“Girl” Is Not an Insult

This weekend, for the first time, I saw the movie The Other Guys. I love comedies with dumb humor–in fact, whenever someone asks my favorite genre of movie I answer, “Will Ferrell.” I love Family Guy and Beavis and Butthead and all that mindless blather because honestly, it cracks me up. Usually, I can ignore the more offensive jokes because they’re peppered with satirical idiocy or they’re at the very least fleeting. Even shows like Family Guy are offensive to everyone across the board, so that somehow makes it more bearable. But watching The Other Guys quite simply had me writhing with anger–they made constant derogatory, sexist jokes that I simply could not overlook for the sake of humor. Which brings me to my point: “Girl” is not an insult.

The first 30 minutes of this movie was a stream of constant woman-jokes. With gems like, “I feel like I’m literally driving around in a vagina,” and, “I feel like I’m going shopping for a training bra,” it was all I could do not to grind my teeth down to the gums. Then, on top of all the sexist banter, there was ONE woman in the whole movie with more than one line, Will Ferrell’s wife. She was laid-back, giving, understanding, and super “hot,” but all the men in the movie talked down to her and disregarded her advice entirely. The only time the things she said were given any merit was when she was talking dirty.

Clearly paying attention to what she has to say

It kills me that these are considered funny, acceptable jokes by Hollywood and the people that critique and review movies, but should those sexist comments be replaced with equally insensitive, crude, and offensive racial jokes, the script would’ve never been endorsed in the first place. That’s the problem with sexism–people don’t take it seriously. They think that since women are no longer openly and obviously discriminated against, sexism no longer exists. It’s the sneaky but pervasive mentality of sexism (and behind-the-scenes injustices) that we must fight now.

Ask a group of girls and boys the worst gender-specific insults they can think of for their sex. For a girl, it’s whore, slut, skank etc.–all sexually derogatory names (which is a totally different problem I’m not going to address here). For boys, it’s pussy, bitch, girl, woman, vagina”¦ pretty much anything feminine. WOMAN. If calling someone a woman, a title HALF of our population carries, is the worst thing you can say, then we have a seriously backwards system.

"What is, social injustice and lower wages?"

I just don’t understand it. How can femininity be synonymous with weakness? And why are these men so scared of having any similar qualities to women? We all prosper off the strength of the women in our lives. For one, every single person has been the product of a (roughly) nine-month pregnancy and subsequent birthing process. And then some even rely on at least 15 years of total dependency, if you have one or more present moms. Seriously? Show some respect.

It is, logically, out of the question to ask people to stop calling each other derogatory names altogether, even though that would be ideal. I do, however, propose a new repertoire of gender-neutral insults. Instead of calling someone who is being weak or scared a “girl,” call him or her a baby. Babies are weak and defenseless: fact. Also, it creates this catch-22 for comebacks. It’s such a juvenile insult that if the insulted doesn’t respond, it seems as if he or she can’t come up with a better insult, and if he does respond, it seems like he took it as a legitimate insult. Also, instead of telling someone to “sack up” or “grow a pair” when he’s being hesitant, tell him to “grow some gonads”: it’s the same basic principle, but gender neutral. Men and women both have gonads. This way, strength and bravery aren’t equated with only manliness. It sparks conversation.

Look at that baby... totally helpless. Pathetic.

I know that as long as these types of movies are making money, these jokes will continue. A lot of humor is based on stereotyping one or more groups of people, and I understand that we can all afford to be picked on every once in a while. I am generally pretty laid back about jokes, because there are bigger fish to fry, but as long as people still find humor in them, we still have a problem. Beware, feminists, The Other Guys is not a lady-friendly movie.

Do you have any other gender-neutral insults? I’d love to hear!

40 thoughts on ““Girl” Is Not an Insult”

  1. I enjoyed this article immensely, and it can definitely be SO frustrating.

    I have to respectfully disagree with this bit though:

    but should those sexist comments be replaced with equally insensitive, crude, and offensive racial jokes, the script would’ve never been endorsed in the first place.

    Some comedians regularly make equally offensive racial jokes and get away with it because they’re “edgy.” Comedic movies involving black men and women, especially, can be just…gross.

    I wish I could think of some examples off the top of my head. Maybe some other folks can help me out?

