A little ruckus…

Well it looks like my post yesterday caused a little confusion yesterday. People spend years studying discourse theory[1] and it can be extremely complicated. The thing is that ‘discourse’ or the words we use shape who we are and how we react to people. I am going to try to clarify a few things:

  • Wandering Coyote says she uses the word ‘chick’ in sarcasm or when a woman ticks her off. This is precisely the use of the word that is problematic. ‘Chick’ is a demeaning, derisive and dismissive word. When the word is used it is meant to insult.[2] This is precisely why the word should not be in use. This goes further. When women use it to police other women it can truly take on an ugly form. Just think of how often the appearance of women is debated and discussed. We have all been involved in discussions where we might discuss a woman’s provocative clothing, her choice of shoes or her weight. This policing of women by women is also a by-product of the patriarchy.
  • Sometimes words like ‘chick’ get conflated with other words that have power. Some examples are words like queer and dyke. When these words are used against people they are powerful however when people reclaim they become equally powerful. These words are different from the word ‘chick’ in particular.
  • Christine wonders why I think the word ‘chick’ refers to baby chickens and not other baby birds. The thing is it doesn’t really matter what kind of baby bird women are being referred to when the word ‘chick’ is used a woman is being equated with an infantile bird. Personally, I find this insulting.

Just remember whenever women are devalued and demeaned by the word ‘chick’ it serves to lessen the power of women in our society. At first glance this word may seem innocuous; it is anything but. Use of the word reifies the patriarchy and puts women in a place below men. In the 21st century this is simply not acceptable.


[1] I did my MA thesis on discourse theory.

[2] I am really not meaning to pick on the Wandering Coyote here.

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Published in: on September 15, 2011 at 10:59 pm  Comments (11)  
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11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. OK…I’ll try to not say this word when I move in.

    • It is not necessary for you to alter your speech. I am just hoping that maybe people will think about this word and recognize its power.

  2. So, I’ve been thinking about this.

    I think if a guy made an off-handed/disrespectful/snarky remark towards me including the word “chick” I might be miffed. But on the other hand, some of the personal work I’ve done over the past years is the process of learning not to take others’ words personally because those off-handed/disrespectful/snarky remarks really don’t have anything to do with me. Some guy is being a dick and calling me a chick. That’s his problem/issue/world view/whatever. In the grand scheme of things, on a personal level, why should I give a shit? He’s being a dick, and I think, for myself anyway, arguing about it with him is A) a waste of time & energy and B) kind of gives my power away. Because, in a one on one situation, it’s only drawing attention to HIM and HIS remarks. Which he’d probably enjoy!

    Obviously on a societal level, it’s a different story. But, that being said, we had that conversation on FB about the work “gimp”. You and I essentially were on the same page about the gimp thing, and “chick” – in my mind – kind of falls into the same category. It’s contextual. I don’t have any big issues with the word “chick”. If I said “that chick in the blue SUV is a terrible driver!” is it any worse than if the driver of the blue SUV were a male and I called him an asshole for being a bad driver?

    Also, I kind of have good connotations of the word “chick” because it was my cool aunt’s nickname as she was the youngest in the family and my mom always called her Chick. She doesn’t anymore, but you can see that in this context it’s not offensive.

    Back in England, I have an aunt who regularly referred to me as “m’duck” (i.e. my duck). That’s a cultural thing. I wasn’t offended by it; I thought it was different, quaint, and a bit cute coming from her.

    I think words definitely have power, but in the end, we give a lot of words a lot of power they might not at times warrant.

  3. Of course, then there is the word “cow.” No woman I know, myself included, would like that one bit because as a culture we’ve imbued that word with all kinds of negativity that doesn’t actually have anything to do with the reality of actual cows.

    If anyone calls a woman a cow, she’s a bitch, she’s fat, she’s a pig, she’s unpleasant, etc. However, cows are actually gentle, curious, laid back, kind of dopey, but not unpleasant creatures who provide us with things we generally like, like ice cream, butter, and steak. So that is an example of a barnyard insult that has become irrational but is very common.

  4. I object to ‘chick’ because it is demeaning to women. Insult words that have nothing to do with gender are ok as they are not putting women below men. So if the word could be applied to both genders no issue. You can equate the word ‘chick’ with white people calling black men ‘boy’. Both words serve to lessen someone’s status vis-a-vis the person using the word. Does that help?

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

  6. I don’t know why I’m so back and forth with this…

    My thought right now is: there are so many more offensive words out there that I just see this chick thing as low on the priority list of words or terms that need addressing in society.

    I may have more thoughts later!

  7. I am waiting on your rant about the word “stud” and it’s demeaning value on men. A stud is someone or something used sexually, solely for procreation, why are we not ranting about all the words that devalue all the people of the world? Why are we focused on this one? Are we trying to “knock down” the “patriarchy” by not objecting to words that “dis-empower” men? Even in comments on this post men are being referred to as “being a dick”…the references are only about women being places “lower” than men. Is a woman abusing a man ok? Is a woman raping a man ok? I didn’t think so. I think the issue has NOTHING to do with gender, and everything to do with humanity in and of itself.

    I, as a woman, do not find being compared to an infantile (and actually, it’s infantile, and all young birds) birds offensive. I find it obscure, but not offensive in the least. It’s just a word…and no word can lessen or lower a human being, unless you let it.

    • I like this comment a lot.

      Shihtzu, what say you?

  8. That’s weird! I commented on that the other day. I wonder where it went?


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