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Hold Up: Is the Term ‘Bridesmaid' Kind of Sexist?

Being a bridesmaid has always been a coveted spot for women. It’s right up there with the titular role of BFF. But what if I told you being called a bridesmaid was really the linguistic equivalent of frenemy? It’s hard to believe, but hear me out.

If we put our nerdy Noam Chomsky hats on, we’d discover that the term “bridesmaid” doesn’t fit modern lifestyles. It was created a time long ago when “maidenhood” referred to a single, virgin woman. That’s why the term “Matron of Honor” or “bridematron” exists. Matrons are, literally, married bridesmaids; meaning they’ve had sex, because society outlined that sex is only to be had after marriage. “Maid” specifically refers to a woman who is unfamiliar with the one-eyed monster and/or cooks and cleans for you. 

Forgive me, ladies, but I think we should be defined by something other than our sexual status (not to mention our orientation). Men are not linguistically classified by whether or not they’ve had sex, and we should be treated fairly in both name and bedroom. We are no longer listless sexual wallflowers waiting for a man to marry us. We now have the choice to have tons of pleasurable, guilt-free sex these days regardless of a ring on our finger. And women’s professional and personal goals exceed far beyond cleaning up domestic muck.

With 95% of people having sex before marriage and with women working in more than just the service industry, the term “bridesmaid” is a complete misnomer. If women want to be fairly represented by the qualities of their modern lives, women need to adopt monikers that accurately represent them. Lean in, ladies; lean in. 

Still not biting? Let’s take a comparative look at the appellations applied to women’s equal, men. 

Consider the 19th century etymology of “groomsman,” a “male servant who attends to horses.” This is possibly from medieval times when the bridegroom kidnapped an eligible maiden (i.e. unmarried virgin) from the village yonder and consummated the marriage with the “bride.” The groomsmen would then tend to the horses and keep a lookout. (This is also one theory about where the term “honeymoon” originates. The bridegroom would keep the kidnapped bride hidden for one month or one full moon. Seriously.) If you go back even further, the root of “groom” is just German for “male child.” The name is completely devoid of a man’s sexual standing.

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