James, 1998

advertisement
Gender-Linked Derogatory Terms and Their Use by Women and Men
Author(s): Deborah James
Source: American Speech, Vol. 73, No. 4 (Winter, 1998), pp. 399-420
Published by: Duke University Press
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/455584
Accessed: 02-01-2019 09:52 UTC
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide
range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and
facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at
https://about.jstor.org/terms
Duke University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to
American Speech
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
GENDER-LINKED DEROGATORY
TERMS AND THEIR USE
BY WOMEN AND MEN
DEBORAH JAMES
University of Toronto
DEROGATORY TERMS USED to refer exclusively or primarily to members of
one sex rather than the other provide a revealing index of the social
construction of femininity and masculinity and constitute powerful collec
tive sanctions against behavior that violates gender roles. A good deal has
been written about derogatory terms used to refer to women (e.g., Schulz
1975, Miller and Swift 1976, Stanley 1977, Hughes 1991, Sutton 1995).
However, no systematic analysis has been made of derogatory terms used
exclusively or primarily to refer to men, and few studies have examined how
women and men differ in their own use of derogatory terms.
In the spring of 1995, I asked students in a course on language and
gender to collect, via participant observation, examples of the use of
derogatory terms that they judged to be primarily female-referential or
male-referential and to provide a description of the context in which each
example was used together with comments on each observation. They were
also asked to produce further terms by brainstorming in small groups of
four, and each group wrote a report on the terms collected. (Eighty female
and twelve male students were enrolled.) I subsequently took 15 of the
terms they collected from different semantic areas and composed a questionnaire (see the Appendix), which was submitted to 125 other native
English-speaking students at the University of Toronto. This group consisted of 90 women and 35 men, ranging from 18 to 30 years of age with a
mean age of 21. For each term, respondents were asked the following six
questions:
1. Are you familiar with the term?
2. Is the instant image which leaps in your mind when you hear this term
male or female?
3. How commonly or frequently to you think this term is used to refer t
females and to males?
4. Do you use this term yourself?
5. How commonly or frequently do you believe that you yourself use this
term to refer to females versus males?
6. Would you use this as a friendly or affectionate term when addressing a
good friend?'
The results of the questionnaire were tested statistically by means of analyses of variance.2
399
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
AMERICAN SPEECH 73.4 (1998)
400
This study examines derogatory terms as reflectors and shapers of our
perceptions of femininity and masculinity, compares women's and men's
use of derogatory terms, and also draws some tentative conclusions about
whether change is taking place in derogatory term use.3
FEMALE-REFERENCE AND MALE-REFERENCE
In the usage of University of Toronto students, a very large number of
derogatory terms are used primarily to label one sex. The results of the
TABLE 1
Questionnaire Results for "Typical Use," "Own Use," and "Insta
Primarily Female-Referential Terms
Typical Use Rating Own Use Rating
(old) hag
1.3
1.2
bitch
1.4
1.5
slut
1.5
1.9
98%
airhead
2.2 2.3 (W2.5, M1.8)*
douchebag
dog'ugly person'
2.9 3.0 (W3.4, M2.1)*
2.3
Instant Image = Female
99%
96%*w
2.7
90%
80%*w
78%*M
Primarily Male-Referential Terms
slimeball
asshole
Typical Use Rating
Instant
Image = Male
Own
Use
6.1
6.2
96%
5.7
5.8
98%
Ra
dog'person who has
sexual relations with
a lot of partners' 5.8 (W6.0, M5.2)*
jerk
5.7
geek
5.5
5.1 (W5.0, M5.6)*
98%
wuss 5.5 (W5.4, M5.9)*
5.1 (W4.8, M5.7)*
90%
pipsqueak 5.1 (W5.0, M5.6)*
5.8
89% *w
5.5
95%
5.1
84%*M
loser
4.6
4.6
85%
idiot
4.6
4.6
81%
Ratings of "typical use" and "own use" are averaged across all respondents to the
first decimal place. "Instant image = male/female" indicates the percentage of
respondents familiar with the term who said that their instant image was as
indicated.
*Indicates that there was a statistically significant difference between the responses of female and male subjects (p < .05).
WWomen were significantly more likely than men to report an image of t
indicated sex.
MMen were significantly more likely than women to report an image of
indicated sex.
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
GENDER-LINKED DEROGATORY TERMS
401
questionnaire provide some specific evidence for these sex- (and gen
linked associations for 15 terms (see table 1).
Six terms evoked an immediate female image for the great majority of
respondents and received average "typical use" and "own use" ratings
between 1.2 and 3.0, that is, towards the female end of the 1-7 scale. Nine
terms evoked a primarily male image and received average ratings between
4.6 and 6.2, that is, towards the male end of the scale. Within each group,
some terms were more strongly gender-linked than others. (Significant
differences between females' and males' responses will be discussed in a
later section.)
These results are entirely consistent with the judgments of these terms
made by students in their reports; all of these terms were listed by a number
of groups as being associated with members of the sex indicated. This
suggests that their judgments as to the male-reference or female-reference
of other terms can also be considered representative.
Although it has sometimes been suggested that there are typically far
more derogatory terms referring to women than referring to men (Miller
and Swift 1976, Sutton 1995), the number of male-referential terms collected via participant observation and brainstorming by these university
students turned out to be considerably greater than the number of femalereferential ones; 343 separate terms were listed by at least one group of
students as primarily male-referential, but only 206 terms were listed as
primarily female-referential. Of course, the fact that there were far more
female than male students in the course may well have biased the results; in
particular, female-referential terms used primarily or only in all-male inter-
actions are very likely under-represented. These results show at least,
however, that there is no shortage of male-referential derogatory terms.
THE MAJOR CHARACTERISTICS DENIGRATED
IN GENDER-LINKED DEROGATORY TERMS
What kinds of characteristics are being denigrated in the person referred to when female-referential and male-referential derogatory terms
are used? And what does this tell us about how gender is socially constructed and maintained? Based on the evidence from the participant
observation examples and from the meanings provided by students, I
classified the female-referential and the male-referential terms with respect
to the characteristic (s) being criticized.4 For each of the two types, it was
possible to isolate a small group of major semantic categories. These are
listed below, together with examples of the terms which could indicate that
meaning. (Only categories for which there existed at least ten terms
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
AMERICAN SPEECH 73.4 (1998)
402
reflecting that meaning are included.) It was not unusual for these derogatory terms to have a range of meaning such that in some instances of use
they fell into one semantic category, and in other instances of use, into a
different semantic category; such terms have been included under more
than one heading.5 These categories are listed in order of the quantity of
terms collected in each category. Among the examples, terms in small
capitals are those heard or overheard in use via participant observation;
terms in regular type are those supplied by brainstorming.
