If I’m going to be offensive, I’m also going to make sure everyone is covered,” I tell my friend to whom I’ve been venting about my father’s difficult ways.
I’ve just likened my beloved genitor’s relentless kvetching to bitching.
My friend, who is whip-smart and has mastered the art of the perfectly timed repartee, asks me whether this statement is more offensive to women or to men.
Hence my equal opportunities reply. In Europe, our culture is a lot blunter than America’s. I now write US English out of necessity but I still speak British English and have retained a pathological dislike of circumlocution. And a certain colorful saltiness off the record.
This is inevitable when you’ve spent most of your life in a country where being called a “C U Next Tuesday” is both a supreme insult and a term of endearment.
As with everything, it depends on context.
I take zero offense being on the receiving end of an insult which also happens to be the most sacred part of my anatomy, source of both pleasure and life.
No high horse for me, I give as good as I get, and I’m an ardent proponent of swearing because it’s an effective way to convey a lot of information in a few words. It saves time, relieves pain, and can even work in your favor when your interlocutor is so taken aback it gives you a conversational advantage.
But my bluntness doesn’t make me a bitch or a nasty woman, just an outspoken human who likes to get to the point as fast as possible.
Gender stereotypes are linguistic tumors that have metastasized and taken over the internet.
They’re polluting the way we communicate; they make a civil dialogue based on mutual respect impossible. The very tool that was designed to bring us together has split us into vituperative factions many are proudly self-identifying with.
Willingly putting yourself down and calling yourself a nasty woman or a bitch is neither a badge of honor nor a way to bridge the gender gap. Or make equality a reality. Instead, this attitude further perpetuates those very inequalities feminism is supposed to address.
Worse, such violent self-deprecation shows a complete lack of self-respect and signals to others how it’s OK to describe and treat you and, by association, an entire gender. I can’t think of a more impactful and spectacular way to let down all the humans who identify as women.
While it might be hip to drop F-bombs and text speak abbreviations for clicks, it isn’t a politically smart move. Especially when you’re quick to embrace victimhood on behalf of all women and equate all men with bullies.
Why decry Trump’s actions and then promptly lower yourself to his level? Wasn’t it Michelle Obama who urged Americans who are opposed to Trump’s rhetoric to go high when they go low?
Lest we forget, womanhood doesn’t come with victimhood installed as standard. Women are routinely subjected to dehumanization at the hands of men but we should demand better treatment from ourselves.
And yet, many of us prefer to take shortcuts and pander to clichés as it’s a lot easier than thinking, having a conversation, or attempting mediation.
Equality will be a joint effort or it won’t be.
But before we can all sit down together and work it out, we need to find the intellectual and emotional wherewithal to set aside our susceptibility.
And our all-consuming self-righteousness.
In short, we have to stop pointing fingers, we have to suspend long-standing enmities, and we have to be willing to listen to one another as we air our grievances.
In as dispassionate a language as we can manage under the circumstances.
But common sense takes work, good will, and persistence as well as the ability to empathize with those who have wronged us.
The latter is anathema to an individualistic culture that places personal wellbeing above the common good. There’s no magic bullet; if we want equality to become a reality in our lifetime, it starts with each of us.
And with the language we use to refer to ourselves and to one another.
Why not shoot for the common denominator, i.e. our shared humanness, instead of our differences and take it from there?
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.