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From me to you, highlighting challenges faced by girls

Wordy Wednesday – “Chicks With Sticks”

Dear Daughters,

We have all heard “Chicks with Sticks” used to describe a female hockey or ringette player. Many girls and women wear this title proudly. In fact, youngest dear daughter, one of your favourite shirts was your black “Chicks with Sticks” shirt.

chickswithsticksedited

But what’s up with using the word chick to describe females? If not for the fact that it rhymes with sticks, would we even use this term to describe ourselves?

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary chick is defined as:

1 a : a domestic chicken; especially : one newly hatched
1 b : the young of any bird
2 : child
3 slang : girl, woman

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary
“mid-14c. shortening of chicken (n.). Extended to human offspring (often in alliterative pairing chick and child) and thence used as a term of endearment. As slang for “young woman” it is first recorded 1927 (in “Elmer Gantry”), supposedly from U.S. black slang. In British use in this sense by c.1940; popularized by Beatniks late 1950s. Chicken in this sense is from 1711. Sometimes c.1600-1900 chicken was taken as a plural, chick as a singular (compare child/children) for the domestic fowl.”

According to the above, the term “chick” was first used in the novel written by Sinclair Lewis entitled Elmer Gantry. I did a little internet research into said novel and found this at Fun Trivia:

“Elmer is sent to his first ministry at a church in Schoenheim, where he encounters the lovely Lulu Baines, the daughter of the church’s deacon. What furry animal is Lulu compared to upon her first appearance (and several times thereafter)?
A kitten. When she first appears, Lulu is described as “… a gray-and-white kitten with a pink bow.” Gantry is consumed with desire for her and arranges, by various subterfuges, to be intimate with her on a number of occasions. When the subject of marriage comes up, however, Lulu undergoes an anthropomorphic change; Lewis writes that “…he [ Gantry] didn’t want to marry this brainless little fluffy chick, who would be of no help in impressing rich parishioners.Gantry regards Lulu purely as a sexual object; at one point, he is forced into an engagement with her when their intimacies come to her father’s attention. However he cleverly slips out of this trap by treating Lulu badly and arranging for her to be alone with Floyd Naylor. While Floyd is comforting the distraught Lulu, Gantry arranges for himself and her father to surprise the couple in a seemingly compromising position. Gantry is thus released from his obligation, and it is Floyd who ends up marrying Lulu at the point of a shotgun. Floyd, who is wild about Lulu, is actually quite pleased with this development; Gantry is able to extricate himself, not only from his engagement to Lulu, but from his appointment to Schoenheim, while adeptly playing the part of the injured lover. Only Lulu fares badly; when Gantry takes his leave of her, she is described as “…huddled, with shrunk shoulders, her face insane with fear.”

The use of the word chick in reference to the character Lulu is derogatory and sexual. And if you stop and think about it, most uses of the word chick in reference to a young female by males usually are. They seem to use it when rating the appearance of a young girl such as:

“That chick is hot.”
“That is one ugly chick.”

Or when describing their popularity among the female population as in:

“Chicks dig me.”
“Chicks just don’t get me.”

Instances where the term seems to be used in place of the world girl or woman simply because it rhymes are chicks with sticks and chick flicks.

I have always had mixed emotions over the word chick. I cringe when I hear it and have always despised being referred to as a chick yet, for some reason, I feel like I am overreacting. My uncertainty as to whether or not I should hate this word is what weakened me into allowing my daughter to wear a “Chicks with Sticks” t-shirt given that I personally avoid the use of the word chick at all times. Now that I have identified its derogatory originating nature and continued use in the same manner, I am much less confused. Chick has officially made my “unwordy” list.

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