Primarily Female-Referential Terms:6
1. 'Promiscuous/prostitute/sexually aggressive' (62 terms): e.g., BUNNY,
CHIPPY, cunner, dirtbag, HO, HOOTCHIE, HUSSY, LOLITA, SKAG, SKANK, SKEEZER,
SLUT, TART, WHORE
2. Terms that do not denigrate any particular characteristic7 but that ar
generally perceived by women as demeaning/diminishing, either extremely demeaning, as in (a), or more mildly demeaning, as in (b) (40
terms):
a. 'Sex object' (28 terms): e.g., bearded clam, BEEF, cunt, gash, GOOD
WOOL, HOLE, PIE, PIECE, PIECE OF ASS, PIECE OF MEAT, pussy, skully, slash,
snatch, twat
b. Other general terms for women (12 terms): BABARAMA, BABE, blouse
and skirt, bombshell, BROAD, CHICK(IE), dame, fluff, FOX, HEIFER,
skirt, wench
3. 'Unattractive', including 'overweight' (33 terms): e.g., cow, DOG,
DOUC(H)EBAG, horse, HOSEBAG, OLD BAG, OLD HAG, PIG, PORKER, pruneface,
thunder thighs
4. 'Mistreats others'; some terms imply 'aggressive, particularly towards
males' (28 terms): e.g., ballbreaker, BALLBUSTER, ballcutter, battleaxe,
BITCH, BITER, COW, CUNT, DOUCHEBAG, NAG, OLD BAG, OLD BIT, OLD HAG,
SHREW, SNATCHFACE, TIT, TWAT, WITCH
5. 'Brainless' (20 terms): e.g., AIRHEAD, barbie, BIMBO, bubblebrain, bubb
head, ding-a-ling, DINGBAT, DITZ, dumb bunny, FLUFF, hairbrain, spac
cadet
6. 'Masculine/lesbian'; these tend to imply 'physically strong' and can
imply 'aggressive' (11 terms): e.g., AMAZON, bush pig, BUTCH, cuntlapper,
cuntlicker, DYKE, LESBO, LEZZIE
7. 'Sexually cold/unavailable' (11 terms): COCKTEASER, cold fish, dead
fish, fag hag, FEMINAUT, ice princess, ice queen, pricktease(r), PRISS,
PRUDE, TEASE
Primarily Male-Referential Terms:
1. 'Mistreats others', other than specifically sexual behavior, cf. (4) (108
terms): e.g., ASSHOLE, BASTARD, CREEP, crook, CUMKUAT, DICK, DICKHEAD,
GIT, JERK, LOUSE, MOTHERFUCKER, PENIS, PRICK, RAT, scoundrel, SCUMBAG,
SHIT, SHITHEAD, SKUNK, SLIMEBALL, SON OF A BITCH, stinker, WEASEL, WORM
2. 'Stupid' (91 terms): e.g., ASSHOLE, bonehead, BONER, BUTT-HEAD, clown,
cretin, DICK, doofus, dope, DORKBRAIN, farthead, FUCK, GOOF, imbecile,
JACKASS, KNOB, MEATHEAD, RETARD, shit-for-brains, YUTZ
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
GENDER-LINKED DEROGATORY TERMS
403
3. 'Weak in character/like a woman/homosexual' (homosexual terms
typically also imply 'weak/like a woman') (66 terms) (expressions that
can be applied to males with the meaning 'weak/like a woman' but
that normally directly denote females, e.g., old woman, are not included):
a. 'Weak in character/like a woman'; some terms may imply allowing
oneself to be controlled by a woman (28 terms): e.g., BUTT-LICK,
COCKSUCKER, CUMSHOT, cuntlapper, MAMA'S BOY, PUSSY, pussyface, SAP,
SISSY, weakling, wiener, WIMP, wuss
b. 'Homosexual' (38 terms): bum-packer, cock-lover, FEMME, FLYBOY,
fruit, GAYLORD, girly-man, limp-wrist, nancy-boy, POOFTER, poopounder, QUEER, twinkletoes
4. 'Sexual behavior offensive to women', including 'sexual predator/
harasser' and 'promiscuous male' (primarily female use; in male use,
these terms may have only a more general "mistreats others" meaning
or may not be derogatory) (35 terms): e.g., creep, DOG, hornball,
horndog, lecher, octopus, old goat, PIG, RAT, sex freak, SLEAZEBALL,
SLIMEBALL, STUD, SWINE, WOMANIZER
5. 'Socially inept' (18 terms): e.g., brainiac, doofus, DORK, DWEEB, egghead, NERD, (PENCIL-NECKED) GEEK, reject, schmo, science wonk, wally,
WEENIE
6. 'Lack of accomplishment, especially ability to earn a living' (1
e.g., boozehound, bum, deadbeat, dud, fleabag, LOSER, sot,
wastecase, WINO
7. 'Physically weak' (10 terms): e.g., beanpole, pipsqueak, short-ass
shrimp, stick, WIMP
The differences between these two lists reveal that men and women
continue to be evaluated in very different ways in the world of University of
Toronto students. Looking first at the male-referential terms, it is striking
that five of the seven male-referential categories-'stupid', 'weak in charac-
ter/like a woman/homosexual', 'socially inept', 'lack of accomplishment',
and 'physically weak'-all involve the notion of being in some way incompetent, either in character or in mental or physical abilities. These categories together display the extreme importance attached to males' being
successful achievers, confident and competent in all situations and at all
times. The female-referential categories reflect no such expectations of
women. Indeed, male-referential category (3a), 'weak in character/like a
woman', reflects the idea that it is natural or inevitable that women should
be weak in character compared to men.
It is equally striking that among the female-referential categories, five of
the seven involve sexuality in some way. These categories focus on women's
sexuality per se (the 'sex object' terms in 2a), on the extent to which they
are sexually attractive (category 3 and some of the terms in 2b such as babe),
on women's failing to be sexually faithful to one man (category 1), and on
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
AMERICAN SPEECH 73.4 (1998)
404
women's being sexually unavailable to men (categories 6 and 7). It is
noteworthy that these reflect ways of evaluating women that would be
particularly important to heterosexual men. This suggests that women are
evaluated largely in terms of the extent to which they conform to heterosexual male needs and desires. Feminists have often observed that lan-
guage reflects a male-centered view of the world and serves men's inter
more readily than women's (e.g., McConnell-Ginet 1989); derogatory
for women in this study provide a clear illustration of this general prin
A male point of view is also reflected in most of the male-referential
categories, most obviously the category 'weak in character/like a woman';
the overall emphasis on competence and strength in male-referential
derogatory terms is also consistent with how men tend to evaluate other
men. One outstanding exception, however, is male-referential category 4,
'sexual behavior offensive to women'; this category will be discussed in
more detail when we turn to comparing women's and men's use of malereferential derogatory terms.
