A couple of years back, I started referring to my friend Rebecca Brown as “the divine Ms Brown” (as in “the latest piece by the divine Ms Brown…”). Not that I have any desire to worship her – or anyone or anything else for that matter – but her writing definitely touches on the transcendent. The word fit.
Then I realized that another friend, contemporary-art curator Robin Held, deserved a better adjective than all the “amazings” and “wonderfuls” constantly used for her. I started thinking of her as “the iconic Ms Held.” That fit too.
I could always stick with the usual words, of course. But when “awesome” is used for everything from the latest video game to a new flavor of ice-cream, it becomes meaningless. There’s no real awe there, just as there’s no real wonder in “wonderful.”
“Amazing” is popular, but seems to indicate surprise that any woman could be strong and intelligent and outspoken.
“Incredible” begs the question.
And as for “courageous” – if it takes courage for a woman to speak her mind and be active in the world (at least in the West), then we’re in worse trouble than I thought.
There’s a whole range of monikers we could use instead of the standard wonderfuls and awesomes and amazings. I began jotting them down, and found that I could put names of women I know to every one of them. I’m pretty sure you can do the same:
— the badass Ms X
— the incomparable Ms Y
— the unstoppable Ms Z
— the outrageous Ms A
— the formidable Ms B
— the dynamite Ms C
— the fearless Ms D
— the fearsome Ms E
— the notorious Ms F
— the path-breaking Ms G
— the ferocious Ms H
— the inimitable Ms I
— the indomitable Ms J
— the brilliant Ms K
— the magnificent Ms L
— the dynamic Ms M
— the genius known as Ms N
— the epic Ms O
— the mind-blowing Ms P
and this isn’t even the whole of the alphabet.
Some of these tags are stronger, some less so, but you get the idea: We need better accolades for strong, intelligent women. And quit with the weak female-only ones.
Words like “gutsy” don’t cut it — who ever describes a man they admire as gutsy? “Ballsy?” — oh puh-lease… “Incredible”? — really, you find it hard to credit? “Innovative?” — aren’t we all?
So let’s innovate. No matter what gender you are, feel free to pitch in and share better suggestions in the comments. And start using them. Liberally.
Think big, think strong, and celebrate strong women with strong language!