Harridan, harpy, black widow, shrew
September 6, 2005 1:00 PM   Subscribe

Harridan, harpy, black widow, shrew, femme fatale (maybe even spinster), are all words that describe despicable women. What are some comparable words for men?

I'm not looking for a Mary Daly style critique of language; it's fairly clear to me that the ease with which I dredge up female gendered terms like this, compared to the paucity of male equivalents, is tied to male (publishing) power. I am interested in any comparable male terms, though. The only one I can really think of is red beard for black widow. Pedophile is usually applied to men, but by statistical necessity rather than definition. Pederast might or might not be negative, it depends on the speaker, and seems different anyway.

(Oh, slang might be nice, I'd like to read that too, but I'm really looking for words that one would find in the dictionary.)
posted by OmieWise to Writing & Language (43 answers total)
 
What's so bad about spinster? That is just a woman who does not marry. In early days this person was a valuable producer of clothing for the rest of the family, thus the name spinster.

How about jerk, schmuck, sleze bag, scum bucket, bastard, monster, animal, creep...
posted by Pollomacho at 1:05 PM on September 6, 2005


masher
fiend
posted by archimago at 1:08 PM on September 6, 2005


Dog, cad, knave, scoundrel.
posted by rainbaby at 1:10 PM on September 6, 2005


miscreant, bad egg, bastard, black sheep, blackguard, bootlegger, bully, caitiff, convict, criminal, culprit, delinquent, drunkard, evildoer, felon, fink, heel, hoodlum, jailbird, knave, loafer, louse, lowlife, malefactor, outcast, outlaw, pickpocket, racketeer, rapscallion, rascal, rat, rat fink, reprobate, rogue, rowdy, ruffian, scalawag, scamp, scoundrel, sinner, sleazeball, sneak, SOB, stinker, vagabond, villain, wretch, wrongdoer (these being synomyms found for the first)

Somehow, I am not sure this is what you are getting at, though.
posted by caddis at 1:12 PM on September 6, 2005


hobbledehoy
deadbeat dad
posted by cmonkey at 1:13 PM on September 6, 2005


Best answer: one of my favorite words: 'roue'
posted by felix at 1:15 PM on September 6, 2005


I tend to think that the term jackass is almost always used to describe and man rather than a woman.
posted by pwb503 at 1:16 PM on September 6, 2005


Motherfuckers are invariantly male, in my experience.
posted by mendel at 1:19 PM on September 6, 2005


redneck, pimp, wifebeater, slacker, wimp, stoner, 98 lb. weakling, girlie man?
posted by pgoes at 1:20 PM on September 6, 2005


My earlier Words used to denote Women thread is here.

harridan: The General; Victorian Dad. The cliches exist in literature, but no single words come to mind.

Harpy: Wheeler Dealer; Con man; slimeball; sleaze. geezer.

black widow:

femme fatale: dude; ladies man; rogue.

spinster: bachelor; mummys boy; pervert

These are my closest equivalants to the words you mentioned. There are obviously a tonne more words which describe despicable men. The problem is that men and women are seen as despicable for different reasons so there is little overlap.

I'd give you more "despicable" words, but my broadband's on the blink and I don't know how long it'll stay up.
posted by seanyboy at 1:25 PM on September 6, 2005


Jerkoff.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:25 PM on September 6, 2005 [1 favorite]


Putz.
posted by scratch at 1:26 PM on September 6, 2005


Also, femme fatale also isn't necessarily a negative term.
posted by mmascolino at 1:27 PM on September 6, 2005


Response by poster: Pollomacho writes "What's so bad about spinster? That is just a woman who does not marry. In early days this person was a valuable producer of clothing for the rest of the family, thus the name spinster."

I think that spinster has a negative connotation. Not for me, but in general.

All of these are great words, roue is exactly what I'm talking about. Scoundrel, rapscallion, miscreant are all good words, but not gendered by definition.