Two pairs of semantic categories in the two lists appear similar: first, the
categories labeled 'brainless' for women and 'stupid' for men, and second,
the categories labelled in both lists 'mistreats others'. Let us look at each of
these in turn.
The fact that there exist both female-referential and male-referential
terms indicating 'unintelligent' reflects the view that lack of intelligence is
something to be disparaged in anyone, female or male. However, the two
sets of terms carry rather different connotations. The female-referential
terms tend to imply that there is nothing in the referent's head (e.g.,
airhead, fluff, bubblebrain), while the male-referential terms are more likely
to imply that there is something in the referent's head which should not be
there (e.g., shit-for-brains, farthead, butthead). This implies that it is seen as
more typical for women than for men to be empty-headed-that is, arguably, truly unintelligent. In addition, in the instances of participant observation, the female-referential terms tended to be more frequently used in a
light, joking context in which no strong feelings were being expressed,
while the male-referential terms were more often used by both female and
male speakers to express serious, even bitter, criticism. For example, compare the statement "He's a friggin' meathead, he just doesn't see the real
picture," containing a male-referential term, with another example in
which the term airhead was used of a woman who had forgotten to do
something; the student describing this example commented that the speaker
"was harmlessly denoting the woman's lack of intelligence" (my italics). The
male terms, in other words, tended to be used with a more strongly
derogatory implication than the female terms. This suggests that it is seen
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
GENDER-LINKED DEROGATORY TERMS
405
as a more serious flaw for a man to lack intelligence than for a wom
lack intelligence, which is in turn consistent with gender role expect
that men, but not women, should be competent, successful achiever
Turning now to the categories labeled 'mistreats others', it is immediately noticeable that the male-referential category is, with 108 terms, larger
than any other category and far larger than the equivalent female-referential category with only 28 terms. The explanation is probably that men are
perceived by both sexes as more likely to mistreat others or to behave in a
selfish or amoral way than are women. Male socialization encourages
aggressive and self-interested behavior; men who are "bastards" or "pricks"
are simply those who have taken this behavior too far, to the point where
they have violated rules considered basic to social interaction. (That this
type of behavior can represent a version of the masculine gender role taken
to extremes is evident from the fact that terms like bastard and motherfucker
are sometimes used in a positive, admiring sense, as in the following
graffito found in a men's washroom at the University of Toronto in 1994:
"For all righteous bastards!") As an additional factor, men are more likely
than women to be in positions of power over others, wielding power they
can then misuse.
As with terms meaning 'unintelligent', the female-referential terms
the 'mistreats others' category tend to have somewhat different connot
tions from the male-referential terms. Coyne, Sherman, and O'Brien (19
found that when asked to define bitch as opposed to bastard, male subj
(but not female subjects) tended to employ the adjective dominant, an
adjective not present in their definition of bastard. Coyne, Sherman, a
O'Brien concluded that for men, bitches not only violate basic social ru
as do bastards, but also violate those gender role standards requir
passive, docile behavior in women. Some evidence that attitudes remain
similar today among University of Toronto students comes from the presence of adjectives like pushy and bossy in descriptions and definitions of
bitches in this study, particularly by males; for example, one student reported hearing a man refer to a woman as "a pushy bitch," and a male
student defined bitch as a woman who is "mean, bossy, and arrogant." These
adjectives never occurred in connection with terms like bastard and prick.
Some of the other derogatory terms in this group, such as ballbreaker and
ballcutter, also clearly imply dominance over men. In addition, the terms in
female-referential category 6 ('masculine/lesbian') often have connotations of the same type; for example, one student, explaining an overheard
reference to a woman as a "butch," defined the term as meaning "tough,
overbearing and aggressive (perhaps physically strong)." These kinds of
definitions suggest that for women attempts at assertive or self-interested
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
406
AMERICAN SPEECH 73.4 (1998)
behavior are considered relatively unacceptable; for men the limits are
much broader, and such behavior is considered morally acceptable as long
as it does not cross a much more encompassing social boundary. (Nevertheless, the number of male-referential terms in the 'mistreats others' class
suggests that men are viewed as frequently crossing this boundary.)
Women, of course, face a catch-22 situation in that while assertive
behavior is viewed as unfeminine, women as a group are at the same tim
condemned as weak in character, as noted in connection with the terms in
male-referential category 3.
It is also of interest to compare male-referential category 3, 'weak/like a
woman/homosexual', with female-referential category 6, 'masculine/lesbian'. Terms likening men to women appear to be more strongly derogatory
than terms likening women to men. Preston and Stanley (1987) found that
according to men, the worst thing one could call another man was a term
meaning 'homosexual'; such terms generally imply that the referent is like a
woman. By contrast, the worst thing one could call a woman, according to
both sexes, was not a term meaning 'masculine/ lesbian', but rather a
'mistreats others' term like bitch or a term from the 'promiscuous' category
such as slut.9 The relatively large number of terms in category 3, 66 terms,
is also suggestive of the power of terms in this category as insults to men.
The number of terms in the female-referential 'masculine/lesbian' category, by contrast, is much smaller (11 terms); this difference is consistent
with the observations of Hughes (1991), who found that terms for 'male
homosexual' far outnumber terms for 'lesbian'. Hughes comments, "Not
only is the male field far larger, virtually every word in the field is far more
virulent and contemptuous than any in the female equivalent" (230). Men
lose status by being likened to women, while women are raised in status by
being likened to men; thus 'masculine/lesbian' terms are less insulting to
women than 'weak/like a woman/homosexual' terms are to men.10
In general, female-referential and male-referential derogatory terms
reflect a construction of gender by which males are evaluated primarily in
terms of the extent to which they can function as competent masters of
every situation, which in turn has much to do with gaining and maintaining
status in the eyes of other males. Females, on the other hand, are evaluated
primarily in terms of how well they conform to heterosexual male needs
and desires, including being attractive, faithful to one man, of average
intelligence, and docile and supportive. All this reflects a construction of
gender put in place through a male prism. The power these labels can wield
constitutes an important way in which language pressures individuals to
conform to these gender roles.
