(See also: love, sweetheart, and LET’S NOT EVEN START ON BABE, shall we? Gods preserve us.)
A bird is a small, fragile thing. It chirrups, flutters and nests. It definitely does not chair board meetings, run multinational corporations or govern nations. So it’s little surprise that a new survey shows “bird” topping the list of “pet names” that British women would like banned from everyday use.
The research, commissioned by Kellogg’s Special K, surveyed 2,000 women around the country. Fifty-four per cent said “bird” was a word they’d like to consign for ever to Room 101; 45% would bin “doll”; 44% would choose “chick”, while 38% loathe “babe”. They’re all diminutives, you’ll notice. Infantile, in the case of “chick” and “babe”. In all four cases, incapable of speech or even complex thought. Cute, but ultimately unable to change a light bulb unaided.
But – oh, come on now, love – what does it really matter? They’re just words, after all – harmless terms of affection, in fact. The chosen names aren’t even insults or sexist slurs. Who doesn’t love a fluffy chick? Where’s the harm in being compared to one? So stop flapping about it. Don’t brood over it. All this nagging is just henpecking.
A single word, you see, can hatch and breed until you have a whole flock of related words, each different but all related. All pecking slowly away at women’s self confidence, shaping the way women are seen in the workplace and having consequences every bit as real as the damage done by sticks and stones.
Another report came out this week, this time from the global management consultancy firm McKinsey and Co and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In organisation. It analysed data from 132 American companies, representing 4.2 million employees. And for every 100 women promoted to managerial positions, it found, 130 men made the same leap up the ladder. Why? In part, because “birds” aren’t being given the opportunity to show their ability. The report highlighted the fact that women are less likely to be given challenging assignments or to receive the critical feedback w