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September 02, 2004



"I'm fond of saying at this point that the old line

Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words can never hurt me.

can be said far more authentically by straight white Christian males than by anyone else!"

That's an excellent point. There are far too many insults that can be used on women.


Hey, pedagogical gimmicks are a huge part of effective teaching. These are great.


Those are great tools. I remember the lightbulb that went off in my head when I realized that textbook terminology always rendered women and their bodily functions in the passive rather than the active. It serves a stereotype.

Another gimmick I've seen in a classroom is asking students to write down as many slang terms they can for male and female genitalia. The teacher I had used the wide array of slang for the male genitalia to begin a discussion on the attitudes the genders bring to sexuality.


I often do that later in the semester, Lauren -- it too works very effectively!

Joe G.

I must admit, it took me awhile to "get" the second set of words. D'oh! Of course, I'm a gay man so can I use that as an excuse? :)

Great post, Hugo. It's good to be reminded of how language often reinforces various social preferences and biases. This middle-class, white, middle-aged guy needs that occasional reminder!


Those aren't gimmicks...that's just teaching itself. After you shadow me at Bethel, I'll come follow you around for awhile. And then we'll be the wonder twin profs!


Here's a follow-up question, which - perhaps - points out some of the ways that racism and sexism do not serve exactly the same function in society.

Why is it that it's nonsensical to call a white christian insulting terms for non-white non-christians, but it's a deadly insult to call a man insulting terms for women?

Think about it - how many Chistians would genuinely be insulted if called a "kike"? (Bewildered, yes, offended, yes, but not often insulted). But call a man a slang term for female anatomy, and that's an insult.


I've only recently woken up to the passive representation of women in textbooks, a wonderful teacher opened my eyes to the power of language. As a student, I can endorse your gimmicks as great ways to learn :-)

As for the insultingness (if that's even a word) of calling a man a slang term for female gentalia; over here in the UK men call each other such words as terms of endearment. Now there's something I struggle to understand!

More seriously, to suggest such words are sexist, here at least, is to be a spoilsport, and to lack an understanding of the "irony" of using them. I have lecturers who think it's ok to jokingly insult the "lads" with slang words for female genitalia, and who lead the class in laughing at those who find it distasteful or offensive. If they used racial slurs, they would be dismissed, but sexist insults aren't taken anywhere near as seriously


The word that targets you is WASP. With correct vocal inflection, it's a slur. However, I think it's used neutrally also.


WASP is almost never effective as a slur, however. Insults are judged by their power to inflict emotional pain. It is difficult to imagine any white man being as grieved over being called "WASP" as it is to imagine someone of color being called the "n" word, or a woman called the "c u next tuesday" word.

In order to be effective, insults must be weapons that can wound. WASP barely even stings.

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