    1. No, I totally agree.  Comedians are the worst.  They usually get away with it, though, because they have an “image” and a certain style of comedy, and if you don’t like it, you don’t go see them perform.  Not that that makes it okay.  But in a mainstream hollywood film its definitely less accepted, unless the actor is black, hispanic etc.  In this movie there was some quote about, “The easiest way to stay out of jail is to not be black or hispanic.”

      That’s the only racial quote I can remember off the top of my head, but I think that’s more of a comment of the justice system than on black and hispanic people.  (maybe that’s giving the film too much credit, I don’t know)

      But yeah, I definitely hesitated on that line.  Maybe a more appropriate way of phrasing it would be to say that if that jokes were equally as offensive racially, people wouldn’t defend it as readily as they do sexist jokes.

  2. Thank you for talking about this! I mean, it’s important, but it’s easy to forget.

    For me, as a film student and a feminist, movies (especially mainstream movies) are all but ruined for me. But comedies are the hardest for me to watch. While Bridesmaids is not a perfect movie by any means, but it seems like a breath of fresh air compared to movies like The Other Guys and the wide wide world of “dude-bro” comedies out there. And now I have an example I can reference when people ask what kind of movies I want to write/make. Raunchy lady comedies. Lots of tampon jokes.

    Thank God for growing up in a diverse neighborhood with its own breed of colorful slang. My favorites are: “triflin” (disgusting? def. not used in the correct dictionary sense); “drove” (dumb/ignorant); and the wonderful “irk” (which is not a NOCO only thing i realize). In my opinion, those are really the only slang words you need. Pretty much any annoying or stupid situation can be deal with by saying, “Y’all so drove/Y’all so triflin’!” or “Man, you irk me.” (I also have an affinity for the ever-popular, Southern-style rebuke of “Bless your heart!” and I also say in a similar tone, “I’ll pray for you!/I’m praying for you!”

    Woman/feminine things as an insult is just lazy. There are so many good insults out there, I urge people to be creative! I like “grow a pair of ovaries” because they are way tougher/stronger than testicles, medically speaking.

    I try to not be ableist too. I forget all the time that “lame” has negative connotations as in: Lame horses get shot.  Personally,  I don’t like when my mental illnesses get thrown back in my face (looking at you, ex-boyfriend), so I’m try not to say “crazy” in a derogatory way.

    1. Yeah, I’ve always said that movies like Bridesmaids, Baby Mama, and Mean Girls are whats right with feminism.  Made by women, for women, AND they’re hilarious + men generally like them too.  I’ll support pretty much anything totally woman that makes it mainstream (Ellen Degeneres!) , unless it/she actively degrades women and/or other groups of people in the process (Sarah Palin).  I don’t think everything about a movie has to be totally PC for it to be feminist.  In fact, asking a comedy to be totally PC is asking it to not be a comedy, usually.  Low-brow stuff is what makes money, and I want women making money.  Similarly, in one of my literature classes I wrote a paper about how strong female characters don’t have to be protagonists to be feminist.  As long as they’re strong and gettin shit done, I love seeing strong (round) female characters, no matter what they’re doing!  Asking characters/movies to be totally PC and totally benevolent is essentially halting the feminism train.  We don’t want people thinking women should stay in the kitchen, but we also don’t want people thinking women are perfect angels who never offend anyone.

  3. I think part of the reason that using “girl” as an insult is offensive is that it’s not only sexist, it’s also not funny, not clever, stale, and banal. If you’re going to be offensive, at least make my brain work. And I’m saying this as someone who enjoys comedians like Sarah Silverman and as someone who used to watch Family Guy (before the rape jokes became too much). My favorite gender-neutral insult is “asshole.”

    1. Yeah, I was thinking the same thing– and ready to disagree with the post, if that was the case. It can be very patronizing. I put that in the same category as “sweetheart,” etc. (Of course, this is with context.).. I don’t mind “ladies” as an alternative, but I have read that some women also think of this as classist/sexist.

  4. Ooh! Ever since I convinced my friends to stop using ableist insults we’ve had a sort of competition going on to come up with the best insults. I use lamé, as in the fabric, in place of lame and leotarded along with the occasional “That’s so Takei!” in a fake valley girl accent.

    I tend to randomly repeat what people have said while prefacing it with “You” or “Your face” though usually that’s more a habit than a comeback. Every once and a while someone at the table will come up with some gem that we reuse for weeks. I still haven’t lived down my: “That’s not what I look like! I hope your drawing skills leave you like freshness leaves unrefrigerated meat!”

