Monday, November 28, 2005

Sexism in Language -- I

Yesterday, a daughter of the Ohio State University Marching Band director, who lived in New York City and was an aspiring dancer, was stabbed to death in her apartment. She was described as beautiful young woman who was in "a new off-Broadway show called The Privilege," as the Columbus Dispatch reports. I have no free URL to direct you too. This came as I was struggling with my next blog which started off with the sentence "In my opinion, many -- maybe a majority of -- men genuinely don't respect women." In support of this claim, which some might see as controversial, I simply noted that men abuse women and girls both physically (including to the point of killing them) and sexually (which sometimes leads to murder as well.)

Of course a majority of men don't physically or sexually abuse women but in my 67 years of experience, a majority of men seek to dominate women and value women not for their wit and intelligence but on physical grounds -- how pretty and shapely they are. The movie, "When Harry met Sally," took the position that a man couldn't be with a woman without wanting to sleep with her even when their relationship was officially a friendship. I believe a majority of men seek also to dominate the women in their lives but I would be hard pressed to defend that claim (though I doubt that women readers would need a defense to be convinced.)

One of the really interesting concepts to me is that of "date rape." Why is there any need for this concept? A rape is a rape whether it is perpetrated by a date, who might use either force or a drug to gain compliance, or a stranger who uses force or the threat of violence to gain compliance. I think this notion was created by men to put a pretty face on certain types of rapes by way of suggesting that the female might have done something to encourage the rape such as invite the male up to her apartment.

The question arises as to where does this violence against women come from? Do mothers and fathers teach their boys that dominating women is the right of a male and that women should be valued primarily as sexual beings? I don't think so though boys might learn from how fathers treat their mothers that violence toward women is okay. They may also learn a disrespect for women from their male friends who will typically be interested in "how far" a guy got on his last date rather than in "how interesting" she was.

We see in these two types of violence against women two basic themes -- a theme of male dominance over women and a theme that women are commodities -- are vehicles for male sexual pleasure. The fact that men may love their wives and daughters doesn't mean that they value women generally for "good reasons." Everyone knows racists and ethnocentric people who make exceptions for certain persons of the despised group. I suspect this is what goes on in the case of many happily married men.

My question is where are these concepts of "male dominance" and "the female as commodity" learned. Do fathers tell their boys that it is okay to exert your will over your girlfriend or wife even if it requires violence? Perhaps I am naive but this seems to me to be somewhat implausible. These are behaviors that people are more likely to keep silent about. So where do boys learn this stuff?

In my opinion both language and how we use it play a role in conditioning boys and young men not to respect women, which is the first step toward using force on them to gain compliance, including sexual compliance. To demonstrate how this might happen, we need, first, to define "sexism." I shall define it in terms of what a sexist action is:
A sexist action is one which is predicated on an assumption of a difference between men and women which is not biologically justified and which is harmful to the interests of specific women (or men) or women (or men) generally.
So according to this distinction, men too can be the victims of sexism though I suspect it is relatively rare. The next distinction I will make is between sexist language and a sexist use of language.
Sexist language is language that is inherently sexist in that it is encoded in the language itself and often cannot be avoided.

A sexist use of language is the use of language that is sexist which is avoidable.
Pronoun reference provides a classic instance of sexist language. Consider sentences like
(1) a. Any person who passes the final will get a passing grade, won't he?
b. If a person hits you, you have a right to hit him back.
c. Any person who speaks his mind about religion could get in trouble.
Here we see the ubiquitous presence of he, him, and his as the default resumptive pronouns (a resumptive pronoun that has the same referent as an earlier noun phrase (in these cases any person and a person. Use of he, him, and his has historically been dictated by those who enforce the canons of Standard English. What is of interest to us in this context, is that use of these pronouns makes women invisible.

