Gender-based insults in politics

Politics can be a dirty business and while I am not a fan of either Carly Fiorina or Hillary Clinton, there is no excuse for the gender-based insults that have been directed at them. A day or so ago Fiorina accused an Iowa radio host who acts as a surrogate for Ted Cruz of calling her, as Fiorina said, a ‘V-word’.

At the last Republican debate, as usual Carly Fiorina dutifully trotted out her biography replete with her phony Horatio Alger story of starting out as a secretary and fighting her way to the top, fighting gender discrimination all the way. But this time she added a new wrinkle, saying “I have been tested. I have beaten breast cancer. I have buried a child. I started as a secretary. I fought my way to the top of corporate America while being called every B-word in the book.”

When I heard that I idly wondered how many gender-based insults began with the letter B. All I could think of was bitch. After a while I came up with others such as ‘broad’ and ‘biddy’ but the former would surely have been outdated even during the period of her early career and the latter seems vaguely Dickensian. On the other hand, I am not really up-to-speed on epithets so maybe there are other b-words that people use to insult women.

Then we have Donald Trump reaching a new low in vulgarity in remarks made while referring to the Clinton returning to the stage a little late after a commercial break during the Democratic debate.

This campaign has been remarkable for the level of coarseness on the Republican side, a party that boasts of upholding traditional family values.


  1. Numenaster says

    There’s also “bint”, in the British and not the Arabic usage. I know it’s pejorative, but will leave it for a UK resident to explain further.

  2. Numenaster says

    “Barge-ass” isn’t exactly gendered, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard it applied to a male.

  3. Nick Gotts says

    Hmm… women don’t get called bastards, or bounders or blaggards (I suppose men don’t get called bounders or blaggards any more). Women are sometimes but rarely called bores, or boors, and never boars. If we turn to adjectives, though, there’s more choice. Boastful, bellicose, bigoted, brutal. All those seem to fit Fiorina nicely. Batty or batshit, maybe? Bugnuts?

  4. lorn says

    Shlong is simply Yiddish for snake. In that context being shlonged is simply another way of being ‘snaked’. Snaked is the slang for having something intended for you taken away by another. As in: Dude, I snaked the last beer. It is apt enough in this context as Hillary was seemingly the most likely candidate before Obama snaked the nomination.

    That said, I really doubt Trump knows Yiddish or had contemplated that the word meant snake or that the nomination has been snaked. Most Jews have forgotten the meaning as it is used so often as a reference to a penis. More likely he was using the word to mean penis, as in Hillary got dicked out of the nomination. it works that way also.

    Okay, it isn’t the loftiest of phrasings. There have been worse. At least he didn’t use the C-word. But, then again, it is still early in the race and we need something to look forward to.

  5. says

    Nick Gotts (#6) --

    You forgot blowhard, bloviated, blithe, bushwhacker, bedizen, belittling, beastly, Byzantine, blackballer, blackhearted, belligerent, braggadocio and braindead.

    I call her Carly Infuriating because she is, and because the word has naught to do with gender.

    Attacking women’s gender should be as socially unacceptable -- and as much a career-killer -- as overt racism. Sadly, overt racism and inciting people to commit violence has returned to being “acceptable” in US politics. I suspect the reason the republicans aren’t as mean spirited towards Infuriating because she is (a) white and (b) one of themselves (i.e. the privileged and rich who failed upwards).

  6. lorn says

    Mano Singham @ 9:

    That is indeed interesting. A useful guide as to how the term/s are used, have changed even as the society and people using the words changed. Word origins and usage are almost always, IMHO, highly variegated and the exact point of transition are about as hard to nail down as smoke. Yiddish, German usage and slang, Anglicization, the effects of the pressurized American ghettos and, of course, general mutation through misappropriation, misuse, and laziness.

    Schlong has long been associated with the penis and through specific use and context possibly a particular depiction of a penis for a long time. Of course, the overtones of violence and humiliation creep in along with the cultural burdens of sexism and misogyny. Sad but not unexpected.

    But I contend that most of this happened after an initial shift. I suspect the original form was shlang.

    Humans, being human, spend a lot of time thinking about sex, and the shame, joy, context, desire for, or need to avoid it. Of course the subject is always a bit rude. Better to speak of it, and the body parts associated with it, indirectly. It makes sense that people would spend more time speaking of penes metaphorically than snakes literally.

    So it goes from Shlang = snake to Shlang = penis. And with a bit of time and laziness and mispronunciation Shlang to Schlong.

    It, more or less, kind of, it helps if you squint a little, makes sense to me. Reminds me of how the terms ‘let’ and ‘prevent’ switched meaning. Language is like that.

    The one thing that is perfectly clear is that Trump has deep problems with women, menstruation, blood, bodily functions and the female body and voice in generally. He is, deep down, still a kid who can’t handle the complicated feelings and who experiences disgust easily. The female body, outside of it being presented as a primped trophy, triggers feeling of ickiness and revulsion in him.

    This may be a clue as to how he connects with the extreme right. Conservatism is associated with easily excited feeling to disgust and revulsion associated with ‘the other’ and things that ‘are not right’. Homosexuality, atheism, menstrual blood mentioned in public, unsanctioned sex, etcetera … are all sourced of disgust because they viscerally violate for them the proper order of things.

    His ability to reference these feelings, and bring them forth in his follows is an important connection.

  7. says

    Insults are pointless. If you want to hurt your enemy, throw painful truths. If you don’t have truths, I suppose you could throw lies. But just calling someone names shows you’re stupid.

  8. says

    WRT my previous: there are so many horrible things that can be said about Fiorina and Clinton -- facts -- why would anyone bother throwing insults? One could simply talk about Clinton’s dishonesty and how she’s never passed up a chance to start a war. And Fiorina’s business acumen is a weak spot that should be hit over and over and over. She really is a terrible, incompetent, executive. Dishonesty, incompetence and warmongering: who needs insults? Well, of couse Trump can hardly hit someone for being an incompetent executive, or dishonest. But that’s his strategic problem not mine.

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