JJ Vincent knows how to (verbally) hit a man where it hurts. It’s easy. But don’t do it. Please.
You’ve all heard them. We’ve all heard them. Doesn’t matter how old or young you are, or where you’re from. The words are the same.
“You’re such a p—y.” “Quit being such a p—y.” “Jesus, you’re such a girl.” “Sissy.” “Are you gonna cry like a little b—h?” “If you watch any more of those movies, you’re gonna grow a v—-a.” “Grow a pair.” “Suck my d—k.” “Blow me.” “Stupid f-g.” “What are you, some kind of f—-t?”
This is not a comprehensive list. Far from it. There are a lot more insults, and a lot of them are a lot uglier. But these seem to have a certain sting. I’ve seen a lot of guys, myself included, flinch at these, or try to laugh them off…but the laughter is awkward. The tone that delivers them has a little extra sneer behind it. A little more superiority. A little more edge. A little more dismissal.
Look at them. They have something in common. They’re unique. They are simultaneously implying that whatever a guy is doing or being is equated being female, or a part of a female (things most men profess to love), or homosexual, which in and of itself has implications of femininity.
And there are two very troubling things here.
The first is pretty obvious, or should be. Insulting people, using language to degrade them, whether the intention is to set them apart from the group, to motivate them to work harder/better/faster (as coaches and captains used to do with impunity), or give the speaker higher social status, is never right. Plenty of you will argue that there’s a difference between playful banter and cruel intentions, that people just say this stuff without thinking about it. But you can really never know what effect you are having on the people hearing those words.
The second part of this is much more troubling. Why are these words even insulting and degrading in the first place? Why are they so negative, so bad, so awful, that some men will do almost anything to avoid them? Why will men push themselves beyond their limits, participate in risky behaviors, fake-or change-their core beliefs and behaviors, to not hear those words hurled at them?
Because these words are emasculating. They “reduce” a man to a woman. They reduce a man to a woman’s body part that is still somewhat taboo, that is still avoided because of the fear of “dirty”, of taste and smell. They reduce a man to a girl-child, considered to be an exceptionally helpless being. They reduce him to “not a man at all”. They imply that certain behaviors, particularly those considered to be feminine, will “feminize” the man in the eyes of his peers. If masculinity is the currency of status, then femininity empties the wallet. And in using these words as insults, the speaker is subtly insulting women as well, suggesting that a man being like “them” is undesirable.
And the stereotype of the gay man is effeminate, weak, mirroring traditionally female traits in interests and behaviors (including sexual). Using language to “reduce” a man to homosexual is an equally, if not more, effective tool of insult and emasculation. Consider “Suck my d–k” and “Blow me.” Both of these symbolically order the recipient into a submissive sexual position doing an act usually asked of women, putting the speaker into a place of power. Combine these with the posturing that often goes with them and you have a verbal hit that is so ingrained into our language that while the person using it may not even be conscious of what they are implying, that they themselves are asking for a sexual act from another man, listeners know who is controlling, and usually ending, the conversation. “F-g” and “f—-t” need no dissection. The meaning of those is loud and clear. “You are gay. Gays are undesirable. This is not acceptable. They are not acceptable. If I call you this, I align you with those people.” Again, another group in also being insulted, as the speaker is implying that it’s not ok to be “like a gay”. And its intention is to bring the target’s sexuality, and therefore acceptability, into question to the larger group.
Like most insults, these words, when used, usually have no basis in truth. They are tools to gain power over another person or group of people. But what if there is a kernel, or more, of truth in them for the target? What is there is a gay man desperately trying to hide in the closet, who fears that his secret will be revealed if people start thinking about him with a little too much “Hmmmmmm…” What if he has a gay child or relative, and worries how he will be received outside of the comfortable bubble of familiarity? What if there is a person questioning their gender, now surrounded by people who throw around female words like clods of dirt, denigrating the very people they profess to love?
There should be no shame in crying. There should be no shame in being the last one across the line, the one who is a little slower, the one who wants to talk about their feelings or watch a makes-you-cry movie. No one should be shamed for not being the biggest, fastest, smartest, strongest. No one should be insulted for not toeing an arbitrary gender line, drawn by nothing more than what has been considered correct.
And no one should be allowed to hide behind the excuse of, “Well, that’s just the way we talk.”
No, it’s not. It’s how you choose to talk. It’s how you choose to treat others. And it’s not how you would want them to treat you.