Promoting gender equality requires nuanced rhetoric

Emily Vernon

Women are so often described as “crazy” or “overly emotional” by men that the negative adjectives are often found creeping into a female’s vocabulary when describing other women. This is unacceptable. In fact, it can be argued that for feminism — also known as gender equality — to become a widespread phenomenon, it needs to start from within. Women need to be more respectful to each other to ensure respect from men.

Respect involves both employing non-gender-specified rhetoric and validating one’s emotions. It is derogatory to dismiss emotion because of gender. This practice teaches women to ignore the importance of their thoughts and feelings. In fact, a recent study showed people react more positively to opinionated anger from men than women. This supports many women’s complaints of workplace discrimination.

If women showed more respect towards each other, it would become increasingly taboo for a man to discredit and disrespect a woman. Slander is a power tool; ultimately, it is used to establish hierarchy and to prove one’s self above another. Speaking of a person in derogatory, gender-specific terms allows societal gender inequality to perpetuate. 

“The ways that women associate with each other and how some of us will use ‘slut’ or ‘bitch’ to talk about each other does not help the fact that we don’t want a guy to talk to us like that,” biology senior Allysa Garcia said. 

These terms are considered taboo in society, deemed as inappropriate and hurtful, yet continue to have a presence in casual vocabulary. Most women become upset upon hearing someone assign this stereotype to them, yet many turn around and use the same words for other women. This not only hurts self-esteem but produces a never-ending circular cycle of gender-specified rhetoric which contributes to the social inequality faced by many women in the United States today.

Sociology adjunct professor Gloria González-López said in an email that a patriarchal society makes women responsible for men’s sexual behavior, placing undue blame on the female in cases of sexual promiscuity.

“Research and theorizing on gender inequality and sexual violence against women has discovered and documented the ways in which women may believe, internalize, and take into practice the very same belief system that oppresses us as women,” González-López said in the email. “For instance, a young woman may confide in her friend about the experience of sexual assault she had Friday night on 6th Street. That friend may then ask her questions like, ‘What were you wearing that night? Are you sure you did not provoke him?’”

Rhetoric has more influence than we often acknowledge. It is time to understand the weight of words and the practices they promote. It is time to promote equality between genders, which must begin with women empowering women.

Vernon is a PACE freshman from Houston.