There are many things about guys that I find to be complete turn offs. If it weren’t for my strongly heterosexual inclination, I’d consider being in a relationship with myself because I really get me. I know what I like and I remember all the important dates. I also know when I’m needed and when I need to distance myself. And I’m also pretty goodlooking. So it’s just win-win all around. Unfortunately, my ‘pheramonal’ persuasion leads me towards the male sex and I’m stuck with their perpetual general idiocy which, at my least hormonal, can be somewhat endearing.
But if there’s one thing in a guy that serves to be the greatest, perhaps ultimate, turn off it’s his unintentional sexism and objectification of my sex. By ‘unintentional’ I mean the sort of sexism and objectification they don’t realize they’re participating in and perpetuating because the language and mentality they’re espousing and practicing are just so normalized. For instance – chick? Last time I checked, I didn’t spend three semesters as a fetus toasting in an incubator while my mother was served, her skin fried, to an overweight greasy-faced college IT undergrad. Some guys will follow up this with even more sexist language while others will just use it in casual conversation not meaning any intentional hurt. But guess what? I don’t care – to reduce my sex to a, albeit cute, non-human creature whose name connotes its infancy and defenselessness is not funny. Or cute. Nor will it incline me to have a conversation with you.
Plus this whole infancy thing is just plain creepy as shit. Chick. Babe. Baby. Baby girl. Baby boy. Num Nums.
What the hell is num nums?!
Language reflects community, history, mores and ethics. Language also reflects ‘realities’ and ‘perceptions.’ It is ultimately a reflection of the community from which it emerged and the community within which it continues to evolve. Language depends wholly, not partially, on context. For this reason we find that when texts are translated from their original languages to others – especially if poetic – the meaning so originally profound becomes somewhat obscured; lost. Ideas, concepts, words become harder to grasp when the context of history is not present. For instance, the word ‘patriarchy’ does not exist in Arabic, Urdu and countless other languages. Thus the concept of patriarchy (and forget terms and concepts like homosocial, heteronormative and the Lesbian scale) fails to exist in these languages (in original form) and is not as easily transferable in meaning. Other words and explanations can be used to explain what patriarchy means – but it must be explained in those languages, with words that create a comprehensible meaning to non-Latin-derived-language-hearing ears.
Another example – and I use Arabic as I’m forced to study it – is the Qur’an, the Muslim holy book. Revealed to the people of Arabia in the 7th century, the book is filled with agricultural references and language. For instance, the term ‘shari’ah‘ itself is taken today to mean ‘Islamic Law’ or in MSA/colloquial “path/street.” It, however, actually means “path to the watering hole” – something that connoted basic survival to the 6th century desert dwelling Arabs. The Qur’an is filled with references to a reality that did not exist for the Arabs of the Hejaz – a reality of which the importance they knew all too well. Scarce water, scarce fruits and scarce shade to protect from the sun – the Qur’an spoke to them in a language which emphasized salvation, charity, good will- amongst several other virtues and concepts- through words which heavily resounded with them. Water is the most basic requirement for survival – for Divine Law (in terms of ethics, etiquette etc) to be referred to as shar’iah thus implies an irrevocable importance to one’s livelihood.
Anyway, to get back on track as this is a late night/early morning rant, language is context. When you refer to something or someone in a certain way it is not solely reflective of how you see them but also how your particular community or society perceives them. Imagery and language go hand in hand, as well. Certain images illicit certain words in my mind and from my tongue -consciously or unconsciously and these words reflect how I am interacting with the subject of my sentence/conversation.
So, when a guy – however unintentional in meaning anything harmful – refers to a woman as a ‘chick’ or ‘milf’ it reflects something greater than himself and even what he believes about women. He may believe he respects women and he most likely does – but that language does not because our community and our society do not respect women. The words and images used to describe women and prescribed to be used by women reflect the objectified nature awarded to them by a language and society heavily created and sustained by ..well ..guys. Perhaps most importantly for our discussion language also connotes strong power relations – whether gendered or racialized or ..uhh ..classified?
However casually used, ‘chick,’ ‘babe,’ ‘bitch’ ‘cougar’ and ‘milf’ – amongst countless others – designate all women a restricted space within their relationships with men and with themselves as well. These words take away the agency of women and overpower their sexual sovereignty – she’s either infantile or a canine or a feline or a woman who’s pushed out a few human beings from her vaginal passage yet has amazingly been able to not falter below the apparent “acceptable beauty standards” required for – and pardon my vulgarity – “fucking” as per the obscene acronym. Sexual agency is completely masculine; men are the subjects that ‘do’ and women are the ‘objects’ to which a certain action is done i.e. designated as a non-human delicious dessert vis a vis honey buns.
The language you use shows what you deem important but, most importantly, reflects the community you choose to affiliate yourself with – by continuing to speak in a certain vernacular of it or use certain words, you help perpetuate not only that particular vernacular and language but the values and ‘realities’ engrained into the language, particularly power relations and history .
This is also why White people need to stfu about the word ‘nigger.’