The Dick-tionary

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About Emily Heist Moss

Emily Heist Moss is a New Englander in love with Chicago, where she works at a tech start-up. She's a serious reader and a semi-pro TV buff. She writes about gender, media, and politics at her blog, Rosie Says. (Follow her: @rosiesaysblog, find Rosie Says on Facebook). 

Comments

  1. Herein lies the problem with most gender-specific insults for both men and women: they’re just vague and generic, hence can’t really pack a punch. I mean, they kinda generally hint in a very broad direction as to what can be wrong with a person, but they’re ultimately not really fun if you’re at all a fan of the English language (or even being precise in your invective). Hell, at least “harridan” and “harpy” are kinda descriptive and call to mind a specific image. “Dick” and “pussy” can’t really call anything particularly strong to mind other than “hey, you’re kind of pathetic and I don’t know if I really like you or not, I guess”.

    I have a policy in my classes that any student who uses the words “gay”, “fag” or “pussy” in the pejorative or to insult another person gets to do a special assignment task as punishment. I either set them a thesaurus task of finding fifty more appropriate synonyms for the word “bad” (whereupon they will learn that none of the aforementioned words are listed), or I give them the nifty Shakespearean insults flashcards I received as a gift a few years back and demand they memorise at least twenty by the next day.

    So far as a strategy of challenging attitudes with language and insults, it’s been terrific. And hearing “bellicose” and “malodorous” in the hallway when levelled in jest is far preferable to the IQ-shaving monotony of “fag” and “homo” that one normally hears amongst the tween boy set.

    • I am curious whether you employ the same policy when any student uses the words “dick” or “prick” in the pejorative or to insult another person. If not, why do you find it acceptable to allow students to demean the male sex, but not the female sex or homosexuals? And before you argue about any social stigmas, keep in mind that the association of the male body with something negative reinforces the accepted social notion the male form and males in general are inherently bad and unlikeable.

      As for your attempt at policing language, I know from experience that it does not stick. Insults only work i the person a) is offended by it, and b) knows what the word means. I doubt most adults know what “bellicose” and “malodorous” mean. I think the immediate, more effective, retort to someone calling you “malodorous” is to pause, stare at them for a moment, call them “fag”, and walk away. Or they might just beat the crap out of the kid for thinking he is smarter than them. Granted, the latter might be your intent, but in general one cannot control language without genuine reinforcement. At best, they will not use the insults around you.

      • Of course I challenge them. Any swearing in the classword is inappropriate. But given the environment I work in, use of words like “fag” and “homo” outweigh insults like “prick” and “dick” about 10 to 1. Firstly, they’re not words that have hugely caught on amongst the Australian teen set. Secondly, I’m working in an environment where homophobia is a huge problem. Of course it’s not the only thing in my arsenal I can use; I am well-supported by admin and the ministry team at my school to combat homophobia through school policy and pastoral care.

        Trust me – boys have no problem being boys where I am, or owning up to their maleness. There is, however, an idea that this maleness must never include the GLBT community.

    • I’d quit your class.
      Some people need to ‘man up’ and be able to take an insult especially if you are a guy.

  2. Most recently I’ve been called “an asshole, but a good asshole” and an “over-confident smartass with a lovely smile”.

    I took them both as compliments.

  3. What’s interesting with these gender-specific insults is that you just can’t win: n o matter what you do, there’s an insult waiting for you.

    So if you’re a guy who’s opinionated, you’re an asshole (guilty as charged). If you don’t have an opinion, however, you’re a pussy. And where, exactly, is the line that tips you over from pussy to asshole? It doesn’t exist, or rather it’s a subjective decision in each person’s head.

    Women get the same thing, generally sex-activity based. So either they’re sluts and whores or bitches and ice-queens. Again, where’s the tipping point? Wherever it’s convenient for the person doing the insulting.

    • What I find funny is I get called a ‘whore’ when I won’t sleep with a guy.

      Funny that…

      Makes no sense, huh?

      • Johnny_B says:

        Yeah, about as funny as a guy being called a ‘creep’ for working up the courage to approach a woman who doesn’t find him attractive.

      • Valter Viglietti says:

        @Sara: “What I find funny is I get called a ‘whore’ when I won’t sleep with a guy.”

        Yep!
        Him (the sayer) not noticing the contradiction, speaks volumes about his dumbness… 8)

        OTOH, I find it even funnier when people uses “whore” (or the like) about a women enjoying sex a lot. :shock:
        I mean, I think prostitutes are – on average – the women enjoying sex the least: it’s a job, after all!

        So, in the end any sexist insult is likely to be pretty dumb.

