15 Words Only Used To Describe Women

Women are often described using words one would never attribute to men. Whether those phrases are said with good intentions or are back-handed compliments, these adjectives would sound ridiculous and completely out of place if used to describe a guy. After all, when is the last time you referred to your male coworker as feisty? And have you ever complained that your dad was acting hormonal?

Here are the most commonly used words to describe women, and their generic, gender-neutral male counterparts. Don’t be a bitch (!) and click through to see all the phrases — and their on-screen embodiments.

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    • Eileen

      I’ve heard men described as soft-spoken…but can I add “flighty” to the list? Or perhaps “catty”?

      • Brandy Alexander

        Yes! Both are great additions. I also forgot “sassy.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

      I never thought about these but goodness, they’re so true.

    • alexandra

      I don’t know about the male equivalents for sultry and curvy. I think the real male equivalent is: we don’t spend nearly as much time and vocabulary classifying male bodies as we do female bodies, and no one points out that Eddie Redmayne looks significantly different from Robert Downey, Jr.

      • Jay

        Hmmm, you could use burly, stocky, lanky, buff, pigeon chested to specifically describe a man’s body.

    • Lastango

      Well done, and funny!

      This got me thinking, what male-only terms would a female never want for herself? “Asshole is already mentioned, so some of the others might be:

      == Rangey (would any she want to trade in her “tall and slim” for that? Or her “skinny” for “wirey”?)

      == Bastard

      == Jerk

      == Boor (a word that’s making a comeback — probably because, these days, there seem to be more occasions to apply it than ever before)

      == Wanker

      == Barfly

      == Bum

      == Fuckwad

      == Wastrel

      == Working stiff

      == Dandy, fop

      == Metro(sexual)

      == Rounder

      == Savvy (no reason it can’t refer to a woman, but it never seems to. She’s clever instead.)

      == Wiseass

      == Rugged (-looking)
      == Lout

      No doubt there’s dozens more. Maybe women will one day get to some of them. Men would probably be willing to cut the ladies in for a 50% share of “jerk”. But women will have to work for it; “fuckwad” is earned, not given.

    • Matthew McVeagh

      OK, that list is a mixture of physical and personality attributes. I think it is inevitable that there will be some adjectives for physical qualities specific to each sex (and I think there are some natural assymmetries between how the sexes view each others’ bodies heterosexually, that aren’t going to significantly change however much societal power balances and cultural attitudes change).

      It is the personality ones that are more interesting for their implications. There is nothing about ‘feisty’ that necessarily implies ‘female’, yet it is true it is almost always applied to females (I think it can be applied to children of both sexes too tho).

      I’m not sure about all the definitions, or the equivalences. I think feistyness has more to do with pugnaciousness than being good at your job. And I think fiery, adorable, bitchy and soft-spoken can certainly be used on men.

      The main question is, what is the significance of this? Is the fact that some terms are usually used only for one sex evidence that there is a sexist bias of presumption and stereotyping, or are such differences a natural development of relations between the sexes which, despite a few decades of socialisation theory, remain stubbornly different in their expectations and desires?

    • rita

      this is great. I loved every part of this article and its divine truthness

    • http://www.facebook.com/ciwamoto Caroline Olivia Iwamoto

      Interestingly enough, we looked at something similar to this in a class I recently took on language and gender. If you are so inclined, take a look at Suzanne Romaine’s “English — A Man-Made Language?” She talks about how there is a disproportionate amount of derogatory terms for women than are for men, and oftentimes those terms for men insult them by insulting their mother. She cites a study from 1977 (a little old, I know) where there are 220 terms for sexually promiscuous women versus 20 for men (not all of which have a pejorative association, I’m sure). Another thing she talks about is the imbalance of semantic meaning between male/neutral-associated words and their female equivalents (e.g., bachelor/spinster, master/mistress, wizard/witch). Just some food for thought.