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
GENDER-LINKED DEROGATORY TERMS
407
WOMEN'S VERSUS MEN'S USE OF FEMALE-REFERENTIAL
DEROGATORY TERMS TO REFER TO FEMALES
To what extent do women and men differ in the ways they use derogatory terms? Let us first consider the case of female-referential derogatory
terms used to refer to women. Given that these terms reflect a male-biased
evaluation of women, we might hypothesize that men would be the primary
users of these terms. Indeed, it has been suggested that women may resist
using these terms to criticize other women (Sutton 1995; alsoJay 1992 with
respect to 'masculine/lesbian' terms). The instances of participant obser-
vation, taken as a whole, can be argued to offer some support for the
position that women are in general less likely to criticize other women than
men are to criticize women; of the 239 observed uses of female-referential
derogatory terms to criticize a woman, 58% (138) were uttered by men and
only 42% (101) by women. However, when we turn to the results of the
questionnaire, the hypothesis that women resist using female-referential
derogatory terms to refer to women does not receive support. Question 4
asked whether the respondent used the term herself/himself; for all six
female-referential terms in the questionnaire, there was no significant
difference between female and male responses. Moreover, in the examples
collected through participant observation, even though women criticized
women less often than men did, criticisms of women by other women were
nevertheless common, and women used terms from all but one of the
female-referential categories to label other women, with frequencies si
lar to or greater than those of men. For example, 32% of women speak
criticisms of women (32/101) made use of a 'mistreats others' term, as
compared with 33% of male speakers' criticisms (46/138); 39% of women
speakers' criticisms (39/101) made use of term from the 'promiscuous'
category, as compared to 20% of male speakers' criticisms (28/138). The
one semantic category that women did not normally employ was,
unsurprisingly, category 2. Only men used the 'sex object' terms in category 2a (e.g., piece of ass, hole) and of the other demeaning general terms
for women in category 2b, only chick was occasionally used by women (and
it was then often used in a way meant to mock or allude to the way men talk
about women). This echoes the findings of Baker (1980) that only males
used terms in category 2 to identify women and of Kutner and Brogan
(1974) that males knew and recognized far more such terms than women.
However, with the exception of category 2, by using the derogatory terms
from all the remaining categories to label other women, women appeared
to accept the male-biased construction of femininity expressed through
these derogatory terms for women.
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
408
AMERICAN SPEECH 73.4 (1998)
However, some women showed an awareness of feminist-influenced
"reclaimed" uses of female-referential derogatory terms to signify female
independence, power, and self-determination; for example, some reports
commented on the use of such terms as bitch and ballbusteras positive terms
for a strong, assertive, and successful woman. Through such uses, women
make a conscious effort to encode a female perspective and challenge
traditional gender roles.
Also, there were some indications that for women, terms did not always
have exactly the same meanings as they did for men (consistent with the
findings of Coyne, Sherman, and O'Brien 1978, mentioned earlier, that
women and men had slightly different understandings of bitch). For example, one student report noted that to the male member of the group and
his male friends, a "slut" was a woman who was not only promiscuous, but
also 'dirty' and 'undesirable'; the female members did not use the term
with these latter connotations and were unaware of the full meaning that
the term had for males. Women, then, may not always be aware of the full
implications of male evaluations of women.
WOMEN'S VERSUS MEN'S USE OF MALE-REFERENTIAL
DEROGATORY TERMS TO REFER TO MALES
In the questionnaire results, women and men did not differ significantly
in the extent to which they said they used the nine male-referential terms,
with one exception: women reported using the term jerk significantly more
than men reported using it (F(1,120) = 8.056, p = .0053). In the participant
observation corpus,11 women and men used terms from the categories
'mistreats others', 'stupid', 'socially inept', 'lack of accomplishment', and
'physically weak' with relatively similar frequency, although female speakers somewhat exceeded male speakers in their use of 'mistreats others'
terms; 51% of the terms used by female speakers fell into this category
(104/204), as compared to 42% (42/100) in the case of male speakers.
With respect to the category 'weak in character/like a woman/homosexual', 25% of the derogatory terms used by male speakers fell into this
category (25/101), while only 7% of those used by female speakers did
(14/204). This suggests that women may be less likely than men to denigrate men on these semantic grounds, a conclusion consistent with the
finding of Preston and Stanley (1987) that men believed that the worst
thing one could call a man was a term meaning 'homosexual', while
women did not agree (women tended instead to consider terms such as
bastard and prick as the most serious insults that one could direct towards a
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
GENDER-LINKED DEROGATORY TERMS
409
man). Men, then, appeared to evaluate male behavior perceived as '
nine' far more negatively than women did.
The remaining male-referential category, containing 35 terms ind
ing 'sexual behaviour offensive to women', is striking in that it re
the usual pattern of male bias in derogatory terms by reflecting a f
centered point of view. These terms could indicate a man who sex
harasses a woman or acts as a sexual predator (e.g., slimeball, sleazeb
and pig), a man with nothing but sex on his mind (e.g., hornball, sex
freak), or a man who is promiscuous, in particular who cheats on his wife
or girlfriend (e.g., dog, stud). However, it is significant that these terms
were used with these meanings primarily by women, both in the instances
of participant observation and in the definitions provided by students for
these terms. Men used and defined words like slimeball and sleazeball only
with a more general 'mistreats others' meaning, and other terms appeared to have only a positive 'sexual athlete' or 'sexual conqueror' sense
for them. An illustration of the way in which male and female meanings
for such terms can differ is provided by the following interchange reported by one student:
Male: "Some people might say I'm a stud."
Female: "A stud!?"
Male: "You know, good in bed."
Female: "Oh, I thought you meant that you have a lot of girlfriends."
Male: "Oh no."
A small number of other terms also showed up in the data that we
derogatory or arguably demeaning and that reflected a female perspect
All these were used and/or reported only by women. They included
terms for a boring man (Mr. Dry Guy, fatiguer); a few terms for unattrac
men or fat men (e.g., craterface, doughboy); a few terms for attractive me
parallel to terms such as babe for women (e.g., hunk, hotty); and a ter
sperm donor, defined as a 'worthless man, no use other than sex', as in
example "I would never date him again, he's a sperm donor, and that's
what I'm looking for!"
These terms reflect ways in which women are evaluating men in terms o
the extent to which MEN conform to WOMEN'S needs and desires. Howe
while women in this study, by and large, tended to recognize, accept
legitimate, and use most male-biased derogatory terms for women, m
did not tend to recognize, accept as legitimate, or use female-biased
derogatory terms for men. Thus, female-biased terms for men are unable
to act as sanctions on male behavior in the way that male-biased terms for
women can act as sanctions on women's behavior.
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
410
AMERICAN SPEECH 73.4 (1998)
DEROGATORY TERMS AS JOKING, FRIENDLY TERMS OF ADDRESS
Derogatory terms are not always used to criticize and insult others; they
can also function as joking, affectionate ways of addressing a good friend.
