Words Used to Silence Us — A Glossary
It happens all the time, every day, in ways we don’t even notice until someone points it out to us. And then they’re everywhere and we’re asking ourselves, “Why oh why didn’t I take the blue pill?” But you already took the red one, or you wouldn’t be here, so have a look at some of the words the people around us use to silence women (and men!) when we talk about feminism, along with my definitions/interpretations of their meanings.
(Thanks to friends and readers on Facebook and Twitter for participating in my little poll.)
Though it’s really in a class by itself, this is one of those catch-all terms (stay tuned for more of those) that is refreshing in that it doesn’t hide behind semantics. It says what it means! You are a woman and therefore, the speaker dismisses you. You have thoughts and opinions that they don’t like, and you are not afraid to tell them when they’re wrong, and when all else fails, this word sums up all their disdain for your gender and your unladylike behavior.
This word is used in a sociopathic attempt to invalidate your perceptions. Also known as gaslighting.
You have brought up something emotionally charged that the speaker doesn’t want to deal with. “You’re just creating drama.” “She’s such a Drama Queen.” Yes, some people thrive on drama, stirring it up wherever they go. But discussing a subject you’re passionate about is not the same thing. Calling people out on bad behavior is not “creating drama.”
You disagree with what the speaker said and have a counter-argument. “See, now you’re just getting defensive.” The speaker has obviously struck a nerve, so nyah-nyah, and this renders your argument invalid somehow.
You are a woman showing emotion and that is a bad thing so you should stop talking now because clearly you can’t have a rational discussion if you FEEL anything. (You will almost never hear this word used to describe male behavior unless actual tears are involved.)
You are placing emphasis on something that is obviously not a priority for anyone who is not some kind of radical feminazi and you should really lighten up. “You’re exaggerating the importance of the issue. It’s not that big a deal.”
Feminists are all angry lesbians who hate men and want to rule the world. Don’t you dare admit to being a feminist and for rich, old, white Pete’s sake, do not talk about sexism, rape culture, the gender gap, equality, or any of that angry woman nonsense.
You didn’t like something the speaker said or did for reasons the speaker doesn’t like and is not willing to learn about, so obviously the problem is with you. Grow a thicker skin.
The speaker is hereby officially, divinely, and in all other ways absolved of all responsibility for his/her words. “I was joking! You have no sense of humor!”
Not only are you a woman, but you’re a feminist, so you must hate men, so you must be a lesbian, because everyone knows lesbians hate men. “Lesbian” is the best insult some folks can come up with. When I hear it, I usually lean over to my nearest girlfriend and give her a big, wet kiss.
You are a woman with opinions you’re willing to discuss and defend. How dare you.
(See Exaggerating, Hypersensitive.)
“Calm down! You’re getting all worked up–you’re going to blow a gasket!” Shut up. No, seriously, just shut up now. The speaker is not even listening anymore, and the goal here is not to relax you but the exact opposite.
Yes, you heard right, someone just called you a sexist for talking about women’s rights and issues. See White Knight for a complete explanation. Most everything after “This one’s for the guys” applies.
This one is for the guys. You’ll hear it when you speak out against sexist behavior on the part of male friends who have done their homework and know all about the feminist conspiracy to castrate all males. It means that you don’t really care about feminist issues, you just want to score points with the chicks. It means that you’re a big wussy who likes girls and girls have cooties. It means the speaker is very likely an anti-feminist/Men’s Rights Activist who believes in Straw Feminists.
Bonus Word: Butthurt
I saved this one for last because Wow! It combines many of the words on this list (Hypersensitive, Overreacting, Emotional, to name a few) into one neat little rape-culture-promoting package! It’s not just me, right? I really never thought about it before today, but when a friend wondered what it meant, I realized that this word had always bugged me due to the vaguely rapey implication. Anyway, as my friend pointed out, this word is used when the speaker wants to express utter dismissal and invalidation of your thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Neat!
Some readers also related phrases used to silence them (you’ll notice some familiar words):
“Oh, you are one of those.”
“Not THAT again!”
“We don’t want to hear from you.”
“Learn how to take a joke, not everything is about how hard it is to be a woman.”
“You’re too sensitive. Don’t take everything so seriously. Relax.”
“That’s just coming out of nowhere!”
“Is that what they’re telling you in those sociology classes?”
“Isn’t [feminism] when women try to be like men? Are you a lesbian?”
I encourage each of us to arm ourselves–physically, if necessary–with this list of words and phrases when we go out in the world to talk about feminism. Remember that these are weapons, and that we can develop strategies to disarm those who use them against us. I’d love to hear your ideas for additional words that belong on this list, as well as how to combat these tactics. Meanwhile, here’s a topical tweet I ran across RT’d by @EverydaySexism. Follow them if you haven’t–a steady stream of eye-openers.