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Prominent CFI member advocates castration

By which I mean, Ronald A. Lindsay advocates losing the use of the word “balls” to mean “courage” in everyday conversation. And I couldn’t agree more.

Many people, including many skeptics, atheists, and humanists, use the term “balls” or its myriad equivalents as a metaphor for courage, determination, resolve or similar attributes. I suggest we should stop using such terms, for a pretty obvious reason: one doesn’t need testicles to be courageous, determined, or resolute.

[…]
Before I go any further, let me hasten to make clear that I’m not asking people to stop using “balls” as a substitute for “courage” because of some prissiness about language. Profanity and slang don’t bother me. I worked as a lawyer for over twenty years. In conversations with my colleagues, every other word was “fuck” or one of its derivatives—and that’s just when we were talking about the weather.

It pains me that Lindsay had to include that paragraph at all, to preempt those folks that you just KNOW are going to derail this topic to suggest that Lindsay is just incapable of having adult conversation with adult language. That’s not what it’s about at all. That’s not what ANY of these conversations that we’ve had, about tone and civility and using slurs or gendered or ableist or racist or or heteronormative or classist language. This ongoing conversation — from which some subversive entities have been removed from the conversation to their chagrin — is entirely about shedding those words that only serve to reinforce the destructive memes that have already done so much damage to so many valuable members of society. It’s about writing an epic and historic wrong. And all that by not reinforcing toxic masculinity. Seems like a simple act for such a revolutionary one.

Don’t forget that the gender roles that conflate “balls” with “courage” KILL MEN. Dropping “balls” from the euphemistic lexicon hurts nothing but the framework on which gender roles are built. It is a but single brick in the edifice of strict gender role adherence, but every brick’s worth tossing out when its time comes.

Comments

  1. tynk says

    For my little part in breaking gender based terminology, I have taken to calling everyone who pisses me off an asshole.

  2. joel says

    “Douchebag”? Please explain why a comparison to a female hygiene appliance should be used as an insult. Do you have a loathing of anything to do with lady parts or what?

  3. says

    Okay, I’ll save you a click. Douches are harmful to women. They were invented by men to solve a hygiene problem that women don’t actually have, shaming them for having lady parts that aren’t necessarily dry as a bone. They include caustic chemicals that harm ladies’ vaginas. The metaphor is terribly apt when it comes to men who are ostensibly trying to help women but are actually harming them.

  4. joel says

    Sorry I suggested you had a problem with lady parts, but my question remains, how did it happen that this appliance became an object of derison? Yes some women also use the term as an insult, I will not second guess their thinking. There is such a thing as internalized sexism, it cannot be avoided entirely, but it is not my place to try to analyze it. I think only women themselves can do that, but I can call attention to it. There is nothing inherently wrong with a douchebag. Sometimes it is useful, mostly not as you suggest. Use is not the point at issue. My issue is taking an object that applies only to women and in an intimate way and making an object of derision out of it seems to me misogynistic on its face.

  5. joel says

    Yes the term carries the specific meaning (in some venues) you indicate but but it’s widespread use is demeaning imo. Try something else that does not have barbs.

  6. says

    how did it happen that this appliance became an object of derison?

    Well, let’s see…

    They were invented by men to solve a hygiene problem that women don’t actually have, shaming them for having lady parts that aren’t necessarily dry as a bone. They include caustic chemicals that harm ladies’ vaginas.

    That should do it.

  7. joel says

    Please don’t straw man me. I am not outraged or in salvaging mode I think. I am trying to figure out a way to think about this douchebag thing in a way that would be sensible to others. Obviously many do not agree with my take and I am suprized about that,it seems obvious to me. I think the metaphore gets its power, appeal if you will, from negative feelings about female genitals. I think it is true that some women carry shame about them, about the appearance, odors, periods, medical problems etc. And men carry fascination and fear. I think that using that particular metaphore does not help us be more rational in those respects.

    I find it can be helpful for me when puzzling something out re sexism to try to find a racist parallel. Suppose there was a popular product called “skinwhite”, invented by whites and pushed by white marketers. It is bad for the skin and unecessary because there is nothing wrong with darker skin. One day in frustration someone said. why he’s,…he’s..he’s a stupid skinwhite and it caught on and it became a widespread insult based on negative feelings, by both black and white, about dark skin. It seems to me that that insult would be racist.

    Perhaps, if you get my drift, you could suggest a better way to put it.

  8. says

    joel, perhaps you need to go think about this for a while, because you keep insisting that the usage is based in negative feelings about women’s anatomy, despite being repeatedly told the opposite. Give it some time to sink in.

  9. John Horstman says

    @1, 2: Sorry, folks, but “asshole” is body-shaming/anal-phobic. “Douche” works because douches are themselves mostly bad, though anal douching isn’t necessarily harmful and might serve a legitimate interest in some cases for those interested in anal play of different varieties. We can’t use “fuck” or “fucker” with negative connotations if we really want to remove all of our marginalizing language, either, because those are sex-negative. “Shit” still works, since shit is waste material, though it DOES make for good fertilizer (not necessarily human shit, though I think it was used as fertilizer sometimes… according to this, yup).