Eble (1996) comments on this use of derogatory terms between students at
the University of North Carolina, noting that it occurs primarily only
between members of the same sex (103). Similarly, Sutton (1995) notes that
female Berkeley students sometimes use ho and bitch to affectionately
address other women; she suggests that in so doing they are choosing to
challenge traditional definitions of femininity (288). For all the terms in the
questionnaire, at least some men and some women reported that they would
use the term as a friendly term of address; for example, 24% of women said
they would use bitch in this manner. This way of using derogatory terms is
likely to be more characteristic of men than women, however, given the
pattern of friendly verbal sparring, including name-calling, often identified
in the pastas common in all-male interaction, at least in North America (e.g.,
Maltz and Borker 1982, Tannen 1990). This was confirmed in the questionnaire results. For four terms, significantly more males than females reported
that they would use the word as a friendly form of address; for no term did
females report greater usage as a term of address. These four terms were
asshole (F(1,109) = 5.849, p = .0172), slimeball (F(1,58) = 5.273, p = .0253),
dog'person who has sexual relations with a lot of partners' (F(1, 35) = 9.27,
p = .0044) (however, as noted, for men this may in any case be a positive, not
derogatory term), and douchebag (F(1,13) = 15.6, p = .0017). While the last
is a female-referential term, an examination of the responses of the males in
question with respect to their ratings for "own use" and "instant image" of
douchebag suggests strongly that they had male addressees in mind; reasons
for this will be discussed in the next section.
WOMEN'S AND MEN'S USE OF FEMALE- AND MALE-REFERENTIAL DEROGATORY
TERMS TO REFER TO THE "NONPREFERRED" SEX: IS THERE CHANGE IN PROGRESS?
So far, I have implicitly been treating the derogatory terms in this study
as if they were exclusively female-referential or male-referential, as if each
one could refer only to females or only to males. However, this is not the
case. Indeed, as reported by students in this study, the great majority of
these terms could be used to refer to a member of the "nonpreferred" sex.
This is evident from table 1 with respect to the 15 terms in the questionnaire. For neither "typical use" nor "own use" was the average rating 1.0 or
7.0 for ANY term; that is, for every term, at least some respondents thought
that the term could sometimes be used for the nonpreferred sex. Students'
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
GENDER-LINKED DEROGATORY TERMS
411
reports also often commented that particular terms were not absol
restricted to males or to females, and the participant observation c
included numerous instances of the use of a gender-linked derogato
term to refer to a person of the nonpreferred sex. In a related observ
Risch (1987) has commented that in the usage of University of Cinci
students, bitch, whore, and slut can be used to refer to men and dick can be
used to refer to women (357). Although no firm data exist as to the extent
to which derogatory terms could be used for the nonpreferred sex in the
usage of previous generations of speakers, older speakers have often expressed surprise to me that terms such as slut would be used for men or dick
for women. It seems likely that such developments indicate a change taking
place in the usage of these terms.
Examination of the participant observation examples and students'
comments suggests that in most cases, when a term is used to label a person
of the nonpreferred sex, its meaning remains unchanged. Thus, if a man is
referred to as an airhead or a dog 'ugly person' or if a woman is referred to
as a pipsqueak or a wimp, this means the same thing as it would for a member
of the other sex. If derogatory terms are becoming more readily used for
the nonpreferred sex, this implies that females and males are coming to be
evaluated to a greater extent than heretofore by similar criteria rather than
by different criteria.
There are two exceptions to the general rule that when a derogatory
term is used to label someone of the nonpreferred sex, its meaning
remains unchanged. First, according to several student groups, when a
female-referential term of the 'promiscuous' category such as slut is used to
refer to a man, it does not carry the same weight and power as when it is
used to refer to a woman, and men may even (as noted earlier) view such a
term as having positive connotations. However, the mere fact that a term
like slut can now be used to label a man implies at least some blurring of
rigid gender role stereotypes. Second, in speech between males, when a
man labels another man by a female-referential 'mistreats others' term like
bitch or cunt, this can be intended as especially insulting, implying that the
man is weak like a woman. For example, one definition given for cunt as
applied to a man was "a man who does disfavorable [sic] actions viewed by
other men as a weakness."
The results of the questionnaire supply some indirect evidence with
respect to whether the 15 terms examined are becoming more genderneutral in usage, and they also supply evidence as to whether either women
or men use these terms in a more gender-neutral way.
First, respondents' ratings of what they perceived to be the typical use of
each term were compared to their ratings of their own use of that term by
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
412
AMERICAN SPEECH 73.4 (1998)
means of analyses of variance. For 11 of the 15 terms, there was no
significant difference between these two ratings. However, for 4 terms (2
primarily male-referential and 2 primarily female), respondents' ratings of
their own use, independently of the sex of the respondent, were significantly
more gender-neutral-significantly more strongly geared towards use for
both females and males-than their ratings of others' typical use. These
terms were geek (F(1,98) = 10.142, p =.0019), wuss (F(1,57) = 5.279,
p = .0253), slut (F(1,90) = 13.826, p = .0003), and airhead (F(1,90) = 4.205,
p = .0523). Thus actual use of these terms, for both sexes, is more genderimpartial than these students' stereotypes of how the terms are used. While
it is true that gender-linked stereotypes may tend to be more exaggerated
than actual gender-linked behavior (Martin 1987), 2 the fact that there was
a significant difference between the "typical use" and "own use" ratings for
4 of the terms but not the other 11 suggests that something special is
involved in the case of these four terms. A plausible explanation is that the
stereotypes for these terms, as reflected in the typical use ratings, in fact
represent somewhat older patterns of usage, and that these 4 terms are
undergoing change in the direction of greater gender-neutrality.13
There was also evidence that women are more likely than men to use
derogatory terms in a gender-neutral manner. Women's ratings of their
own usage were significantly more gender-neutral than men's ratings of
their own usage in the case of three of the four terms just mentioned, geek
(F(1,98) = 5.363, p = .0227), wuss (F(1,57) = 6.138, p =.0162), and airhead
(F(1,90) = 4.205, p = .0432), and also in the case of a fourth term, dog'ugly
person' (F(1,56) = 6.005, p = .0174) (see table 1). For no terms were men's
ratings of their own usage more gender-neutral than women's. In addition,
where significant differences appeared between women's and men's re-
sponses with respect to "typical use" and "instant image," most cases were
consistent with the pattern of more gender-neutral judgments on the part
of women than men. For wuss, women's ratings for "typical use" were more
gender-neutral than men's (F(1,119) = 6.138, p = .0296); for dog'ugly person', women were less likely than men to say that their instant image was
female (F(1,112) = 4.135, p = .0444); and for pipsqueak, women's responses
were more gender-neutral than men's with respect to both "typical use"
(F(1,117) = 4.795, p=.0305) and "instant image" (F(1,109) = 5.083,
p = .0262). A few results appear initially inconsistent with this pattern of
more gender-neutral responses on the part of women than men. Men were
significantly less likely than women to say that their instant image was
female in the case of bitch (F(1,121) = 8.854, p =.0035) and douchebag
(F(1,96) = 15.6, p =- .0483). However, this is very likely a result of the fairly
common use of female-referential 'mistreats others' terms as special insults
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
GENDER-LINKED DEROGATORY TERMS
413
to other men with an implication of weakness, in which case it wou
represent truly gender-neutral usage. In addition, for dog 'person w
sexual relations with a lot of partners' (a primarily male-referential
men's ratings of other people's typical use were more gender-neutra
women's (F(1,76) = 4.74, p = .0326), and men were more likely than w
to say their instant image was female (F(1,35) = 6.7, p = .0115). Thi
was the least well-known in the questionnaire (only 62.5% of respo
reported familiarity with it), and some men gave ratings of 1 or 2
primarily or only female reference) for "typical use." This suggests that
some men, the term may have been only marginally familiar and ma
elicited a female image because of the fact that most derogatory terms w
a 'sexual promiscuity' meaning are female-referential. These results c
not, then, safely be taken as evidence of a more gender-neutral us
derogatory term on the part of men.
