For my first guest post of 2018 I have Hazel from SayIDoOnABudget.com, I used to work with Hazel and would often have chats about blogging and Feminism, so it only made sense that she would guest post for me!
Are terms of endearment from strangers socially acceptable?
If you’re female – Have you ever been called any of the below terms by a male you don’t know very well or don’t know at all?
The answer is more than likely YES. How does being called these terms make you feel?
I get called these terms every single day in my job, usually (but is not limited to being), by men who are older than me. I do not like people I don’t know calling me doll, sweetheart, love or anything else similar. When I have expressed my dislike of these terms being used by people I am not familiar with to those I know, they dismiss by dismay by saying they’re “just terms of endearment” and that the person is “just being polite”.
Why I don’t want to politely accept ‘terms of endearment’ from strangers.
Saying they are just terms of endearment or someone is just being polite doesn’t make the use of these terms by strangers okay. In fact, it actually makes it worse.
Bit too far for you now? I thought you might think that, so please let me explain and you may change your mind.
What is a term of endearment anyway?
Looking at these terms from the viewpoint of the study of the English Language
The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of ‘endearment’ is “a word or phrase expressing love or affection”.
If a stranger started talking to you by saying “Hello, I love you” you’d be quite within your right to think this person was being overly familiar and probably rather odd. So, going off the premise that a stranger cannot love us or feel affection for us, why, if a term of endearment is a term we use for people we love or feel affection for, do we feel it ok for a stranger to refer to us using them? When in fact it is overly familiar and rather odd, just as much as someone you don’t know saying they love you is.
Terms of endearment can be sexist and used in ways closer to abuse than love. This idea is not a new one, but rather one that hasn’t yet seeped into the consciousness of a large enough part of society for their use to be as abhorrent as the term ‘boy’ can be. If you’re not aware of the historical use of the term ‘boy’, especially when used by someone who is caucasian towards a black adult male then you may want to read up more on this, as me discussing this would be a whole other post!
We are still fighting for the equality of sexes today; even in the developed world we still have a long way to go. People standing up against overly familiar and sexist terms being used towards women will help in our fight to be universally viewed as equal; because the language we use is closely linked to our thoughts and feelings. Between Friends and relatives, these terms are perfectly fine, but they don’t belong in the workplace.
One of our most powerful tools in our arsenal as humans is our spoken language. One of the things we take the most meaning and understanding from is words. So let’s use them right and demand that others do not use words that diminish, or belittle women. Let’s demand that words/phrases used to push a feeling of inferiority onto women are made as shameful to use racial slurs are.
Don’t just take it from me, how about reading this article from David Shariatmadari on The Guardian about how the meaning and use of words can be changed over time, or this article by Kathryn Westcott on the BBC regarding the sexist undertones some words can carry and when it is or isn’t appropriate to use them .
What are your thoughts and feelings on these terms being used? Are there times when they are acceptable? When do you find someone referring to you in these ways as unacceptable? Have your opinions been changed slightly now?
Thank you so much, Hazel, for your thoughts! Remember I’m always looking for more opinions in guest posts for Feminist Fridays! Get in contact today firstname.lastname@example.org.