'Boyfriend clothes' advertising campaign for High Snobiety. Photo: Damien Vignaux and Nicolas André via highsnobiety.com
Slow news days seem to make a fuss whenever nonsense words are added into the dictionary - but why is there never any discussion of removing phrases from the cultural lexicon? Because from where I’m sitting, there are plenty that need to be killed with fire right now, starting with the overwrought ‘kill it, kill it with fire’.
1. Gay Husband
We get it. You have a gay friend. How very Bridget Jones of you! But you really need to stop referring to him/them as your gay husband/s. (This message goes doubly for the appalling term, ‘my gays’.) Gay men are not convenient, hilarious stand-ins for your ‘real’ relationships, nor are they possessions you can drape around you to signal just how down you are with everything homosexualist.
Gay men are also not substitute women, able to pop up at a moment’s notice to give much needed advice on fashion dos and don’ts (as if women are also uniformly skilled at this). Amazingly, the only thing that connects gay men to one another is the fact that they all have a sexual predilection for other men. Their gayness alone does not function as a salve to all your problems, while they get to occupy the supporting role in your life! If they’re your friend, simply call them that - but ‘gay husband’ has got to go.
I grew up with a house that backed onto a wide expanse of ocean. Being ‘beach-ready’ meant coming home from school, eating three sandwiches and then pulling a fluorescent onesie onto my chubby, pre-pubescent frame before waddling outside with a thick stripe of zinc across my nose. Occasionally, I would take a packet of salt and vinegar crisps down with me and hoover them into my mouth while my brother buried me in sand.
Now, ‘beach-ready’ means something entirely different. It means waxing yourself to within an inch of your life, spray tanning for flattering shading, and spending approximately four months before beach season eating nothing but kale juice and tic tacs. ‘Beach-ready’ means having the kind of body that apparently doesn’t make people want to be sick all over themselves if they happen to catch a glimpse of it wandering from the sand to the shore line, forcing them to call some kind of specially created government hotline (“See something, say something!”) to inform them that a wideload fatso has parked itself near the jetty and is making people look at it.
‘Beach-ready’ implies there is ‘beach-UNready’. And frankly, the only thing you need to be ready for the beach is a bottle of SPF+ sunscreen, a good book and a tolerance for loud children. (Salt and vinegar crisps are optional, but I’ve always found them to be an extra treat. Plus, if any of the crumbs fall down your bikini top, you can pick them out and eat them while you’re driving home.)
3. Mummy blogger/Mumtrepeneur/Working Mum/Yummy Mummy
Ugh, this one is the worst. Nothing is so quickly designed to remove independence and credibility from a woman than attaching ‘mummy’ to her title. Women just can’t win with this. We’re repeatedly fed the message that motherhood is the most important thing we can do with our lives (indeed, that if we don’t do it, we’ll regret it for the rest of the sad, pathetic days we persist in breathing while childless) and then when we finally agree to pass a small watermelon from our baby canyons, we’re neatly excused from the expectation that we might contribute anything meaningful or worthwhile to the world.
While blogging has proved to be enormously lucrative to many women looking to combine the work of motherhood with financial gain, ‘mummy blogger’ has become the go-to way to dismiss everything that these women have achieved. ‘Mumtrepreneur’ is used in place of an ‘entrepreneur who also happens to be a mother, and whose business may or may not involve items of interest to parents. It’s a condescending way to deride the work women do both with and without their children. Fu*k, I’ve been described as a ‘mummy blogger’ before, and I’m not even allowed to have kids. So basically, ‘mummy blogger’ also just means ‘woman who writes on the internet’.
4. ‘Boyfriend’ clothing
Here is my Christmas wish - that retailers would stop labelling oversized shirts and slouchy jeans as ‘boyfriend’ whatever. Why, for the love of god, does this horrendous nomenclature persist? I made the mistake of walking into a relatively conservative clothing outlet the other day and, thanks to one particularly persuasive sales assistant, walked out 30 minutes later holding a pair of jeans bizarrely categorised as “sexy boyfriend”. To be honest, I’m not sure who or what I’ve become.
I promise you that I’m not trying to overthink this. I see no sexist conspiracy in the naming of fashion lines. But as an independent woman with an income stream that allows me to buy reasonably priced clothes when I need them, the title ‘boyfriend jeans’ makes me feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman when she goes to Rodeo Drive and they take one look at her lycra outfit and make her leave, and then she goes back to the hotel and cries to Hector Elizondo while holding out fistfuls of money and saying, “I tried to get a dress on Rodeo Drive today and the women wouldn’t help me, and I have all this money now and no dress!” That’s how you make me feel, boyfriend jeans.
Leaving aside the fact that, as a 5 foot 10 woman with a generous bottom half, I have almost never been able to comfortably wear my boyfriends’ jeans let alone swim in them, the whole thing offends on a number of levels. Firstly, it reinforces the idea that women are naturally smaller than their boyfriends. Secondly, it reinforces the idea that women naturally want boyfriends (I presume the professional lesbian dollar is just a fiction to Gap). And thirdly, it’s just really, really laaaaaaame.
So while we’re busy putting ‘selfie’ into the dictionary, can we do the much needed work of removing such ridiculous terms from the cultural lexicon? Gay friends are just ‘friends’, you’re always ‘beach-ready’, mothers aren’t defined solely by their reproductive record and ‘boyfriend jeans’ are just jeans that actually fit. The sooner we learn this, the sooner we can get to creating an entirely new vocabulary focused purely on Jennifer Lawrence’s hair.