CONCLUSIONS
Derogatory terms that are used primarily to label women or primarily to
label men reflect and, in turn, enforce very different prescriptions as to the
"ideal woman" and the "ideal man." Men are expected to be strong,
confident, successful achievers; women are expected to meet male needs
and desires, particularly with respect to sexual attributes and behavior.
These prescriptions reflect a male viewpoint. While women, through their
own use of these derogatory terms, do appear to accept to a large extent
these definitions of masculinity and femininity, they also resist it in some
ways, in particular through the creation and use of derogatory terms for
men which reflect a female viewpoint. In addition, there are indications
that some terms are coming to be used by both sexes in a more genderneutral way than has been the case in the past, and that it is women who are
leading in this direction. Such shifts towards more gender-neutral usage
imply some convergence of gender norms and a blurring of the rigid lines
separating the social categories 'woman' and 'man' in the university student population studied here.
APPENDIX
Questionnaire on Derogatory Terms
The following questionnaire forms part of a study on the use of derogatory
terms by University of Toronto students. Your participation in filling it out is
entirely voluntary; however, your cooperation would be much appreciated. The
questionnaire takes approximately ten minutes to complete. All responses will be
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
AMERICAN SPEECH 73.4 (1998)
414
confidential. You are asked a small amount of information about yourself as an aid
in interpreting possible patterns in the data (your sex, age, ethnic background, and
whether you were raised speaking English in Canada); however, you are not asked
to give your name and it will not be possible to identify individual respondents. You
are free to withdraw at any time from the study and to leave blank any questions you
wish. If you find derogatory terms objectionable, you may prefer not to participate
in this research.
If you would like to receive a summary of the results of this research when it is
completed, write your name and address on the mailing label on the separate page
at the end of this questionnaire. Detach that page and hand it in separately from
the questionnaire.
Please fill out the following information about yourself:
1. Your sex: M F
2. Your age:
3. Your ethnic background:
4. Were you raised from birth or early age childhood speaking English in Canada?
Yes No
INSTRUCTIONS
Please read through these instructions before beginning the questio
which starts on p. 2.
Fifteen common derogatory terms in English are given on page 2-4.
one, you will be asked six questions. In order to make it easier for you
these questions, they are explained in detail in this instruction section. P
these through and note the attached comments as to how they should be
IMPORTANT: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ANSWER THESE SAMPLE QU
IN THIS INSTRUCTION SECTION; JUST READ THROUGH THEM TO FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THEM.
[Derogatory term]
1. Are you familiar with this term? Yes _ No
If your answer is "no" with respect to the specific term given, skip questions 2-6
and more on to the next derogatory term. If your answer is "yes", move on to 2:
2. Very often, when one thinks of a particular derogatory term, an instant image
forms in one's mind of the kind of person who would be described by that term.
(For example, one student has described her instant image of a nerd as "a guy with
a plaid shirt, glasses and pocket protector"). Is the instant image which leaps to
your mind when you hear this term male or female?
Male_ Female __
3. How commonly or frequently do you think this term is used to refer
and to males? Answer this question according to the following scale, suppl
right of the question. If you think the term is used to refer to males onl
rightmost blank labelled 7. If you think the term is used for both sexes to a
completely equal extent, tick the central blank labelled 4. Otherwise, tick the blank
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
GENDER-LINKED DEROGATORY TERMS
415
in the scale which you believe reflects most accurately the frequency with wh
term is used to refer to females versus males.
females neutral males
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
4. Do you use this term yourself? Yes _ No
If you answer is "no", skip questions 5 and 6 and move on to the next derogatory
term. If your answer is "yes", move on to 5:
5. How commonly or frequently do you believe that you yourself use this term t
refer to females versus males?
Answer according to the same scale as for question 3, except that you should
describe your own usage of the term.
6. Would you use this as an [sic] friendly or affectionate term when addressing a
good friend? (An example from an actual conversation: Student A walks into a
room and says to Student B [name changed] who is sitting down writing: "Annie,
you old hag! Whatcha writing?" And a comment from a student: "My sister and I
call each other bitches all the time, between us it is an affectionate term.")
Yes No
Questionnaire
females neutral males
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
(a). Slimebag
1. Familiar with term: Yes No
2. Instant image: M F __
3. Typical use for females versus males:
4. Use term myself: Yes No
5. My use for females versus males:_ _
6. Would use as friendly term: Yes No
(b). Airhead
(c). Bitch
(d). Loser
(e). Geek
(f). (Old) hag
(g). Dog, in the sense of "ugly person"
(h). Dog, in the sense of "person who has sexual relations with a lot of partners"
(i). Pip-squeak
(j). Asshole
(k). Slut
(1). Jerk
(m). Douchebag
(n). Wuss
(o). Idiot
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
416
AMERICAN SPEECH 73.4 (1998)
NOTES
1. The choice of terms (restricted to 15 in order to keep the questionnaire
reasonably short) was based on the following. First and most important, some
terms, although identified by student groups as primarily female- or male-referential, could clearly be used for both sexes. Idiot is the most conspicuous example; I
was initially surprised that student groups tended to list this as primarily malereferential. Similarly, both my own experiences and some of the instances of
participant observation suggested that terms such as loser, wuss, geek, slut, airhead,
pipsqueak, and dog'ugly' could be used to refer to both sexes. Inclusion of a number
of such terms provided an objective means of determining the extent to which
these terms are perceived as male- or female-referential and a way of confirming or
disconfirming the general reliability of the judgements made by the student
groups. However, some terms indicated by student groups to be highly genderlinked, e.g., (old) hagand slimeball, were also included for the sake of completeness.
