It will come as no surprise to anyone who has observed this or any other society that men as a group enjoy higher social status than women. The degree of separation between men and women on the social ladder varies from culture to culture but the fact of women being perceived as inferior is a cultural constant. One of the consequences of this is that when men/boys want to put another man/boy down they attribute some widely perceived, usually unfavorable female quality to him -- lets call that "effeminitzation" and note in the process that calling a man "effeminite" is itself a put down.My friend, Phil, drew my attention to a New York Times article titled, "Epithet ["bitch" -TLG] Morphs From Bad Girl to Weak Boy." This will not be the first time that has happened. Robert Scott's Gay Slang Dictionary gives, as one of the meanings of "pansy," a possible girl's name, `A weak or effeminate male.' Answers.com says of "pansy" that it is "used as a disparaging term for a man or boy who is considered effeminate." This very useful web site also gives a plausible etymology for "sissy" as `a boy who looks and acts like somebody's sister," though I doubt that anyone using the term today would connect "sissy" to "sister."
"He throws like a girl" is a classic put down. Jeffrey on a chat board says of John Kerry
And yes, he throws like a girl, and closes his eyes to catch the ball. The videos are even funnier than those pictures."Don't be an old lady" is another. Check out billybones' choice advice at an aptly named chat site Robot Lounge
"A bottle will cost you about 15$ and it comes with some mix drink ideas, but don't be an old lady just drink the shit sraight..."And from Answers.com we find another useful definition: a "mama's boy" is ` A boy or man characterized by unusual closeness to his mother and often by timidity and overly refined manners.'
What's going on here? The most credible explanation for the linguistic effeminitization of males is that males simply don't respect women. As the use of "mama's boy" illustrates, we men may love our mothers but that doesn't mean (signify, entail) that we respect them (except perhaps in their caregiver role). As we shall see in subsequent blogs, this lack of linguistic respect is quite pervasive.
The social consequences of the lingusitic effeminitization of men are nontrivial. Boys and girls hear boys and men say things like "he throws like a girl" or "he's my bitch" and an inevitable consequence of this is that the boys and girls who do (which will likely be most of them) will learn however nonconsciously that there must be something not so good about girls and women.