  4. This is a rather strange article. The first three insults — asshole, creep, and douchebag — get treated as acceptable while the last two — fag and pussy — get treated as unacceptable. If I understand correctly, it is fine to call men assholes, creeps, and douchebags because those insults are always leveled fairly. But it is not fine to call men fags and pussies because they insults another group.

    Odder still is the assertion that “women face the slut/bitch dichotomy based on perceptions of a very limited range of sexual propriety. For men, the categories are different, but the narrow-minded, hetero-heavy name-calling persists.” The list does not show that. The insults fall into two categories: men who are not the “right” kind of people (fag, pussy, creep) or men who do not know their place (asshole, douchebag). That a dichotomy is based on perceptions of a very limited range of social worthiness.

    The article reads like an attempt to justify feminists insulting men, and it is rather curious that “pussy” got found objectionable considering how frequently feminists call men “whiners” and “crybabies”, which in mansults translates to “pussies.”

    • I noticed that too. Its amazing how under the “right” circumstances personal insults are suddenly okay.

      One thing I’ve noticed in television in the last year or so. Is it me or is it suddenly okay to call someone a dick on primetime tv but pussy is still bleeped out or just not said at all? There is definitely a certain hint of, “Its okay to make this insult but that one is off limits.”

      The article reads like an attempt to justify feminists insulting men, and it is rather curious that “pussy” got found objectionable considering how frequently feminists call men “whiners” and “crybabies”, which in mansults translates to “pussies.”
      Not just feminists but I think they are extending that okay to everyone.

      The other side of the insult spectrum is designed to emasculate, to undermine the claims to manhood of that new breed of feminist-thinking, sexually generous, emotionally aware, smart and sexy modern man.
      And there’s the advertisement. Trying to make feminist synonymous with all things good and moral.

  5. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    Many of the lady slurs originate with and are perpetuated by women who want to keep the rate of sexual exchange down to add to their own value. Men do pick them up and use them too.

    When insulting men as a man, you don’t want to use an insult that adds to the man’s power. So, no “asshole.” Even “douchebag” is problematic. That’s why, unfortunately, gay slurs work best, even though they’re way wrong ethically. Same for feminine imputation. “Bitch” is very effective.

  6. Johnny_B says:

    I think the word “creep” is thrown around far too liberally by some people. To some women, especially the younger ones, it seems that a “creep” is nowadays pretty much any man whom they don’t find attractive and who has shown an interest in them. There is really no female equivalent.

    Also, maybe I’m reading it wrong but this article seems to focus on insults from a sexual/sexualized point of view. There are some instances, though, when calling a man a ‘pussy’ has nothing to do with behavior towards women, it just implies that he is weak in some way. Similarly, a woman can get called a ‘bitch’ for reasons having nothing to do with her sexuality, just the fact that she’s an unpleasant person.

    A couple of new ones to include in the “pussy” category would be “white knight” and “mangina”. The definition varies. If you listen to the feminists, they’re epithets thrown around by supporters of the patriarchy to shame men who are showing themselves to be sensitive and in touch with their feminine side. If you listen to the MRAs, they describe self-hating men who are hoping to score ‘points’ by endlessly attacking and denigrating their own gender while praising and worshipping women. The truth, as always, is probably somewhere in the middle.

    • I don’t call a man a “creep” just because he approaches me and I’m not attracted to him. In fact, I dislike the word creep because I think it is often unfairly pejorative and used against well meaning guys who are just awkward. Awkwardness is not creepy. The issue is whether someone crosses the other person’s boundaries. In fact, I might initially be attracted to a guy, but get turned off by “creepy” behavior. A highly attractive and successful guy may still come across as creepy. I think it’s behavioral. For me, creepy behavior from a stranger (or acquaintance I only know slightly) includes standing too close me, touching my arm or shoulder while talking to me, making inappropriate sexual remarks or asking me about my sex life. Example: a guy in a bar once came up to me, talked to me for 3 minutes and then asked me if I’d like to go out to his van for a drink. When I expressed reluctance, he said, “I parked in a really dark part of the lot.” Yikes! That’s creepy.

  7. pedrizzle my nizzle says:

    I’m not sure how deep into sociology you’re interested in, but I would be interested to see the difference in men across different cultures and different constructions of the ideal man. Personally for me, ideas of homosexuality in Latin America are completely different than they are here in the states, I suppose an especially important point considering the fact that we’re sex crazed catholics multiplying like, well catholics, and if anyone knows how to fuck up ideas of sexuality in young men, its catholics (child molesting is just the product of all the fucked up shit they guilt people into doing). Anyway, basically, if someone calls you a fag, you have to beat him up. If you don’t beat him up, you get beat up for not beating the other guy up. Its has to literally be the GAYEST thing you could do, basically wrestle and get hot and sweaty with dudes. Thoughts?

    • Hmmm. Is Brazil included in your definition of “Latin America”?