  5. I forgot my favorite one. When my best friends and I irritate each other, we simply respond (with voices and gestures) “May the flead of a thousand afaghan camels descend upon your crotch, and may your arms be too short to scratch!” (the voices don’t imitate any region; they just emphasize our favorite words).

  6. Aghhh, this is one of my biggest pet peeves! And when I say pet peeve, I mean I will go off on someone if they do this in my presence. I’m a mannerly person, but I will lose it on this. My manners do not extend to offensive, derogatory behaviors.

    For insults, I like the ever-present-on-the-interwebz “die in a fire” despite how awful it is, though I usually only direct it at inanimate objects or concepts, such as statistics homework. I also like “a plague on both your houses” and “asshat” for everyday use.

  7. This “woman” as an insult thing is why every single time I see a Miller “man up” commercial I go apoplectic with rage.  Seriously, everybody who has ever watched one of these commercials with me has been treated to a full-on rant.  There is NOTHING WRONG with being a woman, and a lot of the “negative” traits ascribed to woman are bull crap anyways.  BAH.

      1. I’m not saying it excuses them, but I think at least the Dr. Pepper commercials recognize they’re offensive and be aiming for a “tongue in cheek” feel, which somehow seems better than Miller Light.  Those ads actually seems to believe that there is something terribly wrong with being a woman.

  8. I like to Community it and tell people, “You’re the worst.” Or that they Britta’d it. I take most of my insults from pop culture.

    I also like, courtesy of Buffy, “gutterface,” or “So’s your face” as a response to something where that does not logically make sense.

  9. Ugh. I nearly broke up with the guy I’m seeing when he told me that he told his son “not to act like a girl” when the boy (who was 4 at the time) was crying. We’d only been dating for a few months at that point, so I think he was unprepared for the feminist shitstorm I laid out on him. Oh well. He doesn’t do that anymore.

    1. Awesome that you schooled him! When we first started dating, my fella would occasionally use “cocksucker” as an insult until I explained to him why I found it offensive. He’s actually got really good gender politics, but had never thought about the implications of using that word as an insult before. He doesn’t use it anymore either.


  10. Pst, stupid human babies. Can’t even stand up on their own two feet several hours after being born. Next time I need to compliment someone, I’ll call them Camel.

    I used ‘Grow some real lobes’ for a while instead of ‘Grow a pair’. Really don’t know why. Probably because I was an annoying teenager trying hard to be different.

  11. My insults/expletives have slowly become more and more ridiculous purely because we’ve fallen back on these few words which are supposed to have power but are mostly weak echoes of injustice-laden taboos in society, and it seems much more fun to play with words when you’re using them aggressively. For me, the more creative the insult/expletive, the better.

    My friends are great at coming up with these;
    “Your face makes me sad.”
    “I wish you wouldn’t be.”
    “Oh, go jump in a lake.” (this was adopted from my grandmother, who says it with RIGHTEOUS VEHEMENCE)
    “Oh, piss-shits.”
    “I like you less than my least favourite soup, and I hate soup.”
    “If there was a God willing to take you, imagine me blaspheming him slash her.”
    “I’d like to hurt you twice.”
    “Why do they let you talk?”
    “The heavens sing of my hatred for you.”

    My favourite insult of all time comes from Judi Dench as Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice;
    “You have a very small garden.”

  12. Ooh, I can’t NOT comment on this article.  First, I have a really hard time with the sexism in movies thing: sometimes it’s perpetuated by men, sometimes it’s carried on the backs of women (as with Eva Mendes), and always used by ignorant people to justify ignorant jokes and comments.  I am down with using humor to bring light and attention to issues, but that is not something Hollywood does.  It’s disgusting, and certainly not limited to issues of gender-typing.

    As for “girl” and “woman” being used as an insult by both sexes, I have a hard time figuring out where we should start on that.  It doesn’t seem to matter how many stories of strength and courage by women we present, or how many times you remind a man that it is very unlikely they will ever experience something as excruciating as childbirth, or how often we talk about the nearly super-hero powers of primary caregivers (usually women): we still can’t seem to cement the idea that the feminine is not weaker than the masculine, that they are indeed yin and yang, oft-opposing but equal, neither a cause for celebration nor shame. 

    How cool will it be when “intolerant” becomes the worst thing you could be called?  Especially when it comes right after “ignorant”.

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