These seemingly harmless sayings actually have sexist roots.
Language changes and evolves with our world whether we like it or not. Certain words and phrases become antiquated because they either no longer serve a purpose in our society or they become offensive.
Once referred to as a hatred of women, the definition of misogyny has broadened to include ‘deeply entrenched prejudice’ towards women, or a belief that men are superior to women. Yet the six common phrases below are so ubiquitous people rarely stop to think about the meaning behind them.
Even if such phrases are used innocently, there is a growing sentiment that it’s time to stop using them. American TV producer Shonda Rhimes is particularly over the use of ‘smart strong women’ and ‘strong female leads’ in the entertainment industry.
And Ms Rhimes would know – she’s behind some of the most successful female-led television shows of all time, including Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal.
Phrases such as ‘strong female leads’ can indicate that the norm for female characters is weakness, and that it’s unusual if they’re powerful. When was the last time you heard about a ‘strong male lead’? Probably never – they’re just called ‘male characters’.
Here are some phrases that could be beyond their use-by date.
1. Girl boss
The term started with humble intentions but its adoption into pop culture has made it quite ridiculous. They’re not girls, they’re women. Imagine if roles were reversed and male leaders were referred to as 'boy bosses'. Why the compulsive need to clarify when someone is a woman, when a man never gets the same treatment?
2. Man up
Man up is actually defined as 'to start being brave or strong in order to deal with a difficult situation'. Should masculinity be associated with strength? It’s a damaging trope for both genders. It implies that men should not allow themselves to feel hurt or express emotion, perhaps preventing them from reaching out if they need help. It could also cause some men to believe that the only acceptable way to express their emotions is through anger or physical action.
When a man is in charge, he’s seen as strong and powerful. When a woman is in the same role, she’s more likely to be called ‘bossy'. Calling a woman bossy is akin to chastising her for having opinions or a sense of authority. It could also prevent young girls from learning how to be assertive if they hear strong women being referred to as bossy.
4. Working mother
This phrase screams double standards: when did you ever hear of a dad with a job being called a ‘working father’? Or even a woman being called a 'working young adult' or a 'working wife'? Having a baby doesn't automatically merge your career and parenthood and referring to someone is a ‘working mother’ can have judgemental undertones – whether it’s meant that way or not.
5. She wears the trousers in the relationship
Relationships should be an equal partnership, but phrases like this suggest that usually the man is in charge, and women are just uppity if they take the lead, much like the word ‘whipped’, which reflects badly on men.
What do you think of these phrases? Do you think they should go or that people are too easily offended?
– With PA
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