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For the first time in history the majority of the American workforce is female, not male. When do we get watch Andy Roddick play Oprah in tennis to prove that men deserve good jobs too? A question for a later day, perhaps. Naturally the increase of women in the work force has also increased the amount of women in management positions. Hooray for equality! But hold on just a minute, we’re not quite all the way there, not yet. How do we get there? Is it by ensuring equal pay for women? Nah, that will happen at some point…probably. Where the American workforce is currently falling short in the realm of gender equality is in how to appropriately articulate their despise for female superiors, because that’s super important, you guys.
One would think that if a female superior is abrasive, abusive of power, or whatever else, simply calling her a “bitch” while complaining to your coworkers would be acceptable. If she’s acting like a bitch, she’s a bitch, right? WRONG! YOU SEXIST PIG! Bitch is gender specific, and using gender specific profanity is tantamount to sexism. If you don’t want to offend a woman while you’re literally insulting her, you better use gender neutral swear words. Linguist Geoffrey (presumably pronounced Joff-rey) Nunberg has extensively studied the word asshole, no really, and tells FastCompany as much:
Very often when a woman does something that would earn a man the epithet “asshole” gets called a “bitch” instead, when really it has nothing to do with some primordial feminine malignity, it just has to do with the fact that this person is an asshole.
You see? If a woman acts negatively it has nothing to do with the fact that she’s a woman, but rather it’s just because she’s a shitty person. Bitch implies that her actions are tied to her gender. This is why it’s appropriate to call your female boss an “asshole,” the same way you would call your male boss an “asshole.” Everyone has an asshole, that’s why it’s okay. And don’t worry about the fact that a woman’s asshole is generally cleaner and much less smelly than a man’s asshole. You can still imagine the woman you’re calling an asshole as a hairy, sweaty, pit of filth and stink like you would a man. In fact, having her asshole compared to a man’s asshole may even be empowering to the woman. Regardless, you can’t call a woman a bitch when she’s being an arbitrarily terrible boss.
Although Nunberg doesn’t say in the interview, it seems the only times it would be appropriate to call a female superior a bitch, given his explanation, is when the woman is acting negatively because she’s a woman. Let me lay out a “bitch appropriate” scenario:
Your female boss comes to work and is menstruating. She informs you that she is menstruating and that she may behave in an offensive or negative way, because of said menstruation. Then and only then can you appropriately call your female superior a bitch, and only if her negative behavior is obviously influenced by her menstruation. For example, if during her menstruation she randomly stubs her toe and swears at you, she’s probably angry about the toe stubbing, so holster that “bitch.” However, if she stubs her toe, swears at you, and then proceeds to question your worth as an employee and a human being before starting in on a laundry list of things both big and small that you do to annoy her, well then that’s probably due to menstruation and you are clear to call her “a bitch.” But if she does the same thing and she isn’t menstruating, she’s an asshole.
See how easy that is?
Conversely it would be inappropriate for a female employee to refer to a male superior as “a dick.” Said female employee cannot reasonably ascertain whether or not her male superior’s negative behavior and/or offensiveness is penis related. I mean, yeah, there’s like a 90% chance that it is penis related, pretty much no matter what, BUT YOU CAN’T PROVE THAT YOU REVERSE SEXIST
Is everyone now clear on how to appropriately use the words bitch, asshole, and dick in a professional environment? The same applies when dealing with sorority or fraternity liaisons, social chairs, etc. Just because that person is awful doesn’t mean it’s because of their gender. It’s because they’re an asshole. If you still aren’t clear please take your question to your company’s HR person, or if you’re still in school please refer the question to any sort of ethics or psychology teacher.
- [via FastCompany]