Interestingly, large numbers of people have come to use officially ungrammatical plural pronouns like they, their, and them to avoid this problem.
(2) a. Any person who passes the final will get a passing grade, won't they?
b. Any person who gets hit by another person should hit them back
c. Any person who gives some of their money to the poor should receive
some sort of commendation.
I suspect cases like (2) arise in part out of a desire to be politically correct by avoiding use the masculine form and in part in an effort to simplify their speech by avoiding the cumbersome locutions he or she, him or her and his or her. Anyone who writes for publication faces this problem. I adopted two different solutions - one was to use the cumbersome compound phrases and the other was to use masculine and feminine pronouns in some sort of random order. Neither is satisfactory. The correct solution in my opinion is to go with the man on the street's solution and use they and their despite how old school grammarians may feel about it.

I wonder how many of you noticed my use of the man in the last sentence of the last paragraph? I suspect that many of you will not have even though use of sexist masculine pronouns was the topic of discussion. In using this phrase, I too spoke as if women didn't exist. The invisibility of women is also fostered by words like mankind and chairman and fireman, such other terms that refer to humans generally with words with male referents. Those hoping to be PC might say the person on the street's solution or humankind, or chairperson or firefighter . In using these male oriented terms we not only treat females as invisible we also see males as being the normative sex.

Many of our terms for vocations establish males as the normative sex. Many of us use doctor when referring to male doctors and woman doctor when referring to female doctors. In other cases, the fact that males are the norm is shown by the existence of separate terms for males and females, the latter always being longer thanks to the addition of a suffix. So we have actor and actress, prince and princess, Jew and and Jewess, lion and lioness, etc. Interestingly, it is said on a Wikipedia entry that
"Jewess" was sometimes used for Jewish women. This word, like "Negress" is now at best an archaism, and is generally taken as an insult. However, some modern Jewish women have reclaimed the term Jewess and use it proudly
If you listen carefully to how female actors talk, many insist on referring to themselves as actors, not actresses because they know that actress has less status associated with it because it is restricted in its reference to women and in this society, in general, women have less status than men. So, even when women are not made invisible by our general terms for referring to people, they are frequently referred to using lower status forms.

There are numerous other ways in which male dominance is codified in the language. Letters are addressed to Mr and Mrs Jones but never (or almost never) to Mrs and Mr Jones. A locution that establishes not just male dominance but the subservience of women to men occurs in the old fashioned but still used phrase I pronounce you man and wife.This is both a bizarre expression -- how do you go about pronouncing someone to be a man? -- and establishes the woman in the subservient role of wife. There is an easy way to improve the language of wedding vows. One may simply use husband and wife. Notice though how odd sounding I pronounce you wife and husband is. The man must always come first.

There are various instances in which linguistic distinctions tend to mask the marital status of men but not women. The most obvious is the distinction between Mr, which is used for married and single men, vs. Mrs, which is used only for women who are married (or were married, as with widows), and Miss, which is used for women who are unmarried. The women's liberation movement tried to establish Ms as the equivalent to Mr but that has failed Another way in which males are treated differently from women is that bachelor refers to males who are single and who may or may not be divorced. We have divorcee for single women who were previously married and no one word term for single women who have never been married. The contrast between bachelor and the highly pejorative term spinster, used to refer to persons who have never married, makes clear that a woman who has not been married, i. e., the object of serious male attention, is a lesser being than a male who "chooses" not to be married.
(To be continued.)

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Blogger Tracy Lynn said...

It never fails. I stop by on a whim and find myself being forced to think.
Thanks, Mike.

1:16 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Thank you. That would be my goal.

1:46 PM

Blogger Larry Kollar said...

Maybe since I'm a technical writer, I'm already sensitized to the issue. Just throwing a couple of random thoughts out...

A lot of the words and phrases you use as examples are already becoming obsolescent: spinster has become single (woman, if a gender distinction must be made), for example. The phrase man on the street has largely been replaced by Joe Sixpack, which is still male-assumptive but is semi-perjorative and perhaps women would prefer not to be included... although I *have* seen Joe & Jane Sixpack used as well. For Ms, I don't agree that it has failed... unless you count "failure" as "anything less than complete replacement." Our wedding vows said, "husband and wife," and that was 20 years ago.

