The Power of Words

In my last yoga class, somewhere between utkatasana and downward dog, the instructor started to describe a "rule of thumb" for each posture; as I contorted my body into each position, I began to repeat the phrase in my mind "rule of thumb, rule of thumb." It got me thinking back to a class that I'd taken at the University where the professor had gone on to describe the origin of the phrase as something along the lines of "rule of thumb originally refers to British Common Law which authorizes a husband to chastise his wife with a rod no thicker than his thumb." At this point my concern shifted to the extent at which this and other phrases are commonly used implying a derogatory or demeaning connotation towards women. To better illustrate my point, ask yourself how many times you've heard a child exposed to "you throw like a girl" or 'quit crying like a little girl.' What does this tell young boys and girls? The use of such expressions are frequent and are, in a sense, brushed off to where they've more or less become acceptable rather than recognized as promoting one sex at the expense of another.

'Grow some balls' or 'man up' positively associates being masculine where as 'quit being a pussy' or 'quit acting like a little bitch' presents a negative tone towards women.

I recall when one of the main female characters from MTV's The Hills had returned for one of its final seasons; MTV used "the bitch is back' as their main slogan and plastered it on their commercials.   In the show, the main female character portrayed a strong, nonchalant, and independent speak-your-mind sort of woman who was assertive and well spoken; a bitch if you will.   Women with characteristics such as the ones mentioned (based on my own personal experience in the business world) tend to be described as heated, aggressive, bossy, and over-emotional.   We're using bitch to describe women who hold such traits, while men of the same description are viewed in a completely different light — usually a positive one.

In all of this, I sincerely feel that a conscious decision to stop perpetuating these phrases in our vocabulary is essential. Even when the words I'd mentioned above are used in a comical or amicable sense, I can't help but visualize the harmful image that they equally perpetuate to both genders and - more importantly - to young children.   To keep my point as honest as possible, earlier on in the day I’d been gushing to my girlfriend about a recent date that I'd been on and ended my re-counting with the words 'I'm being such a girl!'   As I caught on to what I'd just said, my hands covered my mouth as soon as the words came out. In my own sense, the more and more I become conscious of what I am saying, the more I can work towards setting a better example with the words I speak. It's a distinct work in progress to unwind negative habits, but for me it's a progressive one and it's definitely worth the effort.

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