Pearl clutching is a form of reaction typically produced by women when they are presented with something that they perceive as inappropriate, vulgar, or distasteful.
The term refers to the posture originally taken up by late 19th and early 20th century elegant ladies.
It was meant to signal a dramatic protest, by reaching with their hands for the pearl-bead necklace or other jewelry worn above their chests.
Over time, the term also became used as an adjective for women who get easily offended.
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The exact origin of the term pearl clutching is unknown.
One of the early appearances of the phrase worth mentioning, was during a 1990 TV show called In Living Color.
Part of a skit titled “Men on Films”, the show featured the phenomenon “clutch the pearls” as a sarcastic element in the skit’s script.
Spread and Usage
On the internet, the term primarily spread on feminist blogs and media surfaces that focus on women’s issues, like Jezebel.com.
Eventually, image macro images and reaction memes were created around the topic of pearl clutching, which circulated on Pinterest and other media sharing sites, between 2019 and 2020.
- Wiktionary – pearl-clutching
- Slate Magazine – Pearl clutching: how the phrase became a feminist blog cliché.
- Jezebel – Pearl-Clutching Alert