Portfolio of Hope

girl sitting on a car hood and showing middle finger

People’s adherence to the social rules around swearing seem to focus disproportionately on women being protected from it at all costs.

‘The mechanics in dad’s garage would be swearing, then turn to me and apologise that I’d had to hear it. I’d wrinkle my nose, more offended at the apology than the curse.’

Fern Brady.

Western society generally views swearing as more appropriate for men than for women (women who swear are perceived as violating more societal taboos than men who swear), as a 2001 study by Louisiana State University pointed out…

In the study, 377 people were asked to rate examples of swearing for offensiveness. They were show written transcripts of conversations that included swearing. Being told that the swearer was a woman led them to rate her as ‘weak’ and ‘repellent.’ Male swearers on the other hand were considered ‘more dynamic’, and were rated as being just as attractive as if they hadn’t sworn at all. Evidently then, this highlights the fact that people, generally speaking, find swearing more offensive- ‘vulgar’ and ‘indecent’- when the speaker is a woman rather than a man…

The question, though, is why. Why do people take such offence to women who swear?…

Ultimately, what the double standards when it comes to swearing all boils down to, is the preconceived ideas that far too many of us hold towards what constitutes femininity (‘purity’), VS what constitutes masculinity (‘power’). Because swearing is not considered ‘pure’, it is, in turn, also not considered ‘appropriate’ to come out of a woman’s mouth. Viewed as being ‘offensive’, (but only when it is a woman doing it), swearing is considered ‘unladylike’, whatever ‘ladylike’ even means, if not just a term used to police gender expression…

People are supposedly made to feel ‘uncomfortable’ when a woman expresses strong feelings through swearing, with such feelings of discomfort likely being due to people, namely men, fearing that their long held toxic attitudes are being threatened when women do not remain ‘nice’ and ‘polite’- ‘good girls’ (i.e., submissive and subservient towards men), but, instead, fight to get their voices heard. Really, though, swearing is just a way for us to profess strong emotions. Whereas in childhood, crying was an acceptable way for us to show our emotions and relieve stress and anxiety, as we (especially boys) grow up, Western society discourages us from crying, particularly in public. People obviously still need an outlet for strong emotions though, arguably more so than ever in today’s world, and so, that’s where swearing so often comes in…

Powerful, and acting as a ‘coping mechanism’/an ’emotion regulation tool’ (to vent/release emotion), swearing enables us to better deal with the consequences that arise in response to difficult situations, the majority of which (we feel) we have no control over.

And so, swearing is not about establishing ‘dominance’/authority/’manliness’ in society at all, despite this being a view that many men hold… What swearing is actually about, is emotion. It’s all about feelings, and the processing of them… Feelings which, when they’re overwhelmingly strong, sometimes require an equally as strong a word to capture them…

Strong Feelings,

Strong Ideas,

Strong Words,

Strong Women.

swearing taboo women

One response to “Why Is Swearing Seen As More ‘Taboo’ For Women?”

  1. Good points. A lot of these things are just man-made rules and which society puts a lot of pressure on individuals to follow and practice.

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