Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Pussy

This topic has been festering in my mind recently and Jim’s post spurred me to write about the meaning of many gendered phrases that people, including myself, toss about commonly. We insult people by calling them 'pussies' 'sissies' or otherwise labeling them as female.

I have worked in several physically demanding jobs (all male, except for me) in which workers who were slacking off or whining about the challenges of the job were called ‘Nancy’ or ‘Sally.’ At first I didn’t understand these labels and assumed that they were in reference to specific people named N or S. Nope – it was explained to me that the men were being chided for acting like a girl. My scowl must have reminded the men that they were in fact talking to a girl, and immediately they muttered something along the lines of ‘present company excluded.’

This language is peculiar and insulting to women. It directly correlates women with being weak, cowardly and pathetic. The behavior expected of someone ‘being a man’ in a situation is opposed to the behavior we expect of a ‘sissy’. Besides the generic comments about ‘throwing like a girl’ ‘crying like a girl’ also pay attention to the language that we use especially relating to genitals:

Having or using ‘balls’ ‘nads’ or ‘testicals’ implies taking risk and courage.

Being a ‘pussy’ means the exact opposite.

Funny. Imagine both a man and women are struck in their groins – which of them is likely to fall to the ground, whimper in pain while clutching the crotch? I suspect that the man is going to cradle and coddle his balls while the woman grimaces. She reserves her wailing for when she gives birth – that activity when a pussy delivers a new child into the world. I have neither balls nor children, but it seems like the connotations of the gendered terms should be reversed, because one involves succumbing to the slightest contact and the other involves triumph over an extended, painful experience.

Also, I understand that the terms of ‘prick’ ‘dick’ and ‘cock’ are not very flattering. They don’t however denote weakness, but instead selfishness, thoughtlessness or aggression.

I don’t really know how ‘cunt’ or ‘bitch’ work in this line-up. They certainly aren’t positive. ‘Cunt’ is generally only applied to women. The meaning of ‘bitch’ has changed in the last few years. It, along with ‘cunt’ had an aura of aggression to them. However, now ‘bitch’ can be used to denote submissiveness, by ‘being someone’s bitch’. ‘Bitch’ seems to be the contradicting label for both submissive and aggressive negative behavior.

Recently I have started to cringe when I hear myself mocking someone else with the term 'pussy' or 'sissy.' I dont' want to perpetuate this language but it seems built into my vocabulary. It is certainly interesting to ponder these different terms, though.

7 Comments:

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Tincéir said...

There are many sexist and racist words in common useage today that we really don't even think about. When was the last time you declared you were "gypped"? Well, being 25% Gypsy- I'm offended! ;)

It's all a matter of where we choose to draw the line. It seems, like so many other things, that either extreme is rather ridiculous... and somewhere in the blurry middle is where most people feel comfortable.

 
At 7:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

True.
However- I always thought "pussy" in this sense was closer to the term "pussycat", such as in "scaredy cat". Did it evolve from a sexist line of thought or has it been transformed by sexist thought?

 
At 8:58 PM, Anonymous Jim said...

I've heard guys refer to each other as "Nancy" or "Sally". I wonder how it'd go over if I started referring to some of my wimpy friends as "Chuck" or "Frank". I doubt they'd get it, but all your readers and I would be in on the joke.

Interestingly, it seems to me that "weenie" and "pussy" kind of mean the same thing.

 
At 9:26 PM, Blogger Fritz said...

I read somebody comment exactly on this issue, specifically regarding the blog Oil Is For Sissies.

In cycling, we have the non-sexist "Fred."

 
At 12:09 AM, Blogger Smithers said...

Words have the power that we give to them.

When my wife moved into the dorms her first year of college she and her dorm floor friends called each other 'cunt' for weeks on end. They did it to take a word that could be so inflammatory and turned into one that was simply absurd.

It's the same when I call my riding buddy a cock-knocker. Except that cock-knocker sounds a lot cooler than cunt because it rhymes.

Pretty deep stuff here, I know...

 
At 6:29 AM, Blogger George said...

I don't call someone that annoys or pisses me off a "pussy" or a "dick".............I prefer "asshole".

Everyones got one so it's a lot fairer .

 
At 12:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get over it. Time to grow up.

 

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