Gendered Insults
Insult a person by saying or implying that their behavior is wrong for their gender
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(permanent link) added: 2012-07-04 19:00:33 sponsor: surgoshan (last reply: 2013-08-22 16:40:24)

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Gender is one of those complex things. It's not like hair, which comes in all sorts of flavors and styles that you can alter to suit your whim, it's permanent and fixed and there's only two kinds, right? Well...

Let's just say that, whatever the reality of gender, the fact is that it has a lot of baggage tied to it, physical and cultural. It comes with expectations. And this trope is about people who defy stereotypes. Or who live up to them. Or who don't, but the person thinks they did. Or maybe someone just needs an insult and something about gender is handy. Insulting your gender is easily as handy as insulting Your Mom.

This can be expressed in multiple ways (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Mike insults Dave for not conforming to his gender (ie. You like clothes? That's a girl thing.).
  • Susan insults Alice for conforming to her gender (perhaps Stop Being Stereotypical, perhaps just "girls suck at math")
  • Jim insults Sally for her gender, independent of her actions (perhaps just to shut her up).

This is related to Acceptable Feminine Goals and Traits and its non-existent Spear Counterpart. It also finds itself crossing not just gender, but sexuality (accusations of homosexuality). A typical subtrope example is Stay in the Kitchen, a specific response to women stepping out of accepted gender roles.

It's incredibly common for some characters to throw these out as a matter of course: the Heteronormative Crusader and Drill Sergeant Nasty.

Be cautious; this is something that could easily spark a Flame War. We're not here to judge the tropes, right?

Supertrope to: This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!

Indices: Insult Tropes


  • One of the girls stuck at the retraining camp in But I'm a Cheerleader eventually blows up in protest; she's not gay, she likes boys! She just happens to also like keeping her hair cut short and playing sports! The entire film is a giant parody and Take That at the Heteronormative Crusader and approved gender roles.
  • Harold & Kumar establishes Harold's character early, when he evinces enjoyment of Sixteen Candles, to Kumar's open disgust.
    Harold: Whatever, it's a beautiful story.
    Kumar: Homo.
  • At one point early in his eponymous film, Van Wilder throws a cross-dressing pajama party. This his father walks in on him making out with someone in a closet, and sees him wearing lipstick in a teddy.
    Van Sr.: Sweet Jesus my son's a fairy.
    (Girl appears.)
    Van Sr.: Oh, thank God.
  • Pete of I Love You Man faces a lot of subtle and not so subtle scorn and derision for his metrosexual characteristics and lack of guy friends. At the poker game, he faces a storm of abuse from the host for not playing his masculinity right.
  • Thor was grudgingly willing to leave Jotunheim without a fight, until Laufey said something.
    Laufey: Run back home, little princess.
    Loki: Damn.
  • In Aliens, Hudson attempts to insult Vasquez with this. She turns it right back around on him.
    Hudson: Have you ever been mistaken for a man?
    Vasquez: No. Have you?
  • In The Sandlot, Ham and the leader of the local Little League team exchange a variety of childish insults. Ham wins when he says "You play ball like a girl!"
  • In The Shawshank Redemption the head bull casually insults the prisoners by calling them "ladies."

