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Why Calling Creeps “Creepy” Is Not The Same Thing As Sexist Slurs Against Women

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, January 22, 2014 11:36 EDT
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Sorry, creeps, but following someone who is trying to edge away from you is not appropriate behavior.

Rebecca Watson has a funny response up to the perennial whine from men who believe they are the ones who are truly oppressed because they don’t get all the pussy they are entitled: That it’s all good and well for women to complain about sexist slurs being flung at them, but the real problem is women who call men “creeps” or “creepy”. Engaging these guys is generally pointless, which is why most of her responses are gifs. We’re talking about men who think the world owes them a ridiculously hot young woman as a sex partner without them having to be even remotely attractive themselves. They have also convinced themselves that women are calling them creeps not for the obvious reason, but because women don’t find them attractive, and because that’s apparently not a good enough reason to deprive a man of his birthright of sex with whoever he desires, women use the word “creep” as some kind of rationalization for the illicit desire to not fuck men they don’t find attractive. Of course, the fact that these guys manage to creep women out from the other side of the keyboard suggests that the “it’s just because I’m not Ryan Gosling” is a bit of self-delusion and that the alternative—that they’re creepy—is the likelier explanation.

Anyway, the way that the “don’t call me creepy” creeps justify themselves is by trying to flatten out the fact that words have content. They want to pretend the objection to words like “slut” or “bitch” or “I’m going to rape you and eat your corpse” is that they’re mean, and that feminists are somehow just on some anti-mean-words thing and therefore we must be hypocrites because we’re cool with some mean words like “creep”. Of course, the entire premise of this complaint is wrong. Generally speaking, feminists aren’t saying that it’s wrong to be negative or to use a negative label to describe someone engaging in negative behavior. Our point is that the attacks on women are sexist and that they assume that certain behaviors that are not actually wrong are wrong.

I know this is hard for creepy sexists to understand, so I thought I’d lay out examples of how words have meanings and objections to the use of some words has more to do with their meanings than some vague sense that they’re not nice.  Hope this helps.

What does it mean when I call someone:

  • A bitch? It means she is a woman whose assertiveness or even aggression would be considered normal or even admirable in a man, but because she’s a woman in a sexist society, it’s considered unseemly. Only used by people who think women should be held to different social standards than men.
  • A cunt? It’s a synecdoche for “woman”, i.e. using the vagina as a stand-in for the woman herself. (Though it’s worth remembering not all women have vaginas.) Literally, you’re saying that vaginas are bad things and therefore the person that you are calling a “cunt” is bad like a vagina. Figuratively, you’re saying that women are bad because they are women. Only used by people who believe that vaginas and/or women are inherently terrible things.*
  • A mangina? This is another variation on the idea that vaginas and/or women are odious things, and the worst thing you can say about a man is that you think he’s like a woman.
  • A slut? You object to women having sex on their own terms, and feel that their sexual decision-making should cater to the desires that misogynists have for them instead of their own.
  • A creep? You find it repulsive when a man oversteps his boundaries with women and tries to make conversations sexual with women who are clearly uncomfortable. You don’t like it when men think that just because they are men, they get to have the attention of any woman they desire, no matter how much she does not want to give it. You are particularly grossed out by men who overtly sexually harass women.

So, “creep” is a label generally applied to bad behavior and the rest are applied to enforce double standards or to suggest that the mere fact of being female is shameful. Big difference.

I think we can see, if we put our big kid pants on, that there’s more going on here that “mean words hurt fee-fees!” Words have content and context. Words like “bitch”, “cunt”, and “slut” only make sense in a world where women are marginalized and oppressed by a system that would stigmatize them for having opinions, having sex, or just being female. Interestingly, “creep” also only makes sense in the context of sexism towards women. It refers to a situation where men exploit female socialization to be nice—or to not be a “bitch”—and women’s knowledge that they will probably be blamed for men’s mistreatment of them anyway to get a power trip out of crossing women’s boundaries. In other words, creeps are men who exploit sexism towards women to be assholes to women.

Calling someone a “creep” is trying to shame them out of being rude and abusive. Words like “slut”, “bitch” or “cunt” are about shaming women for behavior that is not bad behavior at all, such as being sexual or being female in public. I realize that creeps want to pretend that shaming someone for behaving shamefully is just as bad as shaming someone for behaving appropriately, but it simply is not. Anyone who pretends otherwise sounds like a giant moron, to boot.

*”Dick” is somewhat similar in that it denotes a certain assholey aggression that is assumed to be inherently male. But men are supposed to be aggressive, so it doesn’t have even close to the same sting as “cunt”.  When men want to insult other men, therefore, they tend to skip over words like “dick” and go for calling them a “bitch” or “faggot”, which is assumed to be more hurtful because there’s nothing worse you can be than a woman or a gay man in their eyes.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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