The slang stuff is good, but I'm really not trying to come up with something to call someone. Jackass and motherfucker are fine words, mostly male, but to the extent that they're gendered it's outweighed by the strength of their disapprobation. These are not criticisms, just attempts to define what I'm after. Roue is perfect.
posted by OmieWise at 1:30 PM on September 6, 2005


I think the male equivalent of a black widow is definitely a bluebeard.
posted by iconomy at 1:32 PM on September 6, 2005


I second "cad". Also fond of "bounder", and "rake".
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 1:36 PM on September 6, 2005


Response by poster: iconomy writes "I think the male equivalent of a black widow is definitely a bluebeard."

Doh! Of course it is. (I've got pirates on the brain after watching Finding Neverland last night.)
posted by OmieWise at 1:37 PM on September 6, 2005


Male only equivalents of femme fatale: Don Juan, womanizer, Lothario.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by iconomy at 1:41 PM on September 6, 2005


Sod. Tosser.
posted by brownpau at 1:49 PM on September 6, 2005


'Weasels' always seem to be men, in my experience.
posted by fish tick at 1:49 PM on September 6, 2005


"Rake", "knave" and "cad" are definitely male. And I personally always associate the word "scoundrel" with men, although I suppose it's not strictly so.

Oh, and to be an insufferable pedant, the OED says it's "roué", not "roue."
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:50 PM on September 6, 2005


"Skirt-chaser" is more common than "roue" or "rake" in modern English. Less vivid, though, and less disapproving — although to me it still has a tinge of disapproval to it.

I suppose it's technically gender-neutral, although I've never heard it applied to lesbians or bisexual women except as a joke. Same goes for "wife-beater." It's not masculine by definition, but the image it conjures up is of a man and I've never heard it sincerely applied to a woman. That may change as gay marriage becomes more commonplace.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:55 PM on September 6, 2005


hey now ...
posted by roue at 1:57 PM on September 6, 2005


charlatain
posted by Thorzdad at 1:59 PM on September 6, 2005


Casanova
posted by cushie at 2:12 PM on September 6, 2005


Harridan, harpy and shrew (as well as bitch, virago and termagant) are all words used to describe a particular type of shrill or overbearing woman. I don't think there is an exact equivalent for men. "Dick" is about the best fit.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:12 PM on September 6, 2005


'Aging roue' is even more cutting, I think.
posted by carter at 2:20 PM on September 6, 2005


Lout.
posted by samh23 at 2:28 PM on September 6, 2005


Prick.
posted by peep at 2:34 PM on September 6, 2005


Testosterone-poisoned
posted by brujita at 2:46 PM on September 6, 2005


Best answer: asshat
posted by aacheson at 3:02 PM on September 6, 2005


Cradlesnatcher.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:47 PM on September 6, 2005


Dirty Old Man
posted by dripdripdrop at 3:50 PM on September 6, 2005


putz, schmo, schmuck, scumbag, dick, prick, wanker, jerkoff, lout, louse, asshole, cad, yutz, bastard.

i don't know of any specific term to match the spinster thing; people used to always point out bachelor connotes coolness while spinster connotes messed up, but i think that's changing. it's becoming very acceptable for women to be single longer, and it's becoming less acceptable for older men to be single...people seem to wonder about you if you're a single 40 year old man. but a name for that whole notion you might be a creepy nerdy maladjusted sociopath in quiet guy's clothing who slipped through the cracks? don't know it.
posted by ifjuly at 4:18 PM on September 6, 2005


oh, and cockface. who could forget cockface.
posted by ifjuly at 4:19 PM on September 6, 2005


"wanker": a very stupid, unpleasant or useless person, usually a man. also "tosser".
posted by madstop1 at 4:36 PM on September 6, 2005


"Barrow boy", for Brit subjects.
posted by Rothko at 5:03 PM on September 6, 2005


Son of a bitch...?
posted by dazed_one at 5:31 PM on September 6, 2005


Curmudgeon deserves a mention...
posted by nonliteral at 5:44 PM on September 6, 2005


douchebag
degenerate
posted by vito90 at 8:14 PM on September 6, 2005


nonliteral wrote: "Curmudgeon deserves a mention..."

If you say so.
posted by davy at 9:55 PM on September 6, 2005


Oh please, you bitches: Clearly the worst is comb-over.
posted by rob511 at 4:22 AM on September 7, 2005


tj
posted by tj at 12:19 PM on September 7, 2005


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