Politics & Policy

These 12 Words and Phrases Are Apparently Sexist Now

Offenders include “Founding Fathers” and “opinionated.”

Feminist activists like to take their fight to the dictionary pages — here are a dozen words that various liberal groups have decried as sexist:

1. “Oh man!” as in “Oh man, it’s raining!”

Why isn’t it “oh woman, it’s raining?” Why isn’t it “Oh people, it’s raining?” How sexist! Saying “oh man” is apparently such a serious problem that a rape crisis center gave sociologist Sherryl Kleinman significant space in its newsletter to try to convince people to stop using it. It’s a “reinforcer of a system in which ‘man’ in the abstract and men in the flesh are privileged over women,” she explained.

So, next time you’re about to say “Oh man, I forgot my keys!” don’t just feel bad about being locked out. Remember to also feel bad about reinforcing male privilege.

2. “You guys” as in “You guys want to go grab some pizza?”

Like “oh man,” saying “you guys” also reinforces gender inequality, according to Kleinman. And she’s not alone — last year, Macalaster College launched a campaign impressing upon students phrases such as “you guys” are so sexist that they have an “oppressive impact” on culture.

3. “Men and women”

Okay, so you can’t use “you guys” to describe a crowd. How about “men and women?” Nope. Or at least not more than half the time. According to blogger Rady Ananda, that’s also sexist. The phrase says “men” before “women,” so people who say it are basically saying they think men are more important than women. In order to be not sexist, Ananda said, you have to “alternate the words through a document or verbal presentation.”

4. “Ladies and gentlemen”

Okay, so don’t use “you guys” or “men and women” to describe a crowd. What about “ladies and gentlemen”?

The phrase puts women first, there’s no way that could be considered sexist! Nope, still sexist. Why? Because the correct pair for “gentlemen” is “gentlewomen.” The fact that “parallel” words aren’t chosen makes this phrase inappropriate, according to the Women’s Media Center.

So how on earth should someone address a crowd? Probably best to to just wave.

5. “Aggressive”

According to the WMC, this word is inappropriate because it it is “often used disparagingly of women and Jews.”

6. “Feisty”

According to an article in the Guardian, the word “sounds like a compliment” but “really it just puts down a whole gender.” Yes, if you have ever called someone feisty, you have insulted an entire gender.

7. “Fair-haired boy/fair-haired girl”

These phrases aren’t just sexist — they’re also racist. According to the Women’s Media Center, these phrases are inappropriate because “making ‘fair’ the preferred coloring is racist and egocentric”; because they often describe adults and it’s offensive to call adults “boy” or “girl”; and because “fair-haired” is more often used to describe men than women. It’s not just WMC: The University of Utah actually changed its fight song this year over concerns about the word — replacing “our coeds are the fairest” with “our students are the finest.”

8. “Founding Fathers”

According to Ananda, the phrase Founding Fathers is sexist because it only refers to men. Apparently the fact that the Founding Fathers were only men is not enough to make it not sexist. Ananda suggests using “founding leaders” instead.

9. “Opinionated”

WMC states that people should not use the word “opinionated” because it is almost only used to describe women. A simple Internet search suggests that this is not the case.

10. “Spirited”

Yet another word that WMC seems to think is only used to describe women and therefore sexist. Again, an Internet search shows this is not the case. Also, when did it suddenly become sexist to use different words to describe genders that are indeed different?

11. “Husband and wife”

Again, WMC considers this sexist because it puts the husband before the wife. If you use the phrase “husband and wife” more often in a speech or document than “wife and husband,” you’re sexist. Please keep count.

12. “Man up”

Duke University launched an awareness campaign against offensive words and phrases last year. The group considered “man up” offensive because “strength is not defined by sex or gender.” Whether the students understand the concept of an idiom is unclear.

After all, are “easy as pie” and “piece of cake” also offensive because they diminish the hard work that bakers do?

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter at National Review Online.

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