    Re: “balls”, I prefer to use “ovaries” as an ironic challenge, though use of that should also stop proportionate to the reduction of the use of “balls” in the wider culture.

  10. joel says

    There is no combination quite like certainty and condescension. I didn’t expect it on FTB. That’s all folks.

  11. says

    I should be uncertain about how I use words? I should be uncertain about how Jason uses this word when we’ve discussed it? I should refrain from condescending to someone who purports to know my intentions better than I do?

    Someone explain this to me.

  12. John Horstman says

    @16: Well, ya see… http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Mansplain

    (It’s double irony! In case it’s not clear, joel is the one mansplaining here, as am I, though self-consciously and ironically, by taking your clearly-rhetorical and -sardonic questions and demand for an explanation at face value as honest inquiries; I’m reasonably sure you know exactly what’s going on there. I’m feeling meta-clever.)

  13. left0ver1under says

    I don’t know about others, but I prefer the term fire in the belly.

    It infers the same tenacity and character while remaining gender neutral, and it’s a saying many/most people are familiar with. Feel free to use it.

  14. Spartan says

    Someone explain this to me.

    ‘Intent is not magic’? I’m kinda surprised to see you reference ‘your intentions’ actually as there are some words that those pesky details concerning ‘how they are used’ seem to be largely irrelevant.

  15. says

    I don’t know the exact etymology of the term “douchebag”. It may well have been coined to capitalize on body shame about women’s genitals, and it’s only gotten its present meaning in an “own the slur” sort of way. I have my doubts though. It’s been used almost exclusively to mean men who are toxic to women as far as I can tell, and only recently gained popularity in describing people in general who are objectionable.

    Intent is not magic, but mind-reading despite repeated clarifications is, Spartan? Mind your skepticism!

  16. says

    left0ver1under: I like “fire in the belly”. How about “full of piss and vinegar?” “Gumption?” Archaic terms like that need to make a comeback.

    Okay. New thread focus. What are good insults that don’t involve any outgroup-minimization? Because we damn well need them. There’s so much willful ignorance and objectionable actions evident on the internet that we need SOME way to express opprobrium with minimal splash damage.

  17. left0ver1under says

    Jason Thibeault (#21):

    How about “full of piss and vinegar?”

    Nah. Not suitable for polite company.

    After the fact (and after a browser crash), I was reminded of this quote:

    “Why do people say ‘grow some balls?’ Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna get tough, grow a vagina. Those things take a pounding!”
    – Betty White

    I always knew she was crusty (remember “Officer Fuckmeat!” from the movie “Lake Placid”?), but that quote made my eyes peel when I first read it.

  18. Spartan says

    Intent is not magic, but mind-reading despite repeated clarifications is, Spartan? Mind your skepticism!

    Ha good one, Jason. It’s not mind-reading, it’s ‘pattern recognition'; totally different.

    Seriously, where exactly am I engaging in mind-reading? I’m not disputing anyone’s intentions. Isn’t that the point of intent is not magic: who cares what your intent was, who cares what usage you were using, what really matters is how it was received (whether that reception follows standard norms of communication or not)? Intent and usage are invalid when people use ‘bitch’ in one of it’s common usages, ‘a mean woman’ despite repeated clarifications, what’s the diff?

    As far as good insults, I think ‘turd’ is an improvement over ‘douche*'; I don’t like how close the tame ‘you are a douche’ comes to the offensive ‘you need a douche’.

  19. says

    Spartan, “intent is not magic” refers to the fact that people can still be hurt by our behavior. (You did make sure you understood the phrase before deciding to use it, right?) Who is the injured party here in my using “douchebag” in this fashion? joel only says he’s injured by my condescension.

  20. Spartan says

    Stephanie @25,

    I’m getting clarification on how you use the phrase, since I think it’s vastly overused, and you’ve confirmed I understand it just fine, thanks.

    Stephanie @26,

    *eyeroll*. Spare me the oh-so-tired, ‘it’s not all about you'; you can make that nonsensical reply about any comment that is ever made so it’s utterly meaningless. Or provide some evidence that I might think, ‘it’s all about me’. Especially since in this case, perhaps you are reading too quickly; here’s the quote from Jason: “Intent is not magic, but mind-reading despite repeated clarifications is, Spartan? Mind your skepticism!”. Are you really sure that he’s referring to joel here? Guess I misread it, since it’s addressed to me I hope you can see how.

  21. says

    Yes, Spartan, you misread it. You jumped in with “intent isn’t magic” about a comment where Stephanie was pointing out that joel was engaging in mind-reading. I said what I said to you because you apparently approved of joel’s mind-reading.

