Calling a woman ‘badass’ isn’t empowering

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It’s counter-productive to use gendered language to reward women for their success.
 
A recent opinion in The Guardian calls for the retirement of words like ‘badass’ and ‘gutsy’ when referring to women and their accomplishments.
 
These terms are often used as labels to slap on influential women. Despite their surface-level acknowledgement of accomplishments, the connotations of these words illustrate a substantial double standard.
 
If a man crushes a job interview, he isn’t praised for being a ‘badass.’ If he speaks up for himself, he isn’t described as ‘bold.’
 
Referring to women in this way is patronizing. Worse, it implies that, by default, women aren’t inherently strong or brave.
 
Labels like ‘kickass,’ ‘feisty,’ and ‘badass’ are superficial markers of recognition. They fail to appreciate the challenges many women are forced to overcome to be considered successful in a patriarchal society.
 
Terms like these pressure girls and women to fit into this ‘badass’ persona in order to find recognizable success, even if that’s not how they want to behave or be perceived. 
 
Some women don’t have the privilege to pursue this particular mainstream feminist image of professional, white feminist success. Women of colour and LGBTQIA+ women are just a few of the groups facing additional barriers and different expectations. These words are exclusionary labels that fail to account for intersectionality in feminism.
 
Being ‘badass’ or ‘bold’ isn’t the only way to be strong. Defining what it means to be an accomplished, powerful woman by employing arbitrary and condescending terms places an emotional burden on women’s shoulders. 
 
Women face countless challenges, barriers, and discriminations on the path to success. On top of all of this, though, they’re also normal people—not everything they do has to be to topple the patriarchy or smash the glass ceiling. 
 
A strong woman shouldn’t have to mean someone who constantly appears ruthless and ambitious. It should be more widely acceptable to embrace your emotions or falter along the way.  
 
It’s critical to remain conscious of the words we use to describe women, both in the media and in day-to-day life. 
 
The use of problematic language to characterize female empowerment undermines the strength of women and the meaning of what they accomplish. Labelling a woman ‘badass’ does her a disservice: it’s a reductive way to frame success.
 
It’s important to acknowledge strong women and their work, but calling them ‘gutsy’ is the wrong way to do so.
 
 
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