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Illustrations by Olivia Waller
Words give our lives meaning, literally. They allow us to distill our thoughts and experiences into a form that others can understand: language. And while the English vocabulary is a veritable feast — consisting of approximately 1 million words, by some estimates — occasionally the perfect term isn’t on offer.
In those cases, creation is necessary. New words are born frequently, and despite their young age, they can feel ubiquitous. (Case in point: mansplain, in which a man arrogantly explains something to a woman. Merriam-Webster says the term’s first known use was only about a decade ago, in 2008.)
At the dawn of Women’s History Month, we came up with a batch of new words to describe what it’s like for women living in a male-dominated world. We asked a couple of authors to contribute as well.
We hope these terms make you laugh, make you think and help you give voice to the unique realities of your own life.
When a male majority or all-male panel rules on an issue that deeply affects women. Derived from mandate and legislate.
In May 2019, the largely male Alabama state Senate voted to ban abortions even in cases of rape and incest. In October, a federal judge blocked the manstate from taking effect.
— Karen Blumenthal, author of “Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights”
A recent example: The consequences of a coronavirus task force made almost entirely of men
When any group (e.g. a conference panel, a list of nominees for a major award, a gathering of congresspeople) lacks any gender diversity, thus lacking any flavor.
The 2020 Oscar nominees for best director lacked any female nominees, a classic case of male pattern blandness.
— Mia Mercado, humor writer and author of the forthcoming book “Weird But Normal”
To advocate for oneself while working with a male health-care provider who dismisses a woman’s complaints.
My doctor downplayed my symptoms. He wasn’t listening, so I had to meducate him.
Excessive admiration of fathers who perform even the most basic caretaking responsibilities for their children.
Linda: Wow, look at that man pushing his daughter on the swings. He must be a great father.
Renee: Christ, Linda, quit it with the dadulation.
When a man undermines a woman, typically in a workplace setting.
My employee floated an idea and I told him no, but he pitched it to our VP anyway. He completely mundermined me.
A strong show of teamwork undertaken by a group of women.
The frequent, high-quality output from the organization, whose staff is made of primarily women, is a great example of femwork.
A recent example: Meet Team Lily
Female modesty, particularly in the face of professional accomplishments.
She has won a Pulitzer, but she barely breathes a word of it. Blame it on fodesty.
A recent example: Getting a woman to talk (about herself)
When a man takes possession of a physical or literal space.
He’s worse than a manspreader — he manopolizes everything, whether it’s a subway car or a conversation.
When a man uses a self-deprecating excuse for his misogynistic behavior.
“But Tanya, your handwriting is so much better than mine, and that’s why you should take notes during this meeting,” Dave said, mascochistically.
— Mia Mercado
Male behavior that many view as mischievous but that is often quite sinister — typically used in plural.
Fans view the musician’s pranks and frequent objectification of women as mere menanigans, but in fact, they signal a deep-seated disregard for other human beings.
A woman’s simultaneous performance of multiple time-consuming activities.
She’s raising kids, running a startup and training for a marathon; she is always fultitasking.
When a guy repeats what someone else just said, but louder.
Chuck was redudedant in the meeting, barking others’ ideas like they were his own.
— Mia Mercado
A recent example: When the boss ‘hears’ men in the office — but not women