Nag: The Word Men Use to Control Women

Synonyms for nag: shrew, harpy, tormentor, heckler, provoker.

Nag is derived from a Scandinavian source meaning to gnaw, bite at and complain.’

“Don’t be such a nag.” The term makes me cringe and want to cry. No one wants to be a nag.

Annoying? Persistently annoying? What a punch to the gut.

I use to do anything and everything possible to be not be called this forbidden word.

It is not sexy to be a nag.

I wanted to be the cool, alluring, easy-going woman in a man’s life. The woman who was game for anything and threw caution to the wind.

  • Another boy’s night out? Have fun and forget about the budget, blow it all!
  • Dirty socks creating a pyramid on the floor? Don’t sweat it, I got ‘em!
  • Forgot to pick me up from the airport? That’s what cabs are for, you keep sleeping.

It is a word society has taught us that we do not want to be. Men have also been taught to associate this term to women, when they want anything from them: a changed behaviour, a favour or just common courtesy.

It is a word used to control women to prevent them from asking for what they want, demanding (reasonable) change or expecting men to live up to their end of the bargain.

  • It makes you agreeable to settling.
  • It makes you silent and dismissive, to avoid negative labelling.
  • It makes you a shell of a person, to ensure that your exterior fits the societal moulds we want to be associated with.

Women want to be smart, sexy, successful, caring, funny, important, beautiful, classy and charismatic. We want to exude all these things, all of the time, and at any cost. The cost is usually our own self-worth, sanity and self-esteem.

I do not allow the word ‘nag’ to be uttered in my house.

It is meant to make us what men want us to be and to silence our own needs, desires and goals.

“Pick up your dirty underwear and stop leaving them on the ground, please,” begged the tired wife to her husband, for the fourth time that week (and it was only Tuesday). “Good God, you can be such a nag,” the man muttered, under his breath, just loud enough to be heard by the woman who was dejectedly walking away.

‘I do not want to do what you are asking and you are forcing me to be someone I am not,’ is what I hear when a man calls me a nag. I am not meaning to force you to do anything, if you were a decent human being, you would realize that my ask is not an assault on your being.

Men have been trained to ignore or create blind spots in their house; they do not notice the dirty dishes, unmade bed or dust bunnies, so it is the woman’s job to remind them to support the running of the house. This required reminder is where the term ‘nag’ is most often thrown around.

It is used to demean the request because, in the grand scheme of life, are the dirty undergarments on the floor going to kill you? No, but why do I have live in squalor, or with just enough sanity that killing myself is not needed?

There are far too many articles, out there in the interweb, teaching women how to stop nagging their husbands, but fewer articles telling men to get their shit together.

It’s not that men don’t make requests of the women who are nearest and dearest to them, it’s that the behavior is labeled differently depending on who is doing the requesting. By using the derogatory term “nag,” a man trivializes the woman’s request and at the same time puts her in her place. In other words, it’s a double-edged power play.

Walking that fine line to keep the peace and not upset your partner is something women are taught to accept as their duty from an early age.

When I brush my daughter’s hair and elaborately braid it round the side of her scalp, I am doing the thing that is expected of me. When my husband brushes out tangles before bedtime, he needs his efforts noticed and congratulated — saying aloud in front of both me and her that it took him a whole 15 minutes.

My son will boast of his clean room and any other jobs he has done; my daughter will quietly put her clothes in the hamper and get dressed each day without being asked.

They expect and appreciate praise for things women do, without any thought of gratitude at all. When a man vacuums, a woman should be grateful; when a woman vacuums, a woman vacuums.

We need to quit stroking the male ego for simply showing up to the game because they have grown accustomed to being fawned over for doing nothing of major significance. We applaud them for just being decent roommates and this has afforded them the privilege of seeing everything they do as a favour to their female counterpart.


Nope, not me.

I write about issues that are near and dear to my heart, with the hope that my stories, experiences, and struggles may empower others:

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