13 Sexist Phrases That Need To Be Retired Immediately

For those who have ever used one of these phrases and meant it, you're sexist.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

1. "Legitimate rape." Rape is rape, whether the attacker is a stranger or a man you've been dating for months whom you thought you trusted. There's no reason to classify it as "legitimate" or not. It's all just wrong.

2. "Fight like a girl." Why does "like a girl" have the connotation of weaker, wimpier and overall, worse? With there's women like this in the world, "like a girl" should be synonymous with kick-ass.

3. "She was asking for it." If a woman was "asking" for sex, then it would be consensual. No one asks for rape.

4. "Whipped." Significant others who listen to each other and on occasion, cater to each other's whims—sounds like a pretty positive, healthy relationship. A man shouldn't be made to feel "less masculine" by being respectful of his wife or girlfriend.

5. "Get over it." Sexual assault is a traumatic experience, and not something you can instantly move on from. If a friend, loved one, or even an acquaintance trusts you enough to share their experience with you, then be open to listening.

6. "What were you wearing?" It doesn't matter if she was in a turtleneck and a floor-length skirt or skin-baring booty shorts and a crop top, a woman's wardrobe is her own perogative—just like her sexual encounters.

7. Anything having to do with a woman and her place in the kitchen. Yes, women can make great chefs. They can make great writers, engineers, doctors, lawyers, artists and more. With women making up nearly half (47 percent) of the labor work force, any joke about a woman staying in the kitchen isn't just massively outdated, it's massively offensive.

8. "Don't worry your pretty little head." Newsflash: pretty women can be smart, too. This phrase is so demeaning that it needs no further explanation as to why its retirement must be imminent.

9. "How much did you have to drink?" Again, it doesn't matter if she was the designated driver or she's five shots deep. If a woman wants to indulge in a few drinks, that doesn't give a man the right to take advantage of her. Asking a woman about her alcohol intake in the wake of a sexual assault isn't concern: it's victim blaming.

10. "Why didn't you do ____?" Fill in the blank with questions like "why didn't you call the cops?" or "why didn't you fight him off?" Just like asking about their apparel or their intoxication level, battering a victim of sexual assault with questions about what they did or didn't do at the time of the attack can come off as victime blaming. Unfortunately, what done is done, and as a friend, you should be there for them, rather than interrogate them.

11. "Wearing the pants." Relationships are about partnership, not one person taking control over the other. Retire this outdated phrase that not only suggests that one person should have control, but that it should be a man. Not to mention, women look damn good in pants.

12. "Man up." This phrase has an easy substitute: Be tough. The difference between the two phrases is that one is all-encompassing, regardless of sex, and the other singles out women as "weaker". Think which one is a better fit next time.

13. "It's just a cat call." No, it's street harassment. No woman should be made to feel uncomfortable by strangers commenting on her appearance. If she looks good, it's her own business—and not for men on the street to ogle.


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Diana Pearl

I'm an Associate Editor at the Business of Fashion, where I edit and write stories about the fashion and beauty industries. Previously, I was the brand editor at Adweek, where I was the lead editor for Adweek's brand and retail coverage. Before my switch to business journalism, I was a writer/reporter at PEOPLE.com, where I wrote news posts, galleries and articles for PEOPLE magazine's website. My work has been published on TheAtlantic.com, ELLE.com, MarieClaire.com, PEOPLE.com, GoodHousekeeping.com and in Every Day with Rachael Ray. It has been syndicated by Cosmopolitan.com, TIME.com, TravelandLeisure.com and GoodHousekeeping.com, among other publications. Previously, I've worked at VOGUE.com, ELLE.com, and MarieClaire.com.