  • The Realm of the Elderlings does this deliberately to invoke setting, when it shows up. The first and third trilogies take place in the fairly egalitarian society of the Six Duchies, in which gender roles are more fluid; women can be warriors and no one gives it a second thought. The second and fourth trilogies take place in the far more gendered society of Bingtown; Althea is repeatedly attacked for being masculine in the second trilogy, and Sedric is too feminine in the fourth.
    Sedric: I just like things to be nice!
  • Theon Grayjoy throws some insults at his sister, who he feels is unacceptably mannish, in A Song of Ice and Fire. His unhappiness is increased by the fact that he had been trying to get in her pants without knowing she was his sister, on learning that she is his father's favorite, and that his people see him as unacceptably womanish.
  • Gender roles to show up in the Discworld until Monstrous Regiment. Borogravia is an expy of a war-torn Eastern European nation with a rigidly backward authoritarian religion that forces women to wear dresses and head scarves and only do women's work[[note]]and only inherit the things of women, like clothing, less expensive jewelry, and maybe the cat[[/note]]. The book follows a plucky Sweet Polly Oliver as she sheds these notions and helps usher in a new era for the nation, and explores some notions of gender norms and what exactly is an Abomination?
    • Also from Discworld (The Fifth Elephant): Ha'ak is a very serious insult in Dwarfish. We aren't told what it means, but it's applied to a (female) dwarf who displays Tertiary Sexual Characteristics, to the point that Cheery nearly breaks down in tears and Detritus proclaims he will shoot the next dwarf to say the word with his Piecemaker.
  • Dua from The Gods Themselves was called Left-em when she was young (a long story involving Bizarre Alien Sexes).
  • A common sight in the Tortall Universe because one of the main themes is sexism and misogyny. Most prevalent in the Protector of the Small quartet, though. The heroine, Kel, is the first known female to try for knighthood in a century (the only other Lady Knight disguised herself as a boy). Among the various insults thrown at Kel: girls are not as strong, girls are too emotional, etc.

Live Action TV
  • Ross and Chandler on Friends, hoo boy.
    • One early episode focused on how everyone thought Chandler was gay when they met him, and it became a running gag. He was metrosexual before it was really a thing, complimented the women's clothes, and preferred to watch the parade rather than the game on Thanksgiving.
      Rachel: Seriously, ESPN, just have it on in the background sometimes.
    • Ross, on the other hand, wore soft clothing (tweeds, sweaters) in pastel colors (actor David Schwimmer's preference), though he tried to dissemble by calling a shirt "salmon" rather than "pink". A number of jokes revolved around his lack of manliness.
      Ross: She doesn't think I'm man enough to play this? I could play this!
      Joey: Ross, you're not even man enough to order the channel.
  • How I Met Your Mother loves to insult Ted and Marshall for not being manly enough. On multiple occasions, they're derided by the group and called women (even by the women) for being sensitive or caring about their appearance.
    Ted: You know what I need?
    Lily: A vagina?
  • JD on Scrubs, beginning with the first episode and lasting until he left the show. His mentor, Cox, almost never called him by his name, but by a different girl's name every episode.
  • On Everybody Loves Raymond, Frank will call his son Raymond "Nancy" when criticizing him for doing or handling something in what he thinks is an unmanly fashion.
  • The eponymous Bones occasionally gets attacked for not being "a girl", meaning when she doesn't act like a gentle, supportive, June Cleaver type.
    • One episode sees an agent very upset to learn that a case he'd been working for thirty years had gotten a plea deal behind his back, and was called a little girl for complaining about it. 9 years for the death of a cop, thirty years of work, and he gets called a little girl for being unhappy.
  • An early episode of Psych takes a brief detour into Shawn insulting his father's lifestyle choices, accusing him of being metrosexual for fake tanning, taking a bubble bath, and cooking a roast. It quickly devolves into a fight about "real men".
    • In the second season, Shawn learns that Lassiter has a thing for horses.
      Shawn: ... when he was little, Lassie wanted nothing more than a pony.
      Lassiter: beat Well, who didn't?
      Gus: Anyone who wasn't an eight-year-old girl.
    • Later in the same episode:
      Shawn: When I left my dad's...
      Gus: You mean stormed out like a little girl?
  • On 30 Rock, mainly in earlier episodes, Jack would insult Liz by calling her mannish or telling her to shop at a women's clothing store. The show's third episode ("Blind Date") centers around him assuming that she's a lesbian.
  • On Angel Spike loves to call Angel a Nancy-boy. One example was his mocking narration in 'In the Dark' where he refers to Angel's hair gel that way.
  • One episode of Seinfeld focuses on Jerry dating a woman with "man hands".
  • When Oliver's learning to fight with a blade on the island in Arrow's flashbacks, he's told that he has "no skill. To say you fight like a girl would be a compliment." Later, he's unfavorably compared to a girl scout.
    Oliver: You been fighting a lot of girl scouts? Ow!
  • The West Wing: When Sam one-ups Lionel Tribbey in an argument about Gilbert and Sullivan by asking if Tribbey was the recording secretary of his university's G&S society, Tribbey's response is "No, but then again I'm not a woman."
    • When Sam is out-debated by Ainsley Hayes on a Sunday morning show, the other senior staffers are particularly entertained that he was "beaten by a girl."
    • One female government staffer isn't pleased with Sam criticizing a piece of language by saying "it sounds like a high school girl wrote it" and wants to know why he thinks a girl's writing would be any more amateurish than a high school boy's. He gets defensive and then reiterates that "it sounds like a girl to me" when the meeting is over.
  • On That '70s Show, Jackie would often make fun of Donna for her mannish clothes, comparing her to a lumberjack.
  • The Mythbusters tested the "throws like a girl" insult. Result: it's all training, nothing to do with in-born differences.

