“It undermines a woman’s authority and is almost always directed to women, not men, so it’s sexist,” says Dr Shira Tarrant, professor of women’s gender, and sexuality studies at California State University/Long Beach, and author of Gender, Sex, and Politics: In the Streets and Between the Sheets in the 21st Century.
Or, as Heather, a 23-year-old college student in Chicago puts it: “If I was a male I’d be ‘tough,’ but because I’m a girl I’m ‘bossy’? Hate that sh**.”
Try this instead: The Boss
For Leah, a 24 year old who works in publishing, the word “moist” sends shivers down her spine – and not in a good way. “For a term that’s meant to describe cake or baked goods, it’s so oddly sexual!”
There’s just no good time to use it, because it’s too sexual to use in non-sexual contexts – but too gross to be used in reference to actual sex. I mean, it calls to mind something greyish and fuzzy growing in a petri dish. Not a visual you want in bed.
Try this instead: If you’re saying this in regards to her vaginal lubrication, then “wet” is preferred over moist.
CRAZY & HYSTERICAL
You want to see true crazy? Call a woman crazy! And hysterical is just as bad. In the early 1900s, women who displayed emotional behavior, nervousness, or a high sexual desire were considered “hysterical” and doctors would often remove their uterus (a.k.a., perform a hysterectomy) to “cure” them, says Tarrant.
While things have improved since the Victorian era, these words still come with baggage. And they can make a woman feel as though you’re characterizing her perspective, opinions, and emotions as illegitimate, Tarrant says.
Annissa, a fortysomething marketing professional and mom in Pasadena, California, finds it especially offensive because, “it likens a woman’s emotions to a tornado of sorts, completely out of control and possibly in need of medical attention.”
Try this instead: Feisty, fiery, passionate
If you’re from the South, you get a pass. Sure, it’s technically well manned to call a woman ma’am, but for any women not from or in the South, you might as well just call them “grandma!”
Try this instead: When it doubt, always say “Miss” … or nothing at all.
CALM DOWN & OVERREACTING
When you tell her to “calm down,” you might as well just say, “shut up.” Yes, it’s that offensive, as is saying she is overreacting when she is upset about something. Basically, you’ll get the opposite effect of what you’re looking for.
“Even bringing up the word ‘calm’ instantly pisses me off,” says Alisa, a 22-year-old writer in Pennsylvania. “It will actually make me feel the complete opposite and kind of hurts my feelings, because it feels like you’re assuming I’m not in control of my emotions.”
Try this instead: Tarrant suggests telling her, “I see you’re upset, so let’s talk about it when you’re ready.”
HONEY, BABY, & SWEETIE
Many adult women feel that these types of terms are condescending, disrespectful, and oh so infuriating.
“Hun and babe imply ownership of me, and it’s almost always used by men I barely know. If it’s meant as a term of endearment, then it should come from a place of actual endearment, says Lisa, a thirtysomething writer in Toronto. “But, when a stranger calls me that, it sounds condescending and inappropriate.”
Try this instead: In the words of Beyoncé, just “say my name, say my name.” Save the “sweeties” and “honeys” for your true sweetheart – but only if she likes those types of cutesy pet names, advises Tarrant.
Two issues here: One, “p***y” used as an insult for a weak person makes no sense. The female genitals are actually pretty strong if you think about it. They give birth to humans and quite often take a pounding. Why aren’t “balls” used as an insult for the weak? One little tap and they’re toast.
Second, using “p***y” to refer to her actual genitals sounds a little too raunchy for some women’s tastes.
Try this instead: “Ask her what word she likes her vagina called,” says Tarrant.
When you tell us to take our panties off or that you can’t wait to get into our panties, it sounds kind of icky. You see, little girls wear panties. Grown women were underwear. Or thongs. Or even “undies.”
For Joelle, a 20-something who works in social media, it makes her skin crawl whenever she hears it. “It sounds too cutesy and it’s off-putting,” she says.
Try this instead: Undies
This article was originally published on MensHealth.com