Exploring Our Language: Words Matter
If you like pumpkin spice latte’s, using emojis and abbreviations to communicate, and inspirational quotes—you are likely a Basic Bitch.
If you like your food and beverage a specific way, dressing to stand out, cover yourself in tattoos, and have big emotions—then you are likely considered Extra.
As a female living in modern times, these terms along with several others (think cougar, MILF, gold digger) aren’t new to you. The language used to categorize young girls and women is ever-evolving, and the result is psychologically degrading and socially limiting—though many may not realize it.
Labels & Their Consequences
I know, you are probably thinking, “Come on! What’s the big deal? They are just silly slang terms.” But, while the various ways females are described are trendy and amusing to many, most don’t stop to consider the impact this dictionary of belittling terms has on the women who bear the labels.
As a mother of two teen girls, I’ve witnessed the effects the pressure to avoid being seen as the simple and disposable Basic Bitch has on young girls. I mean who would want to be her? But it requires a near-impossible balance to avoid going from basic to extra. One must spend an excruciating amount of energy focusing on every detail of how to act and look—and what to say (and not say)—to avoid tilting the balance of how you are perceived from one direction to the other.
Try too hard to be unique, and you are sure to be perceived as Extra or a Drama Queen. Blend in with the crowd, and you become a boring, typical, and unimportant Basic Bitch. It takes trial and error, and a yo-yo of rejection and acceptance, to get it right before the next label pops up.
People say, “They shouldn’t care so much about what everybody else thinks,” but that’s a bit dishonest isn’t it? Especially when men say it. How others perceive us dictates so much of what we both get and get to do in life doesn’t it? From the social circles and events we are invited into, to the universities and jobs that accept us, so much depends upon how others view us.
I’ve seen girls break down in tears after hours of trying to get their makeup right, concerned that one unplucked eyebrow could result in an evening of ridicule. I’ve seen women contemplate ditching a party because facing the anxiety of getting ready was just too overwhelming.
A Strategic Disadvantage
Financial and energy reservoirs deplete as females spend a gross amount of time and money, trying to figure out how to navigate the negative persona traps set out for them by society.
Yes, they are traps.
Time and money. These two key assets for success are siphoned away while trying to avoid the patriarchy’s latest unflattering label.
“But don’t females only have themselves to blame for making the mistake of wasting their time and money on such silly things?” This is a common misinformed question. Research shows that biases against women keep them from success in the workplace. Likability is key to climbing the workplace ladder. It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see how these biases extend to the rest of our lives.
The Hierarchy of Oppression
“But I hear girls calling other girls these names. It can’t be that bad!”
As we have learned in the age of Trumpism, the oppressed often pick up the language and actions of their own oppressors. There’s no better illustration of the hierarchy of oppression among women than that found in both the book and show “The Handmaid’s Tale”.
Living in a Patriarchal society is complex for women, especially when it comes to the stereotypes created to cage us. We have two choices, either we can embrace them in an attempt to acquire the best (most likable) label available. If we do this, while we remain oppressed, there is the possibility we might increase the likelihood of achieving our goals. But, this approach inevitably demands
Or we reject the system altogether and burn the discriminatory dictionary.
A Little Book Burning
That’s what I’m suggesting.
I know it’s hard, but it’s well past the time for us to dig deep into our own emerging dialect and reject names, phrases, and notions designed to confine the feminine—because women are so much more than any single label can contain.
I refuse to be made small by small-minded classifications designed to put women in the corner and punish them for their interests, actions, and aesthetics. It’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t trap that’s grown old on me, and one I won’t set for others.
So how does this book-burning look? It’s simple really. It only requires silence. Labels are only powerful if you use them.
With that said, you bring the kindling and I’ll bring the matches. Because after this last year, we might need to burn the whole library down.