As far as domination goes, that's certainly a function of the relative alpha/non-alpha tendencies of each partner in a relationship. If my wife is Type A and I'm Type B, who is going to be the dominant partner?

4:28 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Personally, I don't see the big deal. I love men & I love being a woman. If some words are unfairly gender biased, big deal.
Shockingly, I even like the idea of GOD being male.(I'm not religious, just like the idea of a perfect father).
There are only two choices here, male or female. It's got to be one or the other, example:
"I pronounce you husband & wife."
What's the diff.? Esp. when you are getting married.
Your term, 'spinster' is archaic, anyway. & we need a new word to fit the reality. I believe 'spinster' when the word was used mostly referred to maiden women, Old virgins.
Are unmarried older women virgins? I wonder.
If we could completely de-gender(?) language it would lose its flavor.
Language pretty much evolves on its own, anyway.

5:44 PM

Blogger Jan said...

Upfront I'd like to ask you to excuse my faulty non-native English. I am a (mainly) German speaker.

It seems this discussion has been had quite a bit earlier here and so this comment might serve as something like a look in the future. A not so bright one, I may add with a bias.

Just as English German also falls back to the male form in plural. So when political correctness was asked one would resort to say something like "Liebe Bürger und Bürgerinnen, ...", which translates to something like "Dear citizens and (in German this exists in most of the cases) citizenettes,...". Which, together with the tendency to lengthy words, that German suffers, makes things not easy for the speaker.

So the next idea was to create a symbol like shorthand which would look like "BürgerInnen", which except for the major I in the middle just looks like the female form. Whether this is intended to read aloud as "Bürger und Bürgerinnen ", or not, to the reader without a PC implant in his or her (;-)) brain it still reads as "Bürgerinnen", the female form.
As opposed to the male form, "Bürgerinnen" is a conjunction of the base form "Bürger" and the female extension "in", or in plural "innen". While historically "Bürger" was understood to be either masculine or encompassing both sexes, "Bürgerin" by definition can only be female (because of this suffix). So this leads to the outcome that texts, written in this style seem to exclude me as a male, while the exclusion was felt very little by women before the style change - where it also could be easily avoided anyway by adapting your phrase to the situation and saying something along the lines of: "Any person who gets hit by another person should simply hit back".

I don't know how English ears react to "Any person who gets hit by another person should hit them back". In German things like this would make ones ears fall off. But maybe we are just lucky that "Person" is female and as such safes us from being politically incorrect.

8:39 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am driven crazy by the use of "woman" as an adjective. As in "woman judge" or "woman reader." I see it all the time. And yet, no one would ever say or write "man judge" or "man reader." If the person's sex is important, the person should be referred to as female or male.

Thanks for letting me vent.

9:33 PM

Blogger Christabel said...

Thanks for such an insightful and compassionate post. I particularly like the comparison between men making 'exceptions' (how tragic that disrespect should be the norm and not the exception!) for their wives and daughters and ethnocentric people doing a similar thing for other races. Again, thanks for your thought-provoking words.

11:07 PM

Blogger Accidental Fame Junkie said...

A study of linguistics and the language has made me super sensitive to such lingusitic partiality. I try and made speak PC language in my day to day life as far as possible. And even in my blog. And when I write my name, it's always preceded by "Ms" not "Miss" even though by status I'm not yet married.

I have a question: of late I have noticed that saying that I am single indicated that I am not only without a husband but also a boyfriend. (I am talking from the point of view of a woman.) This means if I say "I am not single anymore", most people have assumed that I have a boyfriend rather than a husband. If this is the scenario, how should I indicate a status where I am not married but have a boyfriend. I can't be "single" or "married" either! I have made use of "unmarried." But it makes me sound incomplete. (Or something akin to the archiac "honorable woman.")

11:57 PM

Blogger Girliedydy said...

