I have a little exercise for you and before we start you need to grab a pen and paper. I want you to split the piece of paper in to two columns and over each column write either women or men. Now I want you write down all the negative words that you can associate with the female sex, anything that negatively describes them in any shape or form. Then I want you to do the same thing for men but you aren’t allowed to include any words that are an extortion of a female negative (male whore, male slut, etc).
What do you notice? Anything strike you about your lists?
I did this exercise and one thing was definitely clear- we have a lot more words that negatively describe women and very few that negatively describe men.
This is something that has been bothering me for a long, long time and I decided that it was time I wrote a rant-y blog post about the subject. So say hello to my new series, Word Association, where I will be looking at the words we use to describe women, where they come from and what we should do with them.I started this series last week and it went down surprisingly well, I wasn’t expecting such a good reaction but the support was amazing. So this week the series continues and I’ve chosen to discuss a word that particularly annoys me. A word that has casually entered our culture and become a staple of the music and movie scene. It’s so common that you probably haven’t even noticed, let alone really contemplated the meaning and the impact that the word has.
So what word is it I hear you ask? (Or probably not because it is written in the title). The word of the week is “bimbo”.
If you’ve been reading my series then this will come as no surprise but once again there are several similarities between the words bitch, slut and this weeks word bimbo. I am quickly coming to release that there are two particular area’s upon which loaded words seek to offend women, their sex life and the assumed link between that and their morals or their attractiveness.
Yet more than this, the words tend to imply that a women can only ever be one thing and women are largely seen as flat, 2D type characters that have to fit in to a perfectly packaged definition. This weeks word is the perfect example of this.
So what does the word “bimbo” actually mean?
I took to the Urban Dictionary to find out, here are a few examples;
So apparently while bimbo usually refers to traditionally pretty girls, it also implies that the girl has a low level of intelligence, once again suggesting that a girl can only ever be one thing. Pick a box ladies because it will define us for the rest of our lives. Funny because when was the last time you heard it said that a man couldn’t be both handsome and intelligent? Mr Clooney I am looking at you.
The word “bimbo” derives from the word bambino, an Italian masculine-gender term that means baby and hence refers to intellectual development. The word was initially used in the US from around 1919 and was used to refer to a brutish man but quickly become associated with women. In 1920 composer Frank Crumit recorded “My Little Bimbo Down on the Bamboo Isle”, in which the term “bimbo” is used to describe an island girl of questionable virtue. There is little evidence on why the term changed from masculine to feminine but perhaps it is related to sexual morality side of the word or simply the fact that men sometimes use baby as a pet name for women. This is something that bugs me in itself.
Once again it’s a word that signifies the huge double standards that exist between men and
women, the idea that a women can’t have or be it all, while a man can. The idea that a woman with a high sex drive have lower moral standards and that women are unable to have emotionless sex, while a men can.
So basically it is another way of criticising women for not conforming to traditional gender roles.
So should we reclaim the word bimbo? No.
Out of all the words that I have discussed so far, this is probably the one that I use least of all and I think it is one of the worst. It’s one, five letter word but its use and meaning sum up everything that continues to be wrong with the sexist society in which we live.
So I think it’s a word that we should kick to the curb, boycott and avoid using at all costs. But let’s all make one promise today, let’s all agree to never ever use this silly word again and certainly never use it to describe other ladies.
So, are you going to join me and make this promise?