As we all know, words matter. Some words in the English language display a subtle or not-so-subtle anti-female bias.
Kieran Snyder is the CEO and co-founder of Textio, an augmented writing platform that predicts the response one will receive based on the language of a particular piece of writing. Snyder is a linguist and a writer. She holds a PhD in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania and her work has been published in Fortune, Re/Code, Slate and The Washington Post.
Some Subtle and Not-so Subtle Sexist Terms to Avoid
NAG: According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, nag as a verb, means "to irritate by constant scolding or urging; to badger, worry to find fault incessantly : Complain" As a noun a nag is "a horse, especially one that is old or in poor condition" It is also "a person who nags."
Although dictionaries such as Meriam Webster does not explicitly define a nag as a female, the implication is clear. The word is subtly sexist. One often hears reference to a "nagging wife," such as in the cartoon above. How often does one hear the term "nagging husband?" Some terms that are similar to nag include "fishwife," "hen-pecked," "shrew" and "harridan." We hear of a "hen-pecked husband." When do we hear of a "hen-pecked husband?" One of William Shakespeare's most well=known plays is titled The Taming of the Shrew.
SPINSTER and OLD MAID: There are no similar terms for older unmarried men. They are simply described as a "confirmed bachelor" or a "lifelong bachelor." The words spinster and old maid are pejoratives. They conger up an image of a shy, unattractive or vey ugly woman. Think of the card game "Old Maid." The picture on the "Old Maid" card is that of a very hideous looking woman.
EFFETTE: According to Merriam Webster, the word effette is derived from the word Latin word "effetus," meaning "no longer fruitful." For a time it was used to describe an animal no longer capable of producing offspring. As an adjective, it now means "lacking strength, courage or spirit; resembling a woman."
WORKING MOM: Have you ever head of a "working dad?"
SOCCER MOM: Have you ever heard of a "soccer dad?"
STRIDENT: How many times does one hear female leaders or politicians described as being "strident" or having a "strident voice." That's exactly what happened to Hillary Clinton. Let me know when you hear a male described as "strident" or "having a strident voice."
There are many more words I could include on this list. There is clearly an anti-female bias in the language we speak.