Second, terms were selected to reflect a variety of different semantic categories of
gender-referential terms; all the male-referential and most of the female-referential semantic categories identified in the body of the paper were represented in the
questionnaire.
2. I am grateful to Ronald Smyth for his help with the statistical analyses.
3. Such factors as socioeconomic class, ethnic group, and sexual orientation are
undoubtedly relevant to derogatory term use. However, it was not possible to gauge
the effects of these factors in this study. For the record, students in the course were
of both middle- and working-class origin and came from a variety of ethnic
backgrounds, primarily European, East Asian, and South Asian. Ethnic background distribution was similar for the questionnaire respondents. Information as
to sexual orientation was not available.
Only derogatory terms used in third-person reference, as opposed to terms
used purely as address terms (e.g., baby), are included in this corpus.
4. I will not deal here with the question of why particular terms are chosen a
metaphors to express aspects of derogatory meaning, e.g., why certain kinds
animal terms are used to describe women negatively. See Baker (1980), Whaley an
Antonelli (1983), and Hines (1994, 1996).
5. For female-referential terms, the strongest links were between the categories
'unattractive', 'mistreats others', and 'promiscuous/prostitute/sexually aggressive' in the case where the last has an associated connotation 'dirty' or 'disgusting'.
Douc(h)ebag, for example, could mean for these students an ugly woman, a woman
who mistreats others, or a "dirty" prostitute. For male-referential terms, there is a
particularly strong link between the categories 'mistreats others' and 'stupid'; e.g.,
asshole or a dick can refer to a man who behaves despicably, simply a stupid man, or
a man who both behaves despicably and is stupid.
6. The slang terms for women collected by Sutton (1995) from students at
Berkeley reflect similar semantic categories to those listed here, although individual terms are often different. The frequency of terms for women from category
1 has also often been commented on (e.g., Schultz 1975, Stanley 1977), as has, to a
lesser degree, the frequency of terms for women from category 2 (e.g., Kutner and
Brogan 1974, Baker 1980) and category 3 (e.g., de Klerk 1990, Jay 1992).
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
GENDER-LINKED DEROGATORY TERMS
417
7. In describing these as "terms that do not denigrate any particular char
istic," I mean that they are used, by and large, simply as substitutes for th
woman. For example, in one instance of participant observation reported,
young man said to another: "Did you see that piece of meat walking by?" Piece o
here substitutes for woman. Such terms clearly demean the woman in that
being treated as an object. She is denigrated not because of any particular ph
or behavioral attribute that she is perceived as possessing, but rather simply b
she is a member of the female sex. Some of these terms may have connotation
the woman is attractive, particularly several of the terms in the milder gr
category 2b (e.g., babe). However, these too can be construed as demeaning
as they refer to women as if they were less than full adult human beings.
8. In this corpus, more than four and a half times as many terms were co
for a stupid man as for a brainless woman (91 as compared to 20). One mu
course, keep in mind that terms used by males may be underrepresented due t
disproportionate number of female students in the course, and that this
affect these relative figures. However, if it is true that terms meaning 'stupid
are perceived as stronger and more serious insults than terms meaning 'bra
woman', one would expect there to be more terms of the former type, an
strongly doubt that it is an accident of this corpus that so many more such
were elicited.
9. The instances of participant observation collected in this study tended to
support Preston and Stanley's conclusions (1987) in the following respect. Ther
were a small number of cases in which speakers appeared to be using a particular
term not because they perceived the referent as having the disliked characteristi
normally associated with that term, but simply because it was the most insultin
term that sprang to mind. In five of seven such cases involving male-referentia
terms, a word meaning 'homosexual' was used. For example, one male speaker,
inconvenienced by another male driver in a parking lot, said "You wouldn't want t
wait for me to go through, would you, faggot?" In four of six such cases involvin
female-referential terms, a word from the 'prostitute' class was used. For example
a young man was observed saying "Hi, girls!" to two teenage girls walking along
street. When they ignored him, he shouted "Sluts!" In the remaining two cases
involving a female-referential term, bitch was used.
10. I have been assuming here that the number of terms in a semantic categor
is a good guide to the relative importance of that category with respect to how
women and men are evaluated. A possible alternative way of measuring the relativ
importance of the different categories is to examine how frequently, in real life
terms from the different categories are used in criticizing others. Although data on
frequency of usage is available from the corpus of participant observation examples collected by the students in this study, considerable caution must be taken
in drawing conclusions from it because uncontrolled variables were present and
the corpus cannot be assumed to be unbiased. For instance, students may have pai
attention to some kinds of examples and not noticed others or may have chosen t
include more of some kinds of examples than of others in their reports; also, as has
been noted, usage in all-male interaction may be greatly underrepresented because 87% of the students in the course were female. For the record, the relative
frequency of usage of the different categories was as follows.
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
418
AMERICAN SPEECH 73.4 (1998)
I will deal first with the use of male-referential derogatory terms to refer to
males (67% of speakers uttering such terms were female, 33% male, some comments on differences between female and male speakers' usage will be made in the
next two sections of the text). Nearly half of the instances, 48% (146/304),
belonged to the category 'mistreats others'. This is consistent with the fact that this
category contained by far the largest number of individual terms. The rest of the
categories appeared in the following order of frequency: 20% of instances (60/
304) belonged to the category 'stupid'; 13% (39/304) to the category 'weak in
character/like a woman/homosexual'; 7% (22/304) to the category 'socially inept'; 6% (18/304) to the category 'sexual behavior offensive to women'; 4% (12/
304) to the category 'lack of accomplishment'; and .3% (1/304) to the category
'physically weak'. There were also six terms used which did not fit into any of these
categories. This ordering of categories according to relative frequency of use
corresponds almost exactly to the order into which the categories fall when relative
number of terms is used as the criterion, with only one minor difference (use of the
category 'socially inept' here exceeded use of the category 'sexual behavior offensive to women', but by only 1%).
For female-referential terms used to refer to women (58% of speakers uttering
such terms were male, 42% female), the category that showed up most frequently
in the participant observation examples was, as in the case of the male-referential
terms, the 'mistreats others' category. Terms from this category were used in 33%
of instances (78/239) (still a considerably lower percentage than the 48% frequency of the male-referential 'mistreats others' terms). The second most frequent
category was 'promiscuous/prostitute/sexually aggressive', taking up 28% of instances (67/239), followed by 'sex object' and other general terms for women
(category 2) (15%, or 36/239), 'unattractive' (9%, or 22/239), 'brainless' (6%, or
15/239; cf. the higher 20% frequency of the male-referential terms meaning
'stupid'), 'masculine/lesbian' (6%, or 14/239), and 'sexually cold/unavailable'
(2.5%, or 6/239). One further term did not fit into any of these categories. This
ordering is again the same as the order into which the categories fall when the
relative number of terms is the criterion, the sole exception being the position of
'mistreats others' terms. These findings suggest, then, that there is in general a
positive relationship between the relative number of derogatory terms which fall
into a particular semantic category and the relative frequency with which terms
from that category are used in speaking to or about others. This provides some
confirmation that number of terms is a valid guideline of the relative importance
of the category, although clearly questions remain to be answered about the
relationship between number of terms and frequency of use.
