Men and Language

 ‘Woman’s language’ has as foundation the attitude that women are marginal to the serious concerns of life, which are pre-empted by men. ~Robin Lakoff

I recently came across a conversation screenshot from a girlfriend of mine concerning a mutual friend of ours where he referred to her as a hoe in this friendly but yet hostile manner. Let me just say this, I don’t think male friends should feel very comfortable with calling us, their female friends derogatory names. They absolutely shouldn’t. After seeing the screenshot I made a comment on my status saying ‘I really need to write an article on why I hate when my male friends call me derogatory names as a way of addressing me and being ‘jokey’ in our friendship. There’s also the subtle objectification which I totally hate, the article would be targeted towards my gay, and most importantly very straight male friends.’ Of course, my girlfriends and other female acquaintances began to message me and expressed their grief with the situation.

My girlfriends.

My friend who had the screenshot also messaged me with how uncomfortable she felt with it. I also went on twitter to ask the women and girls to share their feelings about this and yet again, I had the same response.

This was what one girl on twitter had to say about it.

I need for guys to stop with the ‘ashawo‘ and ‘bitch‘ comments they give their female friends simply because of their position in their lives.

Every once in a while I post on my WhatsApp status addressing the situation and how unnecessary I feel it is for any individual to slip up and call me a bitch no matter the mood of the environment and conversation being had, I give this warning to the female and male contacts but sometimes it feels like the guys are often blind and deaf because they keep making these comments but with other words like ‘hoe’ and ‘slut’ and yes, I’ve deleted and blocked a number of them but that’s not enough.

I need male friends to stop using they positions in our lives to degrade us and mark it as friendly banter. It really isn’t.

I always sense hostility towards me or whoever the girl might be whenever I hear the male dish out a gendered curse-word as a way of displaying the bond between him and his female friend. I don’t know if the male doesn’t know this or refuses to accept it but the power dynamics between womxn and men in name calling is very different, the type or friendly insults womxn give men are often the types that are formed from the imagination of womxn, meanwhile, when men call us hoes, sluts and bitches, they are the daily insults we receive that has been set up to shame, intimidate and silence us.

The language that womxn and men use, or have against them is often subtly biased along gender lines, even if we don’t overtly notice. ~Robin Lakoff

When a womxn calls a man a male-slut, it is joked off or not even taken into account because it has no triggering factor but when a man calls a womxn a slut, it is a dangerous word. Even in our language and how we express it, womxn are still seen as powerless with their curses and words holding little to no weight. Robin Lakoff says, the personal identity of womxn is linguistically submerged because language works against treatment of womxn.

Sexism in communication. We all are familiar with the words bossy and aggressive, bossy has long become gendered language, only being directed towards womxn who are not afraid of taking on the leadership role and outperforming. The word ‘aggressive’ is also becoming a gendered language if not already, because aggression, to the world, has become reserved for womxn who are passionate and driven in whatever spaces they find themselves to be in. My mother is a chef and she gets called aggressive in her work place because she refuses to put up with a bunch of irresponsible and incompetent staff, it resllys annoys me because if the chef was male he probably would be called observant and responsible but my mum being the only female chef at her workplace tags her as a nagging womxn, fuck you. I always sideye the people who label womxn as aggressive and difficult because often times, the only reason they make those comments is because its a womxn and through the eyes of society womxn are expected to cut slack, pick up everyone’s slack and be ‘kind’ in doing so. Kindness also seems very patronizing.

When we go deeper into the slurs and derogatory comments between men and womxn, the level of offensiveness and impact cannot be compared. Men will act out of order and when they’re called out for gossiping or not being macho enough, they would be referred to as womxn or accused of doing womxn things. In this discussion of language we can’t forget slut-shaming and just how men are aware of the effects it has on womxn and so they participate excessively in it and even compare us to animals while they’re at it.

Womxn are often compared to animals as a class of derogatory terms. ~Chi Lu

Slut-shaming womxn is an effective tool of degradation and abuse, because of its effectiveness, slut-shaming is a tactic used to intimidate and silence victims of abuse and sexual violence, it makes the victims less comfortable to tell their stories and when they do, it also makes them less credible victims especially when they have no physical evidence. Slut-shaming womxn into silence is a sport men actively participate in to appear savage or tell womxn to shut up with their opinions.

Brymo’s response for being accused of sexual assault

This conversation was between Nigerian artist Brymo and activist Uche Chinelo, with the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, brymo made an excuse for it and she told him to stay off from the discussion because he clearly had no range and is a predator and that is the outcome of the conversation. Now tell me, what exactly does sex with this old man whose career is on standby have to do with being incapable of having a discussion you have no talking points for? Nada. Just like Brymo men will have their ‘feelings hurt’ for womxn telling them the truth and slut-shame them as their payback method.

A Letter to Male Friends

Dear Friend,

You do not have the right to call your female friends the demeaning words your sex is responsible for, you are a man after all and we all know how those words have been made to favour you but does us a great deal of humiliation. You may not do it maliciously but I do not care, you are a man after all and it is not your right to use the words that I have struggled to reclaim, yet to reclaim or just don’t want associated with me as your way of being friendly or feeling belonged to the girls circle, do not make the butt of your jokes because I have welcomed you into my circle of friends, I am not your bitch, not your hoe nor your whore and you calling me either because you bear the title of friend will not the change the position of that word and how it is supposed to make me feel.

Yours Sincerely,


(I was going to talk specifically on male friends using the derogatory words that men tag womxn but I think I diverted? Who knows, I haven’t written in a while.)


Thanks for reading!

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For Reference:

Language and Woman’s Place (Robin Lakoff)

Sexist Name-Calling

Image by: The Express Tribune

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