Op-Ed: Women Are More Than the Names We're Called

by Fatima Rizwan, Project Manager

We celebrate International Women's Day every year with promises of change in the communities around us. But external change is not revolutionary if people don’t change with it. Specifically, if people don't change the language they use to describe that change.

Sexism is seen everyday, but more often it's heard in everyday conversations and interactions. Some comments can be degrading or triggering. Girls from a young age are taught to overlook and ignore these “comments,” but for how long can we patient?

Sexist phrases such as “you act like a pu*sy” or “stop whining like a little girl” are more than just innocent words. They change and influence a society. It normalizes the false idea of women being weaker than men physically and emotionally. Misogyny widely exists in the language used commonly in our daily lives and this is an issue because young girls and boys are being shaped to think of this as ‘cool’ or ‘a means to show superiority’ as they hear it from their peers and the people around them.

Since males have been the predominant group the language seems to favour them as well. Words such as ‘sl*t’, ‘wh*re’ or in the eastern world ‘bhenc**d’ ‘madarc**d’ ‘ghas**i’ or ‘r*ndi’ and many more. All these words are directly targeting women in the family , or girls around us, used as threats in the daily use of language. It is a clear violation of a woman’s body and suggests that they are sex objects.

What we need to understand is that we live in a society that claims to respect women by men who use self-righteous questions such as ‘Don’t you have a mother or a sister?’

Men: this is not helping.

It indicates that women deserve respect only if they hold these statuses in men's lives, but not just as women in their own right, which is ironic because the insults and curses are towards women and sisters.

This kind of language promotes the idea that women are generally less important and indicates that men have a need to feel powerful through degrading women. It is very important to involve men in feminism and it’s not enough for them to just step back. We need this change, start acting on the words and claims of respect and honor they make. We cannot be afraid of speaking up. Once again, men: if it’s uncomfortable for you, imagine how uncomfortable it is for the person being targeted.

This Women’s Day, we shall not tolerate words and phrases that bring us down rather empower ourselves and others by spreading awareness about the dangers of such phrases and inspire girls and boys to enter a world, claiming it as their own platform for change. As our #shero Malala once said, “We all can’t move forward if half of us are held back."

We shall become fearless and strong women today so that these phrases hold no value tomorrow. So raise your voice, scream your truth it’s meant to be heard.