11. Of the 304 participant observation examples in which a male-referential
derogatory term was used to refer to a man, 204 (67%) were uttered by females and
100 (33%) by males. It should be noted that in the corpus as a whole, the majority
of speakers were female; in 378 out of a total of 676 instances (56%) in which the
utterance of a gender-linked derogatory term was observed (this total includes
cases in which a such a term was used for the "nonpreferred" gender), the speaker
was a woman. This may be a consequence of the fact that there were far more
female than male students in the course; class members may have had a wider
range of female than male acquaintances. Thus, although women were the speak-
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
GENDER-LINKED DEROGATORY TERMS
419
ers in two-thirds of the instances in which male-referential derogatory term
used to refer to men, this may be in part due to students' having more o
ties to hear women criticize others than to hear men criticize others. Neverth
the marked disproportion is suggestive; women may be more likely to critic
than they are other women, just as men may be more likely to criticize wom
they are other men.
12. However, see also Judd and Park's critique (1993) of the rese
stereotype accuracy.
13. For two further terms, there was a significant difference between the
"typical use" and "own use" ratings for male respondents, but not for female
respondents. For douchebag, males' ratings of their own usage were significantly
more male-oriented than their ratings of typical usage (F(1,3) = 9.0, p = .0577). It is
likely that this is because douchebagis a member of the female-referential 'mistreats
others' category, and as noted above, such terms are often used by males as ways of
insulting other males by implying that they are weak, like women. Male respondents may have acknowledged this in their ratings of their own usage, while
assuming that in stereotypical usage the term would more normally be applied to
females. For a second term, dog'ugly person', males' ratings of their own usage
were significantly less gender-neutral (i.e., more female-oriented) than their ratings of typical usage (F(1,17) = 4.5333, p = .0482). This suggests that while the men
use this term primarily for women, they themselves were aware that women
sometimes used this term to refer to unattractive men and took this into account in
their "typical use" ratings.
REFERENCES
Baker, Robert. 1980. "'Pricks' and 'Chicks': A Plea for 'Persons'." Sexist Language:
Modern PhilosophicalAnalysis. Ed. Mary Vetterling-Braggin. Totawa, NJ: Littlefield
161-82.
Coyne, James C., Richard C. Sherman, and Karen O'Brien. 1978. "Expletives an
Woman's Place." Sex Roles 4: 827-35.
de Klerk, Vivian. 1990. "Slang: A Male Domain." Sex Roles 22: 589-606.
Eble, Connie. 1996. Slang and Sociability: In-Group Language among College Students.
Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P.
Hines, Caitlin. 1994. "Let Me Call You 'Sweetheart': The WOMAN AS DESSERT
Metaphor." Cultural Performances: Proceedings of the Third Berkeley Women
Language Conference. Ed. Mary Bucholtz, A. C. Liang, Laurel A. Sutton, and
Caitlin Hines. Berkeley: Berkeley Women and Language Group, 295-303.
. 1996. "She-Wolves, Tigresses, and Morphosemantics." Gender and Belief
Systems: Proceedings of the Fourth Berkeley Women and Language Conference. Ed.
Natasha Warner,Jocelyn Ahlers, Leela Bilmes, Monica Oliver, Suzanne Wertheim,
and Melinda Chen. Berkeley: Berkeley Women and Language Group, 303-12.
Hughes, Geoffrey. 1991. Swearing: A Social History of Foul Languge, Oaths and Profanity in English. Oxford: Blackwell.
Jay, Timothy. 1992. Cursing in America. Philadelphia: Benjamins.
Judd, Charles M., and Bernadette Park. 1993. "Definition and Assessment of
Accuracy in Social Stereotypes." Psychological Review 100: 109-28.
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
AMERICAN SPEECH 73.4 (1998)
420
Kutner, Nancy G., and Donna Brogan. 1974. "An Investigation of Sex-Related Slang
Vocabulary and Sex-Role Orientation among Male and Female University Students." Journal of Marriage and the Family 36: 474-84.
Maltz, Daniel N., and Ruth A. Borker. 1982. "A Cultural Approach to Male-Female
Miscommunication." Language and Social Identity. Ed. John J. Gumperz. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 195-216.
Martin, Carol Lynn. 1987. "A Ratio Measure of Sex Stereotyping." Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology 52: 489-99.
McConnell-Ginet, Sally. 1989. "The Sexual (Re)Production of Meaning: A Discourse-Based Theory." Language, Gender, and Professional Writing: Theoretical Approaches and Guidelines for Non-Sexist Usage. Ed. Francine W. Frank and Paula A.
Treichler. New York: Modern Language Association, 35-50.
Miller, Casey, and Kate Swift. 1976. Words and Women: New Language in New Times.
Garden City, NY: Anchor/Doubleday.
Preston, Kathleen, and Kimberley Stanley. 1987. "'What's the Worst Thing.. .?'
Gender-Directed Insults." Sex Roles 17: 209-19.
Risch, Barbara. 1987. "Women's Derogatory Terms for Men: That's Right, 'Dirty'
Words." Language in Society 16: 353-58.
Schulz, Muriel R. 1975. 'The Semantic Derogation of Women." Language and Sex:
Difference and Dominance. Ed. Barrie Thorne and Nancy Henley. Rowley, MA:
Newbury, 64-75.
Stanley, Julia. 1977. "Paradigmatic Woman: The Prostitute." Papers in Language
Variation: SAMLA-ADS Collection. Ed. David L. Shores and Carol P. Hines. University: U of Alabama P, 303-21.
Sutton, Laurel A. 1995. "Bitches and Skankly Hobags: The Place of Women in
Contemporary Slang." Gender Articulated: Language and the Socially Constructed
Self. Ed. Kira Hall and Mary Bucholz. New York: Routledge, 279-96.
Tannen, Deborah. 1990. You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation.
New York: Morrow.
Whaley, C. Robert, and George Antonelli. 1983. "The Birds and the Beasts: Woman
as Animal." Maledicta 7: 219-29.
This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:52:25 UTC
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
Download
Related flashcards
Create Flashcards