I have been reading your page for quite sometime and have become very fascinated with how I speak to people. I never knew how powerful a simple word such as "date rape" had such meaning with in it. I enjoy reading the page because it makes me more aware of myself and the world around me through my words which makes me think, an ability I thought was lost.

Thank you!!!

12:24 AM

Blogger Mrs. Geezerette said...

Fascinating subject, LG.

What about the expression "Ladies and Gentlemen"? Or the salutation in a letter "Dear Mom and Dad"? I would think that few people write "Dear Dad and Mom". Are these courtesies extended to the woman? Or are they an indication that in certain circumstances the woman enjoys a higher status than the man.

In our culture it is polite to allow the woman to enter a room before the man unless there is a perceived danger in which case the man goes first. In a lifeboat situation, women and children go first. Is this about dominance? Or about protectiveness? Is there a connection between the two?

Why are boats, planes, buildings, cities, countries etc. referred to as females?

In the past anyway, a girl was called a tomboy if she acted like a boy. A boy was called a sissy if he acted like a girl. Boys were supposed to be like Tarzan. Girls were supposed to be like Jane. Tarzan always protected Jane at least in the movies.

My father "wore the pants" in our family. Mother used to say to my sister and me, "Your father is the boss." He was the boss unless my mother got mad. Then he wasn't the boss anymore.

In ballroom dancing, the man always leads. Why? Is this just another way for men to dominate women? ;-)

Is it possible that hormones are the root cause of this male/female dilemma?

12:40 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd just like to thank you for writing my favorite blog. This really is one of the best blogs I've ever read. You discuss such interesting topics seriously and rationally. Thank you!

12:54 AM

Blogger Mimi said...

Don't discount the importance of the almost universal depiction of women in the domestic role. Some time ago, I based a paper and presentation on a survey I sent to female university employees (faculty and other staff). It concerned how domestic chores were divided, before and after they started working outside the home. Not too surprisingly, most women reported that they continued to do the lion's share of housework and childcare, whether they hold jobs or not. The eye-openers came in the comments, which included "I'm lucky in that my husband likes to cook." Can you imagine that sentence with genders reversed? A surprising number of comments supported the idea that "women's work" was almost divinely ordained or, at least, biologically determined. When one sex is shown so relentlessly (on television, in particular) in a subservient role, how can true equality exist?

6:12 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

farfetched, you are right that spinster is archaic but using single to refer to an 80 year old never married woman seems very silly. But, you are quite wrong when you say "The phrase man on the street has largely been replaced by Joe Sixpack" and you partially missed the point of the example. First man on the street is not pejorative whereas Joe Sixpack is. An alternative to man on the street would be average person. But, as I said, you miss the point that I wanted to trap people into passing over man on the street without realizing that it was sexist.

l>t, you remind me of a female student I once had who got very angry about what I was saying on this topic. She, like everyone else, got the assignment to examine their home town paper for instances of differential treatment of women. After actually thinking about the subject due to this investigation, she got pissed off at the society for its sexist behavior. Maybe if you actually think about this topic and investigate it, you too will see the point.

susieq, you anticipate the second installment of this blog. You are right about Dear Mom and Dad. I suspect that when kids call home, if Dad answers, he asks if the kid wants to talk to "Mom." Certainly our daughter usually wants to talk to my wife, not me. This reversal from the normal practice is very interesting.

accidental fame junkie, you raise an interesting point. When pc language comes in it can have unexpected consequences. When Ms came in, after awhile, with many, it began to be contrasted with Miss, which is to say that many people were determined to keep the old married-unmarried distinction no matter how the language was manipulated. I believe that I am single will mean to most that one is completely unattached requiring some sort of clarification but I have a boyfriend/am in a committed relationship etc. or I am engaged. It ought to mean just "unmarried" but it doesn't seem to be interpreted that way.