  22. Spartan says

    Jason, fair enough, I see what you mean when I include the context of the joel’s back-and-forth. Stephanie, I retract, apparently I am making it all about me or some shit like that.

    My point has nothing to do with mind-reading and or questioning your intent, I absolutely do not question what Stephanie or you mean by ‘douche*’. Do you really not think that someone could object to or be offended by the term? You don’t seem to care much about how other women use words that you adamantly object to or what their intent or usage was. Joel’s statement, “My issue is taking an object that applies only to women and in an intimate way and making an object of derision out of it seems to me misogynistic on its face.”, sounds similar to the reasoning used for why ‘hysterical’ and many words that refer to female genitalia are verboten. In other words, why aren’t you engaging in mind-reading when ‘bitch’ is used by ‘women… to mean exactly what I said it means’ and objecting to it?

  23. Spartan says

    Please change “You don’t seem to care much” to “You don’t accept as a valid argument” in the above; I put that too harshly and it’s not correct, you certainly do care.

  24. says

    Spartan, I have several years experience using the term that way without anyone telling me they feel injured by it. If someone does, I will certainly reassess. I will not do it based on someone telling me my usage is something other than what it is.

  25. joel says

    Stephanie it is not clear to me that I disputed “your” usage of the term. If it came through that way I did not intend it.

    I understand your usage to be either the first or second of the three that Jason has offered in this thread:

    e.g. people harming women while thinking they’re helping.

    It’s been used almost exclusively to mean men who are toxic to women as far as I can tell,…

    … and only recently gained popularity in describing people in general who are objectionable.

    I don’t have evidence but think the latter usage is far more prevalent in the wide world. (Google suggests it was first applied to women years ago)

    You said to me:

    “joel, perhaps you need to go think about this for a while, because you keep insisting that the usage is based in negative feelings about women’s anatomy, despite being repeatedly told the opposite.”

    I would be pleased if you would replace ‘insisting’ with ‘suggesting’.

    But your ‘telling’ me that the opposite is the case can only tell me that ‘your personal usage’ is not based in negative feelings about women’s anatomy. I am not talking about your personal intention, I am concerned with the general attitude which I suspect is different.

    It is a dumb metaphor in its general usage, what makes it so common? My question is why would not an enema bag, or enema syringe, or pettipot do as well?

  26. Spartan says

    I was going to ask that exact thing Stephanie, what you would do if someone felt harmed by it, so thanks for the response. It also clears up, to me, your rationale defending your ‘Dear Dick’ letter which at first blush I thought was hypocritical for the same reason as this conversation, in that it seemed to be all about intent (as it largely should be) when you used an ambiguous word, but not when a word you object to is used by others. Dawkins to my knowledge did not object to it for that reason, so your clarification of intent resolves it on it’s own and explains why you’re not being hypocritical.

    I’m still not clear on why women should not use the word bitch ‘based on someone telling them their usage is other than what it is’, but I think that ‘intent is not magic’ is vastly overused and is only valid in much narrower situations; someone asserting that the n-word ‘means’ nothing more than ‘a black person’ for instance. That definition is far outside common usage today though, where the more benign meaning of bitch is not. But that’s enough of being off-topic, so I’ll continue to watch for clarifications on the logic used there in future posts.

  27. tynk says

    @14
    “@1, 2: Sorry, folks, but “asshole” is body-shaming/anal-phobic”

    Hrmm, personally, I think that is pushing it for the whole body shamming thing. And I was not aware that anal-phobic was a “thing”. But I will reexamine my usage.

    Any recommendations on current, commonly considered, profanity that would be “acceptable”?

    Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits.

    I use cunt and tits as positive expletives. Cunt as a way to remove the religion from the original denunciation of its use. tits because I love them.

    Cocksucker is an abvious sexists and homophobic term.
    Motherfucker just does not seem, well bad. Many people fuck mothers, It’s a good thing!
    Fuck is almost exclusIvely used by me as a non-emotional sexual experience.
    Shit and piss… They just seem rather meh to me.

    So, as Jason asked… What else can we use?

  28. Stacy says

    This comment thread illustrates why I believe proscriptive limits on language should be kept to a minimum.

    Race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, looks–it’s wrong to attack people for such things.

    Beyond that–awareness of etymology is great, but I don’t think it’s necessary to deal with the sexist baggage carried by some words by proscribing them. Fight fire with fire. Want to use “balls” as a metaphor for courage? Fine with me. Like John Horstman @17, I’ve used “ovaries” instead.

    left0ver1under @22, I love that quotation too. Sadly, White didn’t really say it (though I can totally hear her saying it, in her Golden Girls Rose voice.) Sheng Wang said it first, I think. Hal Sparks makes a similar point here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcM0DPH2bNo

  29. Jeanette says

    Or you can do what my brother does, and tell girls to “get some ovaries” when he’s encouraging them which never fails to make me smile and others laugh :P

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