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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > Mar-18 > Words that kill

Words that kill

Bitch

In 780BC, the poet Semonides of Amorgos deployed an epithet that would have remarkable longevity. He depicted women as “bitches who stray everywhere, always yapping. A man cannot stop her by knocking out her teeth with a stone. Ceaselessly, she continues barking.” Academic studies have shown that men who instinctively associate women with animals are more likely to commit sexual assault or violence against them. Mel Gibson and OJ Simpson both used the word about their girlfriends before attacking them. Yet the word has become worryingly normalised: between 1997 and 2008 the use of the word on television trebled, and is a common term of abuse against women on social media.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s March issue: A series of writers turn their thoughts to the developing war over words in the UK and the US. Lionel Shriver, Afua Hirsch, Simon Lancaster, Hugh Tomlinson, Tom Clark and two students ask if free expression is truly compromised? What’s really going on in our universities? And what do voters think? Elsewhere in the issue: Michael Ignatieff questions why today’s left-wing leaders can’t live up to the high mark set by FDR, Sameer Rahim shows how western powers have been trying to dictate what Islam should be, and Mary Beard asks “How do we look?” as our perceptions of what is beautiful have changes over the centuries.
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