9:19 AM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

I was writing a comment, and discovered that it was becoming way too long. It suffices to say that I am for the most part in agreement with everyone here, but I'm going to lean toward agreeing with SusieQ a bit more. Maybe I'm old fashioned.
Anyway, you can read my response here, and it may question what many assume as true.

Oh, and jj, the insight into the German language was very interesting.

9:47 AM

Blogger Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

"My question is where are these concepts of "male dominance" and "the female as commodity" learned."

The answer is, early and in the home. My niece and nephew are a perfect example-- he's two years younger but just as big, and basically runs roughshod over her, takes her toys and won't give them back, etc. When she says "No!", her parents laugh and think it's cute. So right up front, he's learned that it's ok to ignore "No!" when a girl says it, and she's learned that her "No!" is meaningless.

I do agree with farfetched about the use of Ms: although Miss and Mrs. have not gone away, Ms. is now regarded as a standard option, and very few official pieces of paperwork are seen without it.

Re spinster: It wasn't always a pejorative. "Spinster" used to mean literally "a woman who spun", who were often (but not always) unmarried women. Such women were actually looked up to, because their spinning was a substantial cottage industry and made money for the family.

10:59 AM

Blogger jo_jo said...

I'm so glad to see the point made in your post, LG, was that men can always use Mr but women are required to advertise their marital status by their personal pronoun. It drives me nuts! It's like instantly saying, "Hey, I'm available/not available as a sexual partner! Base your response to me on that fact!"

Ms is a nice compromise, but to certain (older) members of my family it still means a certain type of woman. They still refer to me as Mrs. *, despite my divorce. They are uncomfortable with drawing attention to my lack of a husband, even though I live with my new partner. It's hilarious, and tragic. I continue to insist on Ms, because I don't equate my personal worth with my sexual history, and neither should anyone else.

12:13 PM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

In reality, doesn't the term "Ms." connote "a certain type of woman."

The question is, then, your personal evaluation of that type of person.

What I find odd, however, is that your family members refer to you as "Mrs. *" rather than by your first name. That sounds very cold and ugly of them. I've never referred to anyone in my extended family as "Mr." or "Miss" or "Mrs." and certainly not as "Ms."
Well, except for my dogs, whom I affectionately refer to as "Mr. Monsterman" or "Mr. Monkeyhead" or other weird things that occasionally pop into my head.

1:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like old-fashioned ways. I like women who enjoy being women and accept their place in society. If they're so concerned about how they are addressed they maybe they are just egoists with self-esteem issues. My wife didn't want to take my name. Whatever. I don't care because I'm not an egoist. Sure their are a few women who outshine men, but, in general, men are superior both physically and intellectually. It's a man's world. Maybe you might think I'm a chauvanistic pig for saying such things, but, you know it's true.

2:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another word that has creeped into our language is the word "Guys". Everyone nowadays is a guy. A group of men and women are addressed as "guys". A group of women is addressed as "guys" (even by another woman). A man and wife out for dinner are addressed as "guys". My wife said I lost this battle years ago but I still cringe when I hear the word "guys" used to refer to those other than men.

5:49 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

L.Guy I tried to read the newspaper like you said but, I got stuck on these;
Nov.28, someone reported that a subject forced his way into his home, threatened him and slammed a door on his dog's head.
Nov.28, a female wrapped in a blanket was reported screaming outside a residence in the 200 block of third street.
I guess I'm more concerned about who did what to whom then gender bias in the local paper.
I will keep working on it, tho.

7:58 PM

Blogger jo_jo said...

LOL, Kelly, I meant a "certain type of woman" as a perjorative term, but I get your point.

They only use Mrs.* when they address letters. It's some strange thing about official names, I suppose.


9:09 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

P.S. the tyrant is home after 10 hrs. of 'work'. I must go cook his dinner.

