Sex and Gender

The Language Of Women In Power

I have a guilty pleasure. I download Cosmo on my iPad. I know it’s a dirty habit. Anyway, there is a careers section in Cosmo and this month it’s all about the language we use when we talk about women in power. It states that a woman with the exact same characteristics professionally will more likely be called “bossy” while her male counterpart would be called “commanding.”

There are many examples of this, but these articles got me thinking about a discussion I had with father during the Democratic primaries for the 2008 elections. You might recall that it was basically a race between Hillary and Obama.  My father, who was against Hillary for respectable political reasons was talking to me about how a woman will never be elected President in this country because women don’t like to see other women succeed.  I then argued that that was a bunch of hogwash and then listed off a bunch of countries that have or have had female heads of state.  And then my father’s response made me even more angry. He said something along the lines of “yes, and everyone probably called them a bitch, women most of all.”

To me, it seems crazy that women would be holding other women down but you see the examples in TV and movies: very rarely do women get to have it all. In TV and magazines, female politicians, CEOs, and judges are called bossy, bitches, and blunt while their male counterparts are called, ambitious, commanding, and tell-it-like-it is.

Labels are important, just ask any middle schooler who gets called a slut.  Our words, these labels, do matter and how we treat people matters as well.  Promotions are based in a large part on the opinions of your superiors. Words matter and we can’t pretend like it doesn’t. We, as a society, have to notice this double standard and put a stop to it.

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