I was astonished to hear today that somebody had called Mike from Vox Political a ‘misogynist’ because he had called someone ‘mouthy’. Mike’s accuser was under the impression that ‘mouthy’ was a term that was only used against women.
Now I’m aware that a staple of misogynistic abuse and jokes down the centuries have been about women’s supposed greater predisposition to talk and gossip. There’s even been some scientific evidence presented for this. Supposedly, women on average talk so many more thousand words per day more than men. On the other, it’s also been claimed that male and female brains are biologically different, and this explains why women are better at language skills, while men have better spatial skills. This has also been challenged by neuroscientists, who’ve said that, except for people at the extreme ends of the scale of gender characteristics, there’s no difference between the brains of men and women. So that fact – that women talk more than men – may be another factoid.
But the term ‘mouthy’ is different. In my experience, it’s most definitely applied to both men as well as women. When I was at school, I can remember other boys being described as ‘mouthy gits’. And there’s the phrase, ‘all mouth and trousers’, which is certainly applied to men, who like the sound of their own voices. Similarly, noisy, ignorant men are described as ‘loudmouths’. And so on.
I also distinctly remember how this got into an RE lesson at school, when they teacher wanted to stop one of the boys from talking during class. She had just been teaching us about the appointment of Aaron as Moses’ spokesman in the events leading up to the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. The Hebrew term for ‘spokesman’ in the Bible literally means ‘Chief Mouth’. One of the lads was continuing to talk over the teacher, so she shouted out his name, and then said, ‘You Chief Mouth’, to the lad’s embarrassment and the hilarity of the rest of the class.
Mike ain’t a misogynist by any means, and neither is ‘mouthy’ a gendered term of abuse.