“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” That is one of the only equitable gender sayings I’m aware of, as most are not. Growing up on a farm, many geese were mean as junkyard dogs. Scary! Both males and females would chase and pinch the soft parts of an unwary person who crossed their paths. I remember being grateful that geese were toothless.
Doing my part to shine a light on our society’s pervasive language bias, I looked into my vast “That’s Annoying” mental file cabinet to have some fun flipping analogies and axioms. My first figurative pet peeve is hearing someone describing someone else with courage as “having balls.” Really? I do not appreciate being told I have balls. First of all, I don’t. Second, it implies that having guts is a function of biology. Speaking of which, “guts” is a great gender-neutral term.
When I want to point out this disparity, I like describing a gutsy female-identified person as having “big, clanging ovaries.” Try it, you’ll like it! While celebrating the 100th year of winning the right to vote in the United States, I loved describing Ida B. Wells—a badass, committed suffragist and anti-lynching champ—as a hero with a heart of gold, guts of steel, and ovaries of brass. By the way, saying someone has gonads is also
One expression that bugs me is, “They didn’t know me from Adam!” It’s even more infuriating when the speaker is female. Instead, I say, “They didn’t know me from Eve.” Or if I’m feeling heretical, “They didn’t know me from Lilith.”
Male favoritism even extends to the animal kingdom. “Bull in a china shop”? I prefer “cow in a china shop”? Or when someone says (hopefully with a fake Russian accent), “Strong like bull,” I say, “Strong like a cow.” A woman once told me, “I believe the expression is actually ‘strong like bull.’” I replied, “It’s a joke, daughter!” (I was riffing on Foghorn Leghorn’s line, “It’s a joke, son.”)
An eye roll is also gender neutral and highly expressive.
Then there are the endless baseball cliches. Ugh! “Step up to the plate,” “Lean into it,” “Hit it out of the park,” “They are a batting .1000.” Having no brothers and a father who hated baseball, when I hear these expressions, I have the same look on my face I’d have if I were to ever watch a baseball game: stunned, bored and a tad nuts. It’s the maleness of it all, not hating the sport itself. I know many women who love baseball—peanuts and Cracker Jacks for everyone! For those of us who can’t tell a pinch hitter from a platypus, I use expressions like, “Step up to the stove,” “Serve those dishes piping hot” and “She’s cooking with gas!”
In case you believe that women don’t have a sense of humor, I have news for you: We do! I have a blast turning these unconscious sayings on their collective ear and slipping an unexpected gender switch into common expressions. Just because some guys (and a few gals) are insulted if I don’t find their sexist jokes funny, that doesn’t mean that I’m humorless; it generally means—switcheroo time again—they simply aren’t funny. Interestingly, I’ve found many more Republican men without a sense of humor in my life experience. Those Republicans just can’t take a joke, although they did help elect a joke to the highest office in the land.
See? What’s good for the goose really is good for the gander!
Ellen Snortland has written “Consider This…” for a heckuva long time, and she also coaches first-time book authors! Who knew? Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org