      • Yeah, I was curious about that too. Brazil is probably Latin (at least linguistically speaking since Portuguese is a Romance language) and is culturally obsessed with Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the Western martial art (alongside boxing and the varieties of wrestling) with the closet body contact between men. One of the first things guys have to overcome, in the sport, is their aversion, if they have one, to rolling around tightly entwined with other guys. Great sport for a lot reasons, in my opinion, and that’s one of them.

  8. This is a rather strange article. The first three insults — asshole, creep, and douchebag — get treated as acceptable while the last two — fag and pussy — get treated as unacceptable. If I understand correctly, it is fine to call men assholes, creeps, and douchebags because those insults are always leveled fairly. But it is not fine to call men fags and pussies because they insults another group.

    Odder still is the assertion that “women face the slut/bitch dichotomy based on perceptions of a very limited range of sexual propriety. For men, the categories are different, but the narrow-minded, hetero-heavy name-calling persists.” The list does not show that. The insults fall into two categories: men who are not the “right” kind of people (fag, pussy, creep) or men who do not know their place (asshole, douchebag). That a dichotomy is based on perceptions of a very limited range of social worthiness.

    The article reads like an attempt to justify feminists insulting men, and it is rather curious that “pussy” got found objectionable considering how frequently feminists call men, particularly abused men, “whiners” and “crybabies”, which in mansults translates to “pussies.”

  9. A side note: when did comment moderation start, and why is it blocking terms used in the article?

    • the Editors says:

      We have always moderated comments based on keywords. We can’t change the moderation for the whole site based on one piece. So posts with certain terms are held for moderation. if those comments are appropriate/constructive, they will be approved. We have a commenting policy; you can access it through the “About” dropdown menu

  10. No words used at men are ever as bad as those used for women: C-nt, Sl-t, Wh-re. Men need to educate themselves more on what it’s like to be a woman so they can understand just how truly difficult it is to navigate in a world where your privileges are only grudgingly given to you by men.

    Thankfully, these guys have apologized to women everywhere. These men get it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_uRIMUBnvw

    • No words used at men are ever as bad as those used for women: C-nt, Sl-t, Wh-re.
      I’d really like to know how you came to this conclusion.

    • Transhuman says:

      I have a personal rule that I only apologise for actions that I have taken. No man represents me save myself unless I explicitly declare such, I accept no responsibility for what any other man may do even if I am standing right beside him. I am sovereign, as is the man beside me. I consider apologies and promises such as you linked are shaming tactics, much like the White Ribbon Day promise.

      I think it is telling that ratings are disabled for that particular video.

    • A lot of pedestalizing going on there. As well, one of the comments, interestingly, called it “creepy.”

    • Valter Viglietti says:

      @Erin: “No words used at men are ever as bad as those used for women: C-nt, Sl-t, Wh-re.”

      Good try at playing the “Victim” card. :roll:
      You’re just projecting your own issues. Playing the “We have it worst” is not going to win any understanding or sympathy for your cause.

      When it’s about insults and demeaning, there’s no “winner” or “loser”: it’s bad for everyone involved.

  11. I have to question some of the etymology in this article. “Creep” means to crawl or move silently. “Brothel creepers” were a type of thick-soled shoes popularized by “Teddy Boys” in the UK. They have nothing to do with stealing from brothels.

  12. William Camarena says:

    I was trying to find the difference between a dick and an asshole.
    I believe a dick is someone’s actions is intended to be mean to you when an asshole is someone more on a careless approach in a sense that if you happen to be a victim. Like an “oh well, ha ha” type of way.

  13. I get called an ‘asshole’ and a ‘douchebag’ and I am proud of it.
    Do you know why?
    Because my confidence and charm has allowed me to be successful socioeconomically in the long term and I have rarely been unable to get a generally attractive woman to date me.

    Thing is when you grow up in the ghetto you are either a tough guy or a victim.

  14. I’m a bit confused as to why ‘asshole’ became so often used for men, it doesn’t seem at all gendered in it’s etymology (an aggressive or conceited person) or origin (‘place where crap comes from’).

    I’m also curious why you choose to accuse several people or characters of being ‘those words’ in the definition of each, wasn’t the point that using them was wrong?

  15. Creep, on the other hand, really is not gendered, I am frustrated that so many men assert so, and frankly it just seems like they’re butthurt when women turn down their sexual attention.

  16. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    I see this has popped back up again. I don’t let students use “offended” and “uncomfortable” either. The user feels entitled to close debate, or is manipulating using putative victimhood.

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  1. [...] pressing lingustic concerns regarding the litany of insults leveled at dudes will be addressed in this article I wrote for The Good Men Project Magazine. Check it, and make sure you never call a creep an asshole or a douchebag a pussy. Get that shit [...]

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