Women are the ones who (supposedly) always complain – and in the English language, there are certainly many more words than there are for men that describe women in this unpleasant way.
Nag, and scold and bicker and henpeck etc are just a few of them.
These are words which apply specifically to women: ‘nag’ for example, is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as ‘persistently worrying by continued fault finding, scolding or urging’. The authority quoted for this meaning is the 19th century novelist Anthony Trollope, who wrote ‘It’s no good my mother nagging at me’. (No quotes as to h=what his mother might be ‘nagging’ about: his bad habits? His health?)
An equally trustworthy source is Trollope’s fellow novelist William Thackeray who wrote that ‘It is pleasing to have your wife nagnagging at you because she hasn’t been invited’. Both were reasonable men. I am sure.
These are words that are used against women and they are very powerful words. When a woman is called a nag, a scold – a bitch – let there be no mistake: the intention is to shame – and to silence.
And it works. On a daily basis. In public and private life.
When a woman and a man have a disagreement, it is not an exchange of equals. He has the option of undermining her credibility – and of shaming and silencing her. He can do this simply by calling her one of the many names – such as a scold – that puts women in the wrong.
According to the OED, the word scold is used chiefly of women and it is just as well that this information is included – otherwise we might think that the definition of the word applied more to men.
It means ‘to quarrel nosily, to brawl, to use unseemly language in vituperation’. Again, the man who is responsible for this particular meaning is William Thackeray who is quoted as ‘She scolds the servants from morning to night’.
It is a strange thing but when women get together the topic that often arises is on the limitations of many men: their failure to look after their health, their reluctance to share the housework, their acquired inability to be responsible for childcare – and their reluctance to talk reasonably about issues of concern to the women.
Yet for women, there are no equivalent words to name these well recognized widely resorted to behaviours of men. Because women have never been in a position to name the world – as they see it. It’s not women’s quotes that form the basis of the dictionary.
Women may not ‘complain’ as much as men; it could be that men complain far more – but we don’t realiase it. Because we just dont have a term which describes their dissatisfaction with us.
Once the talk starts between women and men the odds are loaded against women. The voice of a woman is easily discredited or intimidated; there’s nothing more to say. There’s no court of appeal. The way men talk is not at issue. They have an entire dictionary of definitions to validate their reality.
And the terrible irony is that at the moment – there is no way out.
Women who continue to protest also continue to provide more evidence that they are nagging, squabbling, bitching. Women who stop – have been silenced!
Damned if you do and doomed if you don’t!
What are the recognized, agreed behaviours of men for which we have no name. Meet with your women friends and describe them and name them ON Twitter https://twitter.com/drspender