Professional Wrestling

  • Insulting men by calling them bitches (female dogs) goes back to at least the sixteenth century, showing up in various plays, including the works of Shakespeare.
  • As in the Ancient Greece example in real life, above, Aristophanes heaped abuse on a notorious homosexual in several of his comedies. Roasting prominent audience members was considered par for the course, though, so it's not quite as awful as it might seem. YMMV, though, as he was quite conservative, making him somewhat the Glenn Beck of his day...

Video Games
  • Unsurprisingly, the Joker is quite the misogynist in Batman: Arkham Asylum.
    Joker: If you weren't hiding in the shadows - like a little girl! - this would be over so much faster.
    • The sequel also throws in random insults between the many, many prisoners of Arkham City, directed at each other, Batman, and some of the super criminals.

  • Parodied by Oglaf in the episode "Amazon Linguistics", where one amazon is trying to insult another by suggesting that she's not a man, and things like that, and the second amazon keeps ignoring the insults to comment on the usage.

Web Original

Western Animation
  • Futurama's Zap Brannigan certainly isn't intended to be sympathetic.
    Zap: Kif, I was just thinking... Oh, I'm sorry. You're crying. Like a woman.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: In one episode, Double D using a sewing machine to repair a ripped seam in a curtain, to which Eddy remarks, "Gee, Double D, I never knew you were into girl stuff", which Double D exclaims, "Household tasks are not just for girls, Eddy!"
    • Also throughout the series, Double D is seen having loofah sponges in his possession; again, in one episode, Eddy remarks, "You actually use one of those things?"
    • In "Quick Shot Ed", the Eds act like nature photographers while taking pictures of other cul-de-sac kids for a calendar; while observing Jimmy playing with dolls with Sarah, Double D offers this explanation: "Sometimes animals get confused, and adapt to another animal's habits."
  • When Sponge Bob Square Pants was training Gary for a race, he calls him a girl, saying that it's a motivational tactic that coaches use. Meanwhile, miles away, Sandy gets the urge to kick SpongeBob's butt tomorrow.

Real Life
  • Be careful of modern examples; that way madness lies.
  • Anne Hutchison caused quite a stir in 17th century Boston when she started a schism in the church, preaching her own brand of Puritan doctrine. She and her family were eventually exiled, and one of the charges she was found guilty of was stepping out of her place as a woman and "making of thyself an Husband".
  • Homosexuality wasn't quite as common in ancient Greece as the plays might lead you to believe; it was more an affectation of the upper class. However, there were two ways to practice, and only one was acceptable. Being on the receiving end was unmanly and known bottoms were ridiculed in public for it.
    • Ancient Rome treated homosexuality much the same way. It was okay to be a top; it made you even more manly. Being a bottom made you a woman and that was bad.
  • Sports: Take any group of boys playing a sport...someone will get told they hit/kick/whatever like a girl.
    • Given the rise of young girls in sports like soccer, this can be true, even if they are a girl. It's still insulting.
  • In Norse society, receiving an insult like this was legal ground for to challenge the one who gave it to you to a dual to the death. That is unless the insult was true, which means you were probably an object of public mockery and may even be kicked out of the tribe soon.
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