29 words only used to describe women
This is how the Collins English Dictionary defines "feisty": Feisty - Adj, informal 1. Lively, resilient and self-reliant 2. (US and Canadian) frisky 3. (US and Canadian) irritable.
None of these definitions mention gender at all. Indeed, the adjective would appear to be gender neutral - until you look at the example sentences given by the dictionary ... Not one refers to a 'feisty male'. The closest is 'feisty parents', but the others refer to a 'feisty teenage daughter', a 'feisty mother' and a quote reading: 'Why were even the most intelligent and feisty women so foolish when it came to being hopelessly in love?' (from the book Tickled Pink).
It's no wonder that Downton Abbey actress Daisy Lewis has said that 'feisty' is her "least favourite word". She told the Mail on Sunday's You magazine: "Have you ever heard a man described as feisty? Have you heard a male character described as feisty? I think not." Hurrah for Lewis - she has uncovered yet another word that shows the vocabularly gender divide - and a wider level of everyday sexism. It couldn't be more timely either. Sheryl Sandberg and Beyoncé are already spearheading a campaign to 'Ban Bossy'. While a new study has shown how 'abrasive' is regularly used to describe women in the workplace.
All of these words once held harmless gender equal meanings, but have sadly now come to mean something rather different - usually negative - when applied to women. Even worse? There's dozens more of them. So here's the dictionary of words that we hear to hate.
It's a slang term that's meant to refer to 'a stupid or simple-minded person.' Instead, of course, it has come to refer to a woman who enjoys reading about celebrities, or dares dye her hair blonde.
The original meaning ('having a strong desire for success or achievement') is still applied to men as a positive trait. In a working women? It's a dirty word. Cara Delevingne has complained that she's encountered criticism for being ambitious. Even Madonna has said she felt 'being openly ambitious [is] frowned open' in England.
'Irritating in manner or personality; causing tension or annoyance.' This is the newest negative term to throw at working women. A recent Fortune study found that it appeared 17 times in women's professional performance reviews and one for men (who were openly encouraged to be 'more aggressive).
Bossy has become such a contentious adjective that it has it's own anti-campaign - 'Ban Bossy', the brainchild of Sheryl Sandberg. The idea? That powerful men are called 'strong-minded', while women are accused of being 'bossy' - a less flattering term - purely because of their sex.
Not only can a woman be a 'bitch', but she can also be 'bitchy' (i.e. 'malicious or snide'). Of course, an unpleasant male boss is rarely known as bitchy - although gay men can face a similar plight to women. But the female equivalent is always given this six-letter description.
The adjective means 'lively, animated or excited' and tends to be used to describe a woman's personality. When was the last time you heard a man referred to in this way?
Male friends tell me the term has an additional usage - to politely describe girls they like, but are not attracted to.
A close relative of 'airhead' (see also: 'bimbo'). 'Ditsy' is another word to describe someone who is perceived as being a 'silly' woman. It's most commonly accompanied by a patronising tone and rolling of the eyes.
Every human being has emotions. So, as this adjective describes someone who is expressing their natural feelings, you'd expect it to be gender-neutral.
You'd be wrong. While it can be used to apply to men, the word is commonly thrown at any woman who dares mention how she feels, raises her voice, or wells-up with tears. (See also: 'needy').
'Frigid' is so commonly used to describe a woman 'lacking sexual responsiveness' that even the dictionary defines that meaning as being "especially of a woman." Because, of course, men are sexually perfect, every time. It smacks of Victorian notions of female sexual arousal disorders (see also: 'hysteria').
The dictionary defines this adjective as being 'of a woman, clothes, etc' - though here it isn't about her sexuality, it's about her looks.
The 'high-maintenance girlfriend' with her manicures, love of credit cards and incessant demands is a modern day trope firmly rooted in sexism. The 'high-maintenance boyfriend' stereotype is yet to surface.
Closely related to 'ambitious', 'bossy' and 'abrasive'. 'Pushy' is another word that sums up gender inequality in the workplace. But it's also favoured as an adjective to describe mums who are heavily involved in their children's lives and education (see also: 'Tiger Mother').
Commonly used to describe a woman with a strong personality and often linked to sexuality and race. Rarely ever meant in a positive context unless it reduces women to stereotypes.
Typically used in the phrase 'blonde bombshell', but more likely to be applied to a woman such as Pamela Anderson than the equally blonde actor Chris Hemsworth in Thor.
Belongs to the 'ambitious', 'abrasive' and 'bossy' family. Typically used in the workplace.
Commonly applied to women who look 'flustered' and suggesting an inability to control one's emotions, or sexuality a la Marilyn Monroe's 'breathy tones'. Smacks of a negative way to reference the female orgasm.
Where is the male equivalent? Groomzillas do exist you know.
A man might be plump, or round. A woman will always be curvy. (See also: voluptuous).
Commonly used to describe a woman's physical beauty, suggesting something waif-like (there's another one) and delicate.
As above, it refers to a woman's 'delicate' self.
Young women are often given this description of being 'energetically wilful and determined'. Men less so.
Both men and women have hormones, but from the use of the word 'hormonal', you might forget that. Commonly used in conjunction with PMS (pre-menstrual stress).
Hysteria - an old Victorian condition, just like 'frigidity' - is still applied to women in the form of the adjective 'hysterical' (see also: irrational). Not to be confused with the other meaning of 'hysterical' - being 'hilarious'.
Illogical, adj and Irrational, adj
If a woman expresses her feelings in a way that's perceived to be 'too much' (see also: 'emotional'), it's likely she'll be called 'illogical' or 'irrational'.
Mother of... , noun
Women are almost always defined by their children, whereas a man will rarely be known as 'father of three' first and foremost.
Typically used to describe a female high-pitched voice. Rarely used to describe an equally high male one. (See also: shrieking)
Similar to 'curvy', but with sexual undertones. Defined in the dictionary as being 'especially of a woman'.
A complaining woman is said to be 'whinging'. A complaining man is said to be... complaining.
Working mum, noun
The word 'dad' is rarely preceded by 'working'.
Do you have any other you think should be added?
- Daily Life