“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
— Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride
I’m not sure why, but at some point in the last 10 years or so, Madison Avenue apparently handed down a decree that all marketing directed toward women should henceforth include the word diva.
Sporting-goods stores pitch athletic bras with “diva night” specials. Main Street programs host “diva” shopping events. Hardware stores sell “diva”-themed tools with pastel handles. Minor-league ballclubs offer “diva” packages involving pink T-shirts and pregame wine-tasting events. Christian bookstores sell “diva” Bible covers. (I swear I am not making this up.) And premenopausal female environmentalists are encouraged to swap their biodegradable organic cotton tampons for reusable “Diva Cups.”
To see all that, you’d never guess that “diva” is a derogatory term.
Originally, the word diva — Italian for “goddess” — simply referred to an exceptionally talented female opera singer. Over time, the term picked up a negative connotation, as divas developed a (probably undeserved) reputation for being unreasonably demanding and difficult to please.
While “diva” can still refer to an unusually gifted performer, it has crept into everyday usage as a pejorative term for women who are talented but so spoiled, rude and unpleasant that they are generally considered more trouble than they are worth. This fact ought to make the term “diva” absolutely verboten in marketing circles — but for some reason, it hasn’t.
Try this: Look back at that list of items above, insert the phrase “high-maintenance bitch” everywhere you see the word “diva,” and tell me how likely you would be to purchase a product with such a name.
Unless I have just blown you off the stage with a two-and-a-half-octave cadenza, I’m going to assume that when you say “diva,” you are saying that I am a pain in the arse, not complimenting my awesome coloratura.
If you’re going to call me a difficult bitch, why would I want to do business with you? Why would I want a derogatory, arguably misogynistic term emblazoned across my chest or printed on my purse, screwdriver, or Bible cover? What do I gain by reinforcing a stereotype that says female prodigies are more trouble than they’re worth?
Ownership of a functional uterus does not make me a diva. It merely makes me female — and if you want my business, you’ll acknowledge that and stop treating me like a 5-year-old who hasn’t yet outgrown her “princess” phase.