A short rant about not being able to call women feisty

I was on Twitter this morning (for a change) and I saw a tweet from Women’s Hour advertising one of their shows:

‘New Late Night Woman’s Hour pod out now! We’re talking Upskirting, Abortion, whether it’s OK to call a woman Feisty (clue: no) and self-care…’

Now first of all obviously my senses were assaulted by all of the capital letters, because you know how I feel about those. BBC, what is the matter with you??

But then I read it again because since when are we not allowed to call a woman feisty? To me it feels like a positive word. It reminds me of the Shakespeare quote – ‘though she be but little she is fierce.’

I looked up the definition to check I wasn’t missing something:

can I call a woman fesity

I still didn’t feel much the wiser. What’s wrong with being lively, determined and courageous?? Some people on Twitter seemed to be complaining because it was a word usually used to describe women, but then I just feel like lucky us, because men are missing out if people don’t think they’re any of those things surely?

Also, if it’s typically used to describe someone relatively small then sorry, but women generally are smaller. That can’t be helped. I am on average a foot smaller than the three men I share my office with. That’s just a fact. Also I am way more lively. Obvs.

It’s things like this that make me feel old, like the rules are changing and I don’t understand them any more.

I totally get that we still have a long way to go in terms of gender equality, I’m on board with that. It’s not okay for example that one woman in four experiences domestic violence in her lifetime and two women are killed every single week by a current or former partner in England and Wales. But aren’t stats like this where the focus should lie?

Perhaps I’m out of touch, but it sometimes feels to me like we just look for things to be offended by, things that in the grand scheme of things don’t really matter. Are we undermining the value of our arguments about important gender issues by choosing to make a point about the use of a word which is essentially a positive one?

Okay, I can see that perhaps it might be annoying if people call you feisty trying to make it into a negative, or to imply a negative quality, but people are always going to do that, regardless of the word or your gender. You can twist anything if you really want to offend someone. I don’t think we are ever going to get to a point where everyone is just kind and polite to each other 100% of the time, as nice as that might be.

I just feel like with all the crappy stuff that happens everywhere, this DOES NOT MATTER. In fact, we could all probably do with being a bit MORE feisty.

Am I missing something? (Possibly.) Am I just old and disconnected from the issues of the day? (Probably.)

Or am I just being too feisty?

If you liked this post you might also like this rant about the hairdresser where everything is £11, this rant about the man online who called me a liar, or this one about car air fresheners.



  1. Jackie Boyer
    21 June, 2018 / 8:15 pm

    I like the word feisty and have no concerns about using it, usually as a compliment. I’m not little, I’m 5’10” and people describe me as fierce. I don’t mind that either as I’d rather be fierce and feisty than mousy. I was once called junoesque and was ok about it once I’d looked it up to see what it meant.

    • Jo Middleton
      22 June, 2018 / 11:22 am

      Yes, exactly – I’d normally use it as a compliment too. I feel like if you really want to, you could take offence from anything these days! (Oh God, am I becoming someone who says things like ‘that’s political correctness gone mad!’??)

  2. Mary H
    23 June, 2018 / 8:49 am

    I’m with you. I’m fiesty and proud!

  3. Elisabeth (Anglicised)
    23 August, 2018 / 12:30 pm

    Hi there, interesting post. I wouldn’t like to be called feisty and I definitely avoid calling people feisty as it just sounds patronising. It’s telling how it tends to be used only for women – why is this? Why not say ‘brave’, ‘courageous’ or ‘determined’ instead? Could it possibly be a convenient way to appear complimentary while in fact sneaking in a dressing-down: ‘you, little woman down there: how funny you are with your little pet peeves and your insignificant fury about petty things like women scientists, architects, composers etc., being systematically deleted from history so no one hears about them, or about men being paid more than women for the exact same work…. ooh how endearing you are with your silly fights, you adorable little thing, you’re just soo feisty!’, thus ridiculing, diminishing and dismissing the serious issues, once again de-legitimising and trivialising the many injustices that women are supposed to swallow and endure when we should have every right to expose and talk about them openly…. without fear of being summarily dismissed as … ‘feisty’! I hope you can connect with some of what I’m saying. All the best from E. in Bournemouth

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