All the terms women wish you would stop using

‘Hormonal’ was the description people hated the most


I do not know a woman alive who has not been called “darling” or “bird”. This everyday sexism is regular occurrence that results in women being cut down to size by demeaning terms such as “highly strung”, “hysterical” and “high maintenance”. Many women, myself included have resigned ourselves to hearing this kind of language on a regular basis, yet it seems clear that we shouldn’t have to put up with it.

A recent study of over 2000 women conducted by Special K as a part of their Strength Is… campaign has found that there are a plethora of terms which are generally used exclusively about women that most would love to have barred from the everyday vernacular.

The top 20 descriptions women hated the most were found to be:

  1. Hormonal (68 per cent)
  2. Drama queen (56 per cent)
  3. Bitchy (53 per cent)
  4. High maintenance (51 per cent)
  5. Hysterical (50 per cent)
  6. Ball-breaker (49 per cent)
  7. Diva (48 per cent)
  8. Highly strung (46 per cent)
  9. Mumsy (42 per cent)
  10. Princess (40 per cent)
  11. Attention seeking (35 per cent)
  12. Emotional (31 per cent)
  13. Manipulative (28 per cent)
  14. Bossy (27 per cent)
  15. Controlling (25 per cent)
  16. Difficult (21 per cent)
  17. Sexy (20 per cent)
  18. Aggressive (19 per cent)
  19. Sassy (16 per cent)
  20. Feisty (14 per cent)

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Former Girls Aloud star Nicola Roberts is acting as the face of the campaign as one of its ambassadors. She says the campaign is working “to help change the language used and celebrate what makes women feel strong by removing these terms from our language”.

All these pejorative terms are regularly used about women to diminish their contributions and input, particularly in the workplace. Unsurprisingly many of the women surveyed said that this kind of language had a serious impact on their self-esteem and a third of the women surveyed reported being told to “man up” by colleagues in their place of work.

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Many of the most hated terms are used to describe the behaviour of females as irrational and unreasonable, with “drama queen” coming out second to “hormonal”.  There’s a frequent double standard used to demean women in everyday life. In the words of Nicki Minaj: “when I’m assertive, I’m a bitch. When a man is assertive he’s bossed up. No negative connotation behind ‘bossed up’. But lots of negative connotation behind being a bitch”.

There’s a long history of casual sexism behind the terms women have voted against, and I doubt that many people will be surprised by the outcome of this survey. It’s seen as acceptable to refer to women as divas and bitchy, and as this study demonstrates, that needs to change. At best it is patronising, at worst it’s actively hateful and misogynistic.