Monday, 28 April 2014

Bird Lines

Recently a discussion amongst a group of friends turned to a friend’s date night with his girlfriend or ‘bird’ as one of my male friends put it. Fear not, this isn’t a naming and shaming of that individual fellow, who used the term in a joking, ironic sort-of-way. The implication was the ridiculousness of the term, in his use anyway.

But it got me thinking on a general level about the use of the term ‘bird’ to refer to women, and I have heard it used in a NON-ironic way on multiple occasions. The main thought really, was where did it come from? What is it about women that apparently reminds men (for it is pretty much exclusively men who use this word) of ‘feathered, winged, two-legged, warm-blooded, egg-laying vertebrates’? (Thank you Wikipedia). Who thought, ‘ah, I know what the missus reminds me of, out of all the possible creatures on this teeming-with-life planet, a lickle bird, that’s wot.’

I fully acknowledge that on a scale of words used to describe women, it falls near the pretty harmless end, and is most often used in an absent-minded, almost affectionate way, rather than to purposefully belittle. However, it still associates women with small-brained animals (sorry to all the bird-lovers out there), implying a certain level of shallowness and inferiority. Indeed, the ‘gentler’ alternative to bird used is ‘chick’, raising additional issues of infantilisation by equating women with fluffy, helpless bird babies. 

But the real nub, for me, was that I could not think of ANY male equivalent. Dick? Prick? No, ‘bird’ doesn’t equate women with their genitalia (we have ‘pussy’ for that). Plus I don’t think that women in relationships tend to refer to their other half as ‘the prick at home’ on a routine basis. Guy? Dude? Neither has the same connotation. I could be being really dim and missing an obvious patronising, animal-based moniker for the male of the species, but I can’t for the life of me think of one. (Any suggestions to put me out of my misery, please share in the comments).

So basically my peeve is this: why is it OK for women, no matter what the specific intention, to be addressed in this way while men are clearly missing out on an equation with a common garden animal? I say we address this imbalance immediately by referring to men as say, ‘toads’ from this point forward.

Sorry, got to go, the toad is bugging me out, man.


1 comment:

  1. According to Etymology Dictionary (AKA my favourite place on the internet) "bird" has been used in the slang sense since 1915. I agree - not the most favourable of comparisons when you think of usage in 'bird-brained'. Perhaps also a reference to women congregating and twittering?! Patronisingly referring to a woman as a "goose" (if she was being a 'typically silly girl') was common around the Victorian era. "Goose" has traditionally been interchangeable with "simpleton". Also, people love to call feminists harpies - mythical winged creatures with sagging breasts.

    Oh huff. I'm all in a flap now. Har har. - Ed.