Misogyny is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the hatred of women.” It comes in many different forms. When I think of misogyny, a plethora of things come to mind—most of them being loud, outward displays of sexism (I’m thinking when “preachers” come and stand on college campuses and shout about how women belong in the kitchen, or when my high school principal would claim that if my skirt was over two inches above my knee, I was a woman lacking basic dignity and morals). Of course, this is the type of misogyny that gets the attention of many—but what about the type that is woven into the words we use every day?
How many of you have been called a “bitch” or a “slut” in a joking manner? Maybe friends or coworkers say, “Hey whore” when you walk into a room? These words are often used as terms of endearment, put in place of other words like “pal” (or, y’know, your actual name). I’m no saint when it comes to casual misogyny—I find that certain people in my friend group want to be called “bitch” instead of their name sometimes because they think it’s funny. True, it may be, but what are we really doing when we say these things to each other?
I figure there are two sides to this argument. One is that we, as women who have been called these words (or variations of them) for as long as we can remember, are reclaiming them as our own. On the other hand, by calling each other sluts, whores, and bitches, we may be sending out a signal for other people (such as straight, cis men) to call us those words too, which is not okay. Is there a line between people joking around with each other and casual misogyny? Between calling a friend a whore in an endearing way versus an over-the-top, hurtful way?
Of course, casual misogyny isn’t limited to friends calling each other not-so-nice words. Casual misogyny is everywhere—in the workplace, in schools and at home. In Sarah Mirk’s article “Calling Out Casual Sexism,” she says, “A lot of people of all genders don’t necessarily see sexism and racism and other forms of discrimination occurring because they’re often subtle. A big thing you talk about in [Feminist Fight Club] is casual sexism. It’s rare to have someone overtly say, ‘Women shouldn’t be bosses!’ or ‘Women should make less money!’ But instead, sexism creeps in.”
In terms of work, calling out casual misogyny can be a little intimidating; but it’s absolutely necessary to ensure a non-hostile work environment. In terms of your gal pals, it comes down to communication. If you’re the type of person to call your girlfriends your “bitches,” there’s no harm in asking if that’s cool with them first. Taking a second to evaluate what is okay and what isn’t on a personal level is the best thing that we can do for each other.