The damage done by gender-based male insults seems to go over a lot of heads. They’re generally considered humorous, juvenile, and nothing to get upset about. After all, Real Men TM don’t get upset over silly things like words and how they’re used.
Despite reassurances that guys don’t want or care to examine male-specific insults, when we choose to belittle someone using gender norms it not only says volumes about our culture, it also reinforces societal constraints for everyone.
Something, something you have a vagina.
Generally this occurs by calling a guy a “pussy,” but I’ve heard more colorful versions such as “child-like empress” or taunting an injured football player by yelling, “His vagina hurts!” The sting from this insult comes from the idea that the definition of a man is someone who is not a woman. The implication is that manhood is something that can be revoked, especially by more powerful men, and a man without other men’s respect is as weak, whiny, contemptible, and ripe for abuse as a woman. Classy.
This kind of insult reinforces not only the idea that women are worth less than men, but that they deserve any poor treatment they receive, and men are required to show that they don’t deserve to be treated similarly.
“You’re whipped, dude.”
I will say that I’m glad we’ve progressed to using our words instead of putting together strange, community-wide humiliation parades for men with bossy wives. But it is revealing that hundreds of years later we still believe that a man should control the women he lives with, and if he doesn’t it requires public comment. The man’s well-being is not the measure of how whipped he is. He could be contented or miserable. The key is how he performs masculinity for people not in the relationship. The core of “whipped,” besides nauseating slavery overtones, is that men must always be in power, especially over women. His feelings about his relationship are immaterial because it is more important that he complies with and upholds societal expectations.
“What are you gay?”
Accusing someone of being gay in response to them not taking another shot, not wanting a lap dance, or expressing an enthusiasm for knitting says a lot about the accuser. One, that person is a homophobic a**hole. Two, not cleaving to what this person believes is correctly manly is upsetting to them. And three, they are willing to use LGBTQ* stigma to try to make someone do what they want. While telling a guy that he’s too effeminate to be treated with respect is bad enough, worse is the undercurrent of violence in the accusation. What would a person like that believe is the proper treatment of someone who isn’t straight?
In various online spaces, men are accused of being white knights, that is, a man who gives special protection to women in the misguided attempt to get laid. Most often “white knight” is used by someone who believes nothing a woman says is worth defending and men who do so are contemptible. It’s often leveled at guys who try to support a woman’s arguments or ward off trolls.
Calling someone a white knight is an attempt to force a “bros before hos” mentality and reduce push back against harassment. This insult functions by using ugly assumptions about men (inherently selfish, promiscuous, liars, etc.) to try and silence men who are trying to make the Internet a more decent place.
“Looks like someone is compensating for something!”
Apparently men are supposed to have penises so large they inspire awe and fear in all who behold them, like an Abrams tank made flesh, and if they don’t well, they aren’t man enough. Oh, and if they feel insecure about this unreasonable standard, that’s just another reason to laugh at them. Masculinity is supposed to be readily evident to everyone, but no effort is supposed to be made to maintain it, and men aren’t supposed to feel anything about it. Which is bullshit, of course, because the foundation of this insult is that simply by questioning masculinity, it can be reduced. This is a feature, not a bug, and it is used over and over to attempt to shape men’s behavior whether it’s selling products (shampoo, guns, cologne, tools, whatever) or selling ideas of what men need to do to prove themselves.