Have you ever noticed that derogatory terms like spinster and mistress only exist for women while the male equivalents are bachelor and master? Why do common phrases like Debbie Downer or Chatty Cathy always have female personas?
These are just a few of the questions that top-grossing language learning app, Babbel, has raised to help uncover some of the ways in which language affects sexism around the globe. In support of #EachForEqual on International Women’s Day, Babbel created a list of alternative words to replace sexist terms to help shed light on the ones that everyone needs to stop using in 2020!
Here’s the full list:
Instead of Hussy [15th century]: An impudent or immoral girl or woman.
Try using Daring: A person in control of their life, who is not afraid to take risks.
Instead of Feisty: [19th century] A determined, self-reliant, touchy and often quarrelsome person, generally attributed to women.
Try using A go getter: An ambitious person who is undeterred by others in pursuit of their life goals.
Instead of Sissy: Used to describe a person as effeminate or cowardly, meant as an insult.
Try using Coward: It more accurately describes the trait: a person who is contemptibly lacking in the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.
Instead of Frigid: While also referring to cold temperature, it refers to a woman who is unable to be sexually aroused and responsive. Does that mean men are perfect in bed every time?
Try using Cold or Distant: This is likely more accurate (Or maybe they’re just not that into you). Though if you’re talking about your partner’s sexual unresponsiveness – which could apply to anyone – perhaps it’s best to address the problem itself.
Instead of Ditsy: A person who is perceived as being ‘silly’, featherbrained, irresponsible or empty-headed, commonly attributed to females.
Try using Head in the clouds: Someone who may have the tendency to have unrealistic dreams and often lose focus, irrespective of their gender.
Instead of Bombshell: Usually used in the phrase ‘blonde bombshell’, specifically attributed to a very good-looking blonde woman.
Try using Attractive: A person of any sex who is perceived to be beautiful by others. You can add on an adverb like ‘super’ or ‘extremely’ if you want to turn up the volume.
Instead of Bubbly: A personality trait to used to describe a friendly, outgoing and perky person, usually always about a female. Urban Dictionary goes so far as to describe someone who is bubbly as being someone whose liveliness touches on annoying.
Try using Cheerful: A person who feels happy and optimistic about life.
Instead of Chatty Cathy: Urban Dictionary describes this as any woman (or man) who won’t shut up. Sometimes it’s interesting, sometimes it’s not. Mostly not.
Try using Chatterbox: There’s no need to make a sexist remark if you don’t have to.
Instead of Debbie downer: While downer on its own is used to refer to a depressing person or situation, the term Debbie Downer was popularised by a character from a Saturday Night Live sketch that debuted in 2004. It is often used to describe a woman with a negative attitude.
Try using Fun-sponge: A more playful and non-gendered way to describe someone that soaks up all the fun or takes the fun out of life.
Instead of Grow a pair: A phrase that implies someone needs to have male genitalia to be perceived as strong. But a person can be strong no matter what their sex.
Try using Grow a brain: Because in the end, smarts will get you further.
Instead of Working mom: There is no male equivalent. Fathers who work are just simply referred to as dads. The term can also be associated with a mother who works so much that she is not motherly enough.
Try using Superhuman: This emphasizes the hard work that someone who works and takes care of their children.
Instead of Dainty: A word used to describe something that’s delicate and lovely, often associated with females.
Try using Lean: Can be used for both and women to describe a small, slight, or healthy physique, and has positive connotations.
Instead of Sweet thing: Often pronounced as “sweet thang”, this term is a very informal compliment to a woman or to someone attractive. Urban dictionary describes a “sweet thang” as a girl with a big ass and nice rack who doesn’t mind being hit on.
Try using Cute: Can be used for either gender and refers to the person being good looking
Instead of Hockey / Soccer Mom: A range of terms to describe specific types of motherhood. This describes a mother, who is usually white, drives an SUV, lives in the suburbs and over- parents her children.
Try using Supportive parent / No. 1 Fan: This underlines the support that the parent has for their child, rather than their gender.
Instead of Man flu: Describes an illness only men can have. It is the phenomena that men suffering from an otherwise common illness act and whine as if they were suffering through something life-threatening.
Try using the plague: Because the disease is non-existent, it’s implied that the person is over- exaggerating about the severity of their illness.