9:10 PM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

Anonymous said (gotta love the anonymous ones!):

I like old-fashioned ways. I like women who enjoy being women and accept their place in society. If they're so concerned about how they are addressed they maybe they are just egoists with self-esteem issues. My wife didn't want to take my name. Whatever. I don't care because I'm not an egoist. Sure their are a few women who outshine men, but, in general, men are superior both physically and intellectually. It's a man's world. Maybe you might think I'm a chauvanistic pig for saying such things, but, you know it's true.

ironically, nowadays, that is, that which is not the past or some fantasy world conjured up by stubborn closed mindedness--women score higher on overall academic ability in standardized testing--men still take the science and math, however, generally, women are more intelligent...go figure...

congrats to the women for reaching a crescendo, for diligently busting ass for 50 years to undo the conditioning perpetuated by men throughout human existence...

in the past, of course women did worse, look at the beginnings of our country's public school system: three years of academia for boys and three years of learning household chores for women; that's right my puppies, when public education was first implemented in America, women's education was composed of how to take care of the studious men...does this really surprise anyone???

how can any moron ever conclude that the state of affairs today IS NOT a product of OTHER PEOPLE'S self-centered exploitation and manipulation of people and environments...

rational self interest? ring a bell anyone?

it's a convenient excuse that justifies every MAN'S "god given" right to seek domination over, not just women and children, but land and resources; and, of course, it has always been in MAN'S rational self interest to claim that "god" has given him this right-after all, who would question god?

i question god..no...more accurately, i question any narcissistic a$$hole who uses god to justify his MANLY belief that he is superior to anyone...

i can't wait 'til our economy crashes so we can have a real survival of the fittest environment...

i'm by no means physically gifted, but i anxiously await the day when all the fools in this great land finally tip it over the edge, cuz, when it comes to anarchy--i guarantee the social order that we see now, will never be the same....

i'm in a mood again, so, take it as it is...

peace n whatnot,

live well,

and love,


10:05 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

I think Jo_Jo is not talking about her family's referring directly to her as Mrs. X but in refering to her in talking with others.

7:30 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Dammit, L. Guy, do you think that after 45+ years I don't have a clue? give me some points for wisdom. I've been married for 20 years & have raised 3 children. All alive & none in prison.
I have always thot that 'Ms' was an attempt to erase the double standard, as is the ongoing debate, but it's never anuff.
My solution is to say, "Big deal."
BTW, I also like the idea that the things 'men' operate like boats, planes, cars, etc... are called she. It is a compliment in my humble opinion.
I love my men. I love their testoserone.
Girls, when you are young & controlled by your hormones, don't think that men can totally control you. You, are just as much, controlling them. Yes, they are physically more powerful but we have something they want, it all starts out as lust but can turn into something better.(well, lust is pretty awesome. Enjoy lust while you can) But, any good relationship involves true love, which involves sacrifice. If you are going to fight over words, then you are sunk.
Language Guy, you are the word man, what is your solution?

11:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sean, there you go with the God talk again. Can't you just leave God alone even for a little while? Why do you have to bring God into everything you talk about? I understand you have issues with God, but, please, you need to get over it. Ironically you end your "anarchy and economic crash" rant with peace and love. You gotta love that people. If anything, people, this guy Sean is a never ending source of entertainment (at least for me). BTW, I posted that anonymous comment.

12:09 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Don't pick on Sean, at least he's not hiding behind anonymity, like some people.
Opps, sorry L.Guy, am i doing it again?

1:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least, but maybe I just don't give a flying f*@&. Get a life.

2:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

First a very minor factual correction... you said that when there are separate terms like actor and actress, the female term is always longer. Not quite true. Great trivia question, what's the one exception? Well, it's a scenario where the norm is for the person to be female: outliving your spouse. Thus we have "widow" and "widower", with the longer, modified version being the male version.

