Why Don’t Women Have A Word Like “Emasculate”?
Whether it’s a heavy box to be carried, a bug to be squished, or something to be fixed, I hate hearing the words, “Just let the guys do it.”
Even in reverse, when there is something to be baked, gardening to be done, or cleaning to complete, I often hear, “Just let the girls do it.”
Stop it. Just stop. There is no set task that only one specific gender is capable of doing (with few exceptions like giving birth). Don’t assume that I need a man to help me. It’s belittling, embarrassing, it’s… dammit, there isn’t even a word for it! Why don’t we have a word like “emasculate” for women? When I try to apply it to the word “feminine,” all I can think of is “efeminate,” which is basically “effeminate” and that’s not what I mean at all. Even Microsoft Word tried to correct “efeminate” to “effeminate.” Don’t rub it in my face that there isn’t a word!
This conversation stems from an incident about a year ago when I felt most offended by a “Just let the guys do it” comment. There were heavy boxes filled with packets that needed to be moved to the other side of the office, and me, someone who lifted weights at the time and immediately launched into action. As I reached for a box, one of my co-workers stopped me and said, “Oh, just the let the guys move them.” I looked around at the guys she was referring to, and found myself face-to-face with a set of scrawny men and one who was overweight who began to try and lift the boxes with obvious distress.
Their male status immediately trumped my strength. I don’t get it. If I didn’t think I was capable, I wouldn’t have offered to help. In that moment, I was undermined for my strength.
How do we even begin to search for a word that would emulate a woman’s feelings in that moment? Is there a word that would best describe a time when a woman felt like her physical abilities were judged based on her gender? Yes, there’s “de-feminized,” but it does not have the meaning I am trying to convey. To “de-feminize” is to divest a woman of female qualities and essentially “masculinize” her. But why do we need to be stripped of our femininity in order to be strong human beings?
A woman may dress in a feminine manner and enjoy watching Giada At Home, but that doesn’t stop her from being the beast she is at the gym, lifting weights and kicking ass. She is a strong lady, not a masculine lady. If you are confident in your physical capabilities, there should definitely be a new way to describe being offended if someone dismisses it to “let the guys do it.”
I know many men would say that it’s polite to do heavy work as part of being a gentleman, but there is also a large population of women who want to be your equal and don’t enjoy having things done for them just because history, media, and other large demographical influences say so.
A more preferred response to me offering to help carry the boxes would have been silence, or even a “Thanks for helping out.” I understand her intentions were not an attempt to strip me of my dignity, but if a woman offers to lift boxes, kill a spider, or change the oil on a car, let her. She knows what she is capable of and it is probably more than you would imagine.
Written by Leah Moreno