The power of a word

Words carry a great deal of power. This is particularly true when you are talking about words that are misogynistic. The case in point today: the word ‘chick’ used to describe a woman. Whenever I see women referred to as ‘chicks’ or ‘broads’ or any other derogatory term, I am disgusted. These words are symptoms of the patriarchy and the misogyny that fuels it. These words are all part of a systemic level of discrimination against women.

Misogynistic words form the foundation of the rape culture[1] that exists in our society. When children learn that it is ok to refer to women in such derogatory ways a very clear message is sent. Boys learn that they are better than girls and that really girls can be equated with young barnyard animals. Girls learn that they will not receive the respect they deserve and that they are not equal. This creates a power differential that allows women to be criticized on every front.

Quite often when I confront these things I am told that I am being too politically correct. What garbage! Our culture is rife with misogyny. If I pointed every incident of misogyny I would never have anything else to do. Use of this language by men who believe they are enlightened is even more disturbing.

When confronted, these misogynists will argue that none of their other female friends found it offensive. This argument is a complete non-starter. Perhaps they don’t respond because they don’t want to experience the same abuse I get when I say something.

There is a solution to this problem. It begins with children. It requires that adults not refer to women in derogatory ways. Children pick this up and then they feel free to do it themselves. It is never acceptable to refer to a woman as a ‘chick.’


[1] Check out this link.

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Published in: on September 14, 2011 at 5:44 pm  Comments (14)  
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14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I use “chick”…

    • Why do you use ‘chick?’

      • I don’t know. I don’t use it a lot – mostly in sarcasm or when someone ticks me off.

  2. Words are powerful weapons, and while I agree with you that the word “chick”, when used by a male, is offensive, it does not carry the same meaning or intent when used by a woman. It’s much like the word “Dyke”, It’s my word, and I like it, I use it, and I am happy to hear it when it comes from the lips of other Dykes. If I hear it from a man or a woman who is not a Lesbian, it offends. Ownership of words has always been an issue, mostly, I think, because language has been used to disenfranchise, disempower, marginalize, ghettoize and dehumanize people since time began. Like persons of African heritage owning the *N* word, taking the power of that horrible epithet away (on some level, at least) the only way humankind will stop the use of language meant to harm is to own it and use it.

    • I disagree. The word ‘chick’ being used by a woman is every bit as damaging. It feeds into women policing other women on many fronts that is just as misogynistic as men doing it. Equating a woman to a barnyard animal is never ok regardless of who does it. Sometimes women can be even more cruel to other women when they buy into the patriarchy.

      • Why is it that people only think of chickens and ducks? The “barnyard animal” comments says more than anything. Baby swans, finches, macaws and hummingbirds are all called “chicks” as well.

        I guess it’s about perception, when I think “chick” I think hummingbird…

  3. Doesn’t that fall along the lines of someone calling themselves fat being ok, but someone else calling an overweight person “fat” not being ok? Doesn’t it come down to a word simply being offensive or not being offensive? Isn’t it discriminatory when it’s ok from one sect of people but not from another?
    I am a woman…honestly, while I don’t so much like the term “broad”, the term “chick” doesn’t bother me AT ALL. I use it, heck I even refer to myself and the girls as “chickies” or “girlies”. I will say “we’re going to go shopping without daddy, just us chickies”, or “today is a girlies day”. I honestly think it’s what surrounds the word that makes it offensive, or “just another word”.

    • Christine – do you not how inherently misogynistic that is? You are disempowering yourself and your daughters when you refer to yourself and them as ‘chickies.’ Little, immature, beings doing something bad like going shopping without daddy. You don’t refer to him in that way why is it ok to do so yourself? This is really what makes misogyny and the patriarch so insidious and dangerous. Your daughters will grow up believing they are never as powerful as men.

      • Personally, I disagree. I think the only way my daughters would ever grow up thinking they were not as powerful as men, is if we told them that over and over. We’ve spent 7.5 years telling our girls they can be whomever they want to be, they can marry whomever they want to marry, and they can do whatever it is that they need to do to be HAPPY! I sometimes call my girls “little monsters”…that doesn’t belittle them. They laugh, they know they are my world, they know that the sun rises and sets on them as far as Dan and I are concerned, and they know that in our house, women are absolutely more powerful than men. So I use the word “chickies” it certainly isn’t derogatory, nor harmful, in our house, it’s just a word. It’s certainly not said in a “we are doing something bad by going shopping” way” . You are making it a “naughty” thing, we go out, leaving Dan at home alone…I’d say that a majority of the money that comes into this home comes into MY account. When we go shopping we are not “sneaking” anywhere.

        What I don’t get is, if 75% of the adult population finds the word to not be offensive (and I am just picking a number out of the blue, for the purpose of making a point), then how is it that the 75% is wrong? How can it be that the majority who say they don’t find it offensive, are all belittling women? Maybe it’s the remaining 25% that are actually dis-empowering women?

  4. Don’t mind me, I’m just a dude

  5. Allyson – what do you call men when they tick you off?

  6. I can defend your position only up to a point, Chris. I know how much you hate dismissive language, but there is no way to sanitize every word. There are truly derogatory terms: bitch, slut, whore, etc. that should be removed from the lexicon, and as a fat Jewish Lesbian I have heard pretty much every slur in the English language, but a woman calling another woman a chick just doesn’t fill me with righteous indignation. Men referring to women as “baby”, “girl”, “chick”, “hottie”, “shorty”, “bitch”, “ho”, “my woman”, and the vile “my old woman” drives me, and I share your wrath. But a woman calling another woman “chick…..not so much.

  7. […] more entry into the ‘chick’ debate (here and here). The reason this word is so problematic is that it is gender specific. ‘Chick’ is […]


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