Gendered insults are an ingrained part of our culture and reflect the values that society places on the actions and behaviour of both men and women. Gendered insults are able to be used against people by comparing them to a certain type of person, which is far and away more often a slur based on women and transgender people of any gender. Words are used to shame women for who they are by calling them a bitch, slut, whore, cunt, dyke, and on and on and on. Slurs about women such as these have a much different effect depending on who they are used against – against women, they are just another facet of the misogyny faced by so many on a daily basis, whereas against men, they are used jokingly or to infer weakness and inferiority, seen by society as inherent to womanhood. They are also used to shame trans* people and people who don’t conform to typical gender roles. You should be insulting someone for their actions alone, not for some perceived connection to what is seen as an inferior group of people, or for membership to a group that is oppressed. That is bigotry, pure and simple.
But these words don’t need to be lost from our vocabularies forever, as slurs are sometimes only slurs when used insultingly. For those people who are a part of the group that a slur is used against, there is the option of reclaiming it. Using a slur as a positive title has been an important part of activism in many situations, but it is a contentious issue. If you aren’t a part of a group the slur is used against, your best bet is to avoid using it entirely. There will be times in your life when you will want to call someone out – to just go to town and make them feel terrible – but take a look at your choices in language before you do. Next time you insult someone, don’t insult my gender along with them.