FWIW, I'm female and recently married, and I now use his last name. It doesn't bother me to receive mail addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. HisLastName", though I see your point about how odd it would be to reverse "Mrs. and Mr." (Though I have seen "Dr. and Mr." for other couples I know where the wife's an M.D. or D.D.S.) What drives me up a wall is receiving mail that's JUST FOR ME (e.g. birthday card) addressed to "Mrs. HisFirst HisLast". This came from an older relative and when I griped to my mom, her response was "They mean well. They're trying to be polite. It shows that they're happy for you." There's two things wrong there: one is the assumption that marriage equals the wife's complete absorption into the husband's identity, and two is the assumption that, if #1 were true, it would be something to celebrate. I find the implications pretty scary.

6:02 PM

Blogger Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

Most recent anonymous: I agree with you about "Mrs. HisFirst HisLast", but it was standard usage at one time and your older relative probably didn't think anything of it. Now the question: do you ride with it, or try to administer tactful correction?

My husband and I use different last names. His father-in-law addresses letters to him with his last name-- and addresses letters to me with a hyphenated combo. *sigh* I'm not going to fuss at him about it...

7:03 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Get a life? what does that mean? In what context? Do you mean get a life like yours?

10:30 PM

Blogger demondoll said...

I have noticed that some women- of varying ages- prefer Miss over Ms. simply because to them it suggests youth. Which is another sexism issue...
Thank you (again)for the informative posts- I enjoy them, as well as the comments.

12:27 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

widow vs widower is a great example. Actually I should know better than to use universal quantifiers in making claims about language. There are almost always a counterexample or two lurking about. I think you are right whomever you are that the difference between this pair and the pair I cited is that living longer is the norm. It would be interesting to know when widow and widower came into the language.

9:54 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

L. Guy, i have noticed the worst abuses, not, in the paper, but television. Now, there's a hot bed of sexism. Esp. advertising, music & sit-coms. Well, generally, every where on the tube.
I tend to dimiss the paper because it is factual rather then emotional like Television. You might enjoy the irony of this quote(not about television, but seems pertinent to me):
"And so each venture
is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion." T.S.ELIOT (from Four Quartets, East Coker,V)

10:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

L.Guy, first of all, I admire your ability to inspire so many, including myself, to comment on your subject matter. Secondly, being that this is your forum, I am not contrite for my opinion but I apologize once again for my outburst toward your cohorts. If I am not seeking your or any others attention, I feel that an anonymous comment is fine. If I am seeking a comment, then I'll leave my name without having to try to advertise my blog each and every time I do. (Ex. "I have too much to say and I'm long-winded so you can read my response at my blog" *hint* *hint*) Personally, I find 95% of the blogs I've seen to be pretty boring. And I find some peoples opinion to be rather boring too. Thanks.

Now for some other points...J_G (that's how I'll address you), if you had truly paid as close attention to details as you profess to do, then you would have addressed me in your comment and not Sean. Maybe you are one of those that, in fact, do outshine men. I don't know.
And LT, I don't think you can handle a life like mine because then you would have to face truth about many things. I would venture to guess that you have to throw a comment on everybody's blog just to attract attention to yourself and your many blogs. Well, I guess it works for you. Anyway, I'll refrain from talking with you anymore. BTW, I don't think Sean needs you to hold his huevos for him.

As for elaborating my point, if you watch Jeopardy, who is always winning most of the time. Are these questions gender biased or general knowledge? Who is usually there with a couple thousand points and a stupid look on their face? Of course in all fairness there always has to be 2 men and 1 woman. And why aren't female comics as witty and funny? Maybe men don't understand their humor? Personally, I hardly ever laugh at a woman comic. There are a couple funny ones, but really, the men are just funnier for some reason or another. Who really knows why? Hate me for my opinion if you want, but you need my opinion too. Otherwise, this would be just another boring blog.

