While driving in the car, my nine year old daughter reading a book for “Tweens”, called from the back seat, “Mom, what’s a broad?”

“It’s another name for woman,” I started, “But it’s not a totally accepted term; some see it as derogative…” Now I was stumbling. “Ah…some people don’t like that term, they think it’s a name that makes women feel…insignificant, waved aside.” Or does it? What comes up for me when I hear “broad” is a strong woman, in her late 60’s, with a cigarette in one hand and playing cards in the other hand; a woman who raises one eyebrow at you and replies dryly, “Who the hell are you supposed to be?” or “Hold on, it’s going to be a bumpy night”. The term brings up images of the film noir’s femme fatale who has the power to throw the detective off his game just by walking into a room. “Some people kind of like the term,” I continued, “It could be seen as a nickname of sorts, like dame, tomato, chick, Betty.”

What IS an excepted nickname for a woman? More importantly, why do some, perfectly acceptable terms for “woman”, get on our nerves? My big pet peeve is when I’m (very politely) called “Ma’am” by someone serving me in a store. I, like many woman, insist, “Oh, please no, I’m too young to be a ma’am!” but if someone calls me “Honey” or “Sweetie” I soften to them, terms that imply weakness and frailty. The reality is that I am a “ma’am”, and after having four children, I am certainly old enough to be called one, but my crazed desire to cling to my youth leads me to instantly like someone who refers to me as a “babe” or “chick”, terms for young offspring.

As I blather on about the political correctness and feminist views on labels I glance up in my rear view mirror and notice my daughter’s furrowed brow at my explanation. That is when I suddenly stop and ask, “Read me the sentence.”

She glanced down and read the words that spurned on this intellectual dissection of the battle of the sexes, that had me questioning my own beliefs in what is acceptable to call women, and what created a panic to install the right phrasing for the sake of my daughter’s development:

“I have been to England. Have you ever been abroad?”

About the Author

Stephanie Herrera is a comedian, writer, producer, teacher, singer, actor, mother of 4, and shallow philosopher. She runs the Durham Improv & Acting Studio in Oshawa, Canada, is a professor at Durham and Fleming Colleges, and is an award winning performer. 
www.durhamimprov.com / www.stephanieherrera.com / info@durhamimprov.com / (647) 899-3342 
Durham Improv Group and Business pages can be found on Facebook and follow @durhamimprov & @antimommy