Gender specific expressions #1 : “having the balls”

The idea of these posts is to spread awareness of things we say in our every day life that are gender specific or that reinforce in one way or another gender differences. The idea behind this comes from an article I read about that exactly, how in the search for gender equality we tend to forget that our language culture is also socialized to adopt gender conditionings.

The first expression I’ll take is “having the balls to do something”. Let’s analyze the phrase:

  • The key word in the phrase is balls which has multiple meanings itself. As a noun (just as in the word) is treated as a synonym of testicles. 
  • The semantic meaning of balls in the phrase is to be brave to do something.
  • Thus, the implicit connotation is that in order to be brave is needed to have testicles.

As we perfectly know, bravery as an attribute is genderless (i.e. women and men alike can be brave); therefore, when used to allude to women, the expression becomes senseless.

Other forms of expression that can be used include:

  • Have the backbone to do something
  • Have the guts to do something
  • Be brave enough to do something

The expression “having the balls” has (unfortunately) analogous expressions in other languages, like Spanish, but the alternatives are present as well.

Which other expression do you know that is gender specific?


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