungone

    @Gingko, it’s only possible to lie with statistics because so many people are innumerate. Most of the liars are ignorant themselves and their real lord isn’t math but confirmation bias. So I’m fine with there not being a choice in the matter – a person either strives to learn to understand statistics or they strive to remain a fool.

  • Astrokid.NJ

    This female woman issue cropped up in the athesit community prior to Egate, at an Atheist conference.
    When Gender Goes Pear-Shaped

    It was extremely frustrating. So I wasn’t surprised when the young woman who finally stood up and started challenging the panel snapped. First, despite her having her hand raised for most of the discussion, the panel never even acknowledged her or invited her opinion (despite soliciting the opinion of several guys both on and off the panel. Finally, she just stood up and started shouting to make her voice heard. Her question focused on the language the panel had been using – “female” instead of “woman,” and pointed out that it made us sound like livestock rather than people

  • http://markley.weebly.com/index.html John Markley

    One underappreciated reason for the use of female, I think, is that while there are lots of informal terms for adult males that are considered perfectly inoffensive by virtually everyone, every female equivalent I can think of creates a not-insignificant risk that the man using them will will be viewed, and perhaps attacked, as sexist. “Female” is, or was, what’s left over.

    I’ve actually come to view feminist demands that adult females be referred to always and only as “women” as a demeaning ploy for dominance. When one person must be more formal when speaking to or about another person than that other person is in return, that typically indicates subservience and inferiority. Adults address children by given name, while children are usually expected to reply with titles. Soldiers say “sir” to superiors, not subordinates. And so on.

    So when a woman won’t accept any term for herself other than “woman” but feels free to call me a “guy” or a “dude,” she’s demanding respect that she doesn’t extend in return. This sort of fits in with Ginkgo’s subsequent post about gender and class, now that I think about it.

  • Tamen

    As John Markley point out, it’s rather glaring how that article Astrokid.NJ linked to is littered with “guys” and “dudes”. The same goes for the comments.

  • Ginkgo

    John, I have a gender/class post on courtly love coming up. somewhere typhon remarked that the real point of courtly love, the real standard of how well it is perfomred, is how much the man does for the women (who of course is required to be completley pasive). And this is not limited to actual relationships but has metastasized to the entire culture and expectations around any kind of interaction between genders. Your point about language policing dovetails with that.

  • dejour

    I have had people complain about me using “females”. I try to avoid it now, or at least use males as well.

    Nonetheless, I find females to be useful when talking about women *and* girls.

  • Ginkgo

    Welcome, dejour. It’s a judgement call, isn’t it? You don’t want to make trouble needlessly, and at the same time you don’t want to cave to some bluenose’s power trip either.