Improve your lexicon: have some balls

I’m on a never-ending quest to improve my vocabulary – both by expanding it, and by getting rid of some of the more objectionable, oppressive language which we all use without thinking.

But change can be difficult. The best solution I’ve found is to brainstorm alternative words in advance and think good and hard about them. Hence, these posts – as much a tool for me as for anyone else!

This was inspired by a friend on Twitter a while back, who asked if it were “too PC” to object to the term “having balls” as a code for being brave.

Well … it probably is “too PC” to the kinds of people who believe thinking about the words you use and the effects they might have on other people is bad.

It’s simple patriarchal masculine-centric thinking. Your balls, nuts, cojones or stones are the source of bravery and courage; these characteristics are associated with being manly or masculine; in contrast, things coded as womanly or feminine are weak and helpless. I’m not down with that for obvious reasons.

On another level, well, not all men have testicles. Even cisgender men. And not everyone with testicles is a guy.

There’s an argument that “having some balls” – like referring to a mixed-gender group of people as “guys” – has come to mean something neutral, divorced from stereotypes about bodies and the gender attached to them to the mainstream. But there are many people who don’t find it so easy to shrug and ignore the obvious implications of gendered, body-based language. There are many people whose identities and gender and bodies are a significant, front-row part of their daily existence. They might have bodies that don’t fit, and the fact that our language makes casual, “neutral” assumptions about things like dudes-have-balls-and-are-brave is a part of what makes their lives way more difficult than mine.

Besides, as with all judgey oppressive language, there are plenty of alternatives, so why not use those instead?

Alternatives to telling people to “have some balls”:

be brave, be bold, show courage, defend yourself,
show some principle, have some guts, back yourself up,
do better, take a stand, stop being gutless

What do you reckon?

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