Should We Drop “Babe” From Our Vocab?

mountain babes mt hood mcneil point

Sarah and I “mountain babe-ing” with Mt. Hood.

I recently came across a few think pieces condemning the use of the terms “babe” or “baby” when referring to women, a la Mountain Babes or Bouldering Babes.

If you haven’t noticed, my online moniker features one of these criticized words. But, believe it or not, I took careful consideration with my name change (FYI, this was a blog formerly known as Clean Spirit).

Sure, I fully understand why women would find the use of “babe” or “baby” offensive – as Terra Incognita validly points out, it signifies sexualization and denotes an idea that we, as women, are “helpless” and without direction… Ya know, like a baby.

And while I respect a woman’s aversion to “babe” and their choice to steer clear of using it, I (as you can see) don’t personally believe it’s always harmful.

To make things clear, “Baby Got Backcountry” is not intended to support sexualization of women in the outdoor industry. In fact, it is my way of poking fun at this type of nomenclature. As a woman, I have experienced being called “baby” in a variety of situations – like by my significant other and by a creepy dude I passed on the street.

“Babe” or “baby” can be said with love, admiration, companionship or it can hang in the air, dripping with misogyny. It’s important to distinguish the difference.

When “babe” is used to degrade, devalue, or define woman or a group of women, I don’t think that’s cool. Especially when it’s tossed around by a male.

However, I do feel it is worth noting that “babe” and “baby” are not words unique to females; many women refer to their boyfriends, husbands, whatever as “babe.” While it goes without question that women are more often cited as “babe,” it isn’t a gender-exclusive term.

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Alternatively, “Baby Got Backcountry” aims to, essentially, take back the word. These terms have been morphed to become sexual, and even demeaning in some contexts.

To use “baby” as a woman gives me a sense of power; it makes me feel in control of how this word is used. It isn’t the random jerk on the bus saying “Hey baby,” this is me.

I am a feminist and I don’t believe feminists must adhere to strict rules to be a “good one.” This isn’t a religion; there isn’t a book, there isn’t a list of commandments. Feminism is an ideology. It’s a political movement. It’s a social movement.

Using the word “baby” does not negate your stance on gender equality.

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And as a feminist, I think women should have free range of our language. We can use the words we want to use to reference ourselves and we shouldn’t obliterate a term simply because men use it in another way. I am not going to dictate your vocabulary, I am not going to say no you can’t call yourself that even though you want to. To me, that isn’t feminism.

But what is feminist is respecting other women and their choices…

So if you want to use “babe” or “baby,” fucking go for it. If you don’t want to, that is equally a-okay.


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