This is typically a bro-to-bro insult, the invocation of which says more about the insulter than the insultee. It’s a tool in the bag of the insecure (see: Asshole). Referring to a guy as female genitalia is supposedly a major blow. Being a “pussy” is the opposite of “manning up.” “Don’t be a pussy” usually means “act like an asshole, dammit” and encourages more aggressive behavior towards women and/or higher levels of intoxication.
Etymology & History: The evolution of “pussy” from a diminutive for “women,” to slang for “vagina,” to “effeminate man” took several centuries. The lovely offshoot, “pussy-whipped” was first used in 1956 to describe men under the thumb of their ladies.
Pussies in the News: “Pussy” may be too coarse to make the papers, but its opposite invocation, “man up,” has had quite the resurgence. Senator Harry Reid was told to “man up” by Sharron Angle the same day that Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan told Senator Roy Blunt the same thing. Sarah Palin has leveled the “man up” gun at sitting politicians deemed not tough enough for “Real America.” Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell recently called the Democratic Party a “bunch of wusses.”
Pussies on Screen: The boys of Glee, Brian Johnson (The Breakfast Club), George McFly (Back to the Future), Mark Ratner (Fast Times at Ridgemont High)
Famous Pussy Quotes:
“You are a wuss: part wimp, and part pussy” (Mike Damone, Fast Times)
“We live in more of a pussy generation now, where everybody’s become used to saying, ‘Well, how do we handle it psychologically?’ In those days, you just punched the bully back and duked it out.” (Clint Eastwood)
Peter Gibbons: “He’s going to ask me to work on Sunday and I’m going to do it, because I’m a pussy, which is why I work at Initech in the first place.”
Michael Bolton: “Hey, I work at Initech and I don’t consider myself a pussy.”
Samir: “Yes, I am also not a pussy.” (Office Space)
Synonyms: Bitch, Wuss, Vagina
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.
On one end, the spectrum is populated by designations that are based in bravado and (frequently inaccurate, ahem) sexual prowess that tie assholes and douchebags to traditional ideas of red-blooded, beer-swilling, chick-banging, chest-thumping manhood. 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. So the next time some asshole in a bar calls you a pussy, just tip your beer in his direction and say, “Whatever, douchebag.” You’ll win out in the long run.