So much for being “bossy”—women are called “pushy” twice as much as men
Georgia State University linguistics PhD student Nic Subtirelu, who runs the Linguistic Pulse site, gathered a random sample of 200 to 300 occurrences of each of the above adjectives from the Corpus of Contemporary American English, a repository of 450 million words from fiction and nonfiction texts published between 1990 and 2012.
He isolated the adjectives that were used to describe a person or their personality, and he discarded the instances that referred to something other than the subject (e.g. “Her parents were extremely pushy.”) He was left with about 120 uses of each term, each pulled randomly from the modern American zeitgeist.
I did not find that brusque or stubborn were used in a gendered manner, at least not to a significant degree … These two words were used for men and women at about the rate we might expect.
Women are labelled pushy about twice as frequently as men in COCA even though men are mentioned nearly twice as frequently as women.
Men, meanwhile, were far more likely to be labeled “condescending.”
Condescending seems to differ from pushy and bossy in an important way, namely that it seems to acknowledge the target’s authority and power even if it does not fully accept it.
That is to say, “condescending” implies someone is abusing power they already have. “Pushy” suggests an improper attempt to charge through a barrier.
In the aftermath of the “Ban Bossy” campaign, Subtirelu ran the same analysis with “bossy” and found a similar phenomenon—it was used for women and girls about one and a half times more than for men and boys.
People expect women to be communal leaders and men to be autocratic ones.When women violate those norms—or “push” past them, if you will—they still suffer consequences.