Problematic Adjectives We Should Stop Using to Describe Women

Throughout history, women have fought for a seat at the table. Despite continual efforts towards equality, women still seek equal treatment on every level. Even many of the adjectives used to describe women hold implications of negativity and censure. These problematic descriptions are doing more harm than good.

The language we use can have a ripple effect far beyond our intentions. Pay attention to the adjectives you’re using when you describe women. Would you describe men in the same manner? Is there a negative connotation linked to the word you’ve chosen? Here are some words to watch out for that can be offensive.

Bossy

Most often utilized in a professional context (though young girls are all-too-often called bossy in school settings), the word “bossy” is innately negative. No one has ever used “bossy” as a good thing.

Women referred to as “bossy” are typically opinionated, passionate about the topic under discussion, and confident in what they want. They express their opinion openly and without apology. The term “bossy” is rarely applied to men, even if they exhibit the same “bossy” traits.

Dramatic

Calling a woman dramatic invalidates her emotional expression. That is a level of gaslighting we can do without. Children are often dismissed with this word as well.

Commenting on an individual’s attitude (male or female) is rarely necessary and, if it is, can be done more tactfully. Have you ever called a significant other crabby when they were acting irrationally angry? How well did that go over? When in doubt, don’t comment on someone else’s emotional expression. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Sensitive

If you identify as female, you’ve undoubtedly heard some iteration of the phrase: “You’re just being sensitive.”

Again, this word suggests a woman’s emotions are invalid. It’s also patronizing, suggesting that the person using the word has a better understanding of the situation. Using these kinds of words to discount an argument is tone policing, which negates the other person’s point because they express passion or emotion.

Slutty/Prude 

There are so many sub-categorical words and phrases under these terms that we could delve into, but it would frankly take too long. So, in the interest of keeping things snappy, we’ll discuss the male-imposed dichotomy of female sexuality: the slut and the prude.

These terms are full of judgment and negativity. It’s truthfully never appropriate to comment on someone’s sexuality, especially if you are not intimate with that person. Reciprocal adjectives are either non-existent when discussing male sexuality, or they come with a more positive connotation, such as “player.” If you are going to discuss someone’s sexuality, it’s better to use gender-neutral terms.

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