1:31 PM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

Just a kwik reply to pf's comment, "I understand you have issues with God, but, please, you need to get over it. Ironically you end your "anarchy and economic crash" rant with peace and love. You gotta love that people. If anything, people, this guy Sean is a never ending source of entertainment (at least for me)."
i speak of god a lot because 90% of the world structures their mental picture of reality upon the idea that god created reality.

most of those who believe god created reality use and obey different types of rulebooks. rulebooks (bible, quran, torah) which instruct individuals on how to behave in this reality, and what to think of this reality, how to perceive this reality...

on a psychological level, this has much more profound consequences than we usually dare to imagine or speak of, therefore, i bring it up a lot...we take for granted, every day, the fact that our thinking affects every thing around us, every other being...we are often not aware of the consequences each choice we make has on the lives of other people, if 90% of the world makes their choices according to how god would want them to live--there's probably going to be about 90% of the world which operates, on some leve, according to god's will, and not mine, not yours, but his<<--notice...his...

i brought up religion in replying to LG's post because it is religion...the concept of god...that has reinforced the male dominance idea more than any institution or social revolution throughout all of history, on a psychological level, of course...

i'm glad you find my posts a source of entertainment, at least you can laugh at the diversity in the world, that's quack-tastic...

the "contradiction" you perceive, between the fact that i believe we are doomed for economic and social collapse, and the fact that i end my posts with "peace n love n whatnot," has absolutely no logical connection, whatsoever...

i'm an optimistic realist, which is hard to be, trust me...

i'm also, in most areas, a minimalist of sorts...i make due with what i have, read a lot, eat a little, sleep a little, drink a little, smoke a little, work a little, fuck a little--and, mostly, as my chosen purpose, i choose to help promote the act of thinking--as was pointed out in a much earlier post by, i think, frida, sometimes ya gotta poke people with a stick, and i have to admit, i own a stick; as frida said, i own a really big stick (no lie).

; P

i'm also a very giving person, a very kind and fun person when i'm out and about, i'm content with nothing...genuinely happy...

perhaps i don't have faith like religious people do; but, i can tell you this much--i define love as action, love, i believe, is best expressed through action, but the essence of love lies in the intentions of the (LOL) "thespian." (<<<---how's that for political correctness and gender neutrality???)

in that sense, i'm proud to say that in my actions with people, all my ideas and behavior is borne out of a genuine appreciation and a gratitude for existence in all its splendor, in a word, out of love--

that doesn't mean that i cannot conclude that all these unloving a$$holes i see are going to be responsible for their own demise.

you're gonna die

so am i

it happens to everyone, so

get over youself--it's the best thing i ever did...

peace n whatnot,


2:13 PM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

i don't normally do this, but i had to correct something i KNOW would drive LG nutz (ok, i don't know, but i believe):

""all my ideas and behaviors are borne out""


2:18 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Well, I am also glad to be a woman in the U.S. better then some, worse off then others. A land where we can make a big deal whether it's MS or MRS, or DIVORCEE, without getting our heads chopped off.
And if you males don't like it, too damn bad.

10:20 PM

Blogger Mrs. Geezerette said...

It turns out that history is teeming with sexist pigs: Plato; Aristotle; Martin Luther; Shakespeare; Rousseau; Thomas Jefferson; Sigmund Freud; Carl Jung; Winston Churchill; Benjamin Spock; and the list goes on.

But the one that really caught my eye was Charles Darwin. From Charlie's own lips: "Man is more courageous, pugnacious, and energetic than woman, and has a more inventive genius."

I am forced to call into question his other theories now.

But I like the attitude of one Sojourner Truth (1797-1883). Ms. Truth was born into slavery. She escaped from her master and found freedom in New York. She went on to become an abolitionist and then an advocate of women's rights. She was illiterate all her life.

This is what Ms. Truth said: "If women want any rights more'n they got, why don't they just take 'em, and not be talkin' about it." I think we could apply that to sexism as well.

12:25 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Alright, what is the etiquette about answering smartass anon. entity like pf?
(I would invite him to my blog but i don't accept anon. comments.)

L. Guy I don't want to get nasty on your blog, so I'll have to think of a politically correct way to reason w/him. Do I say, I won't talk to you anymore? After I insult him? or before?

1:05 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

l>t, you are quite right about advertising being sexist. When I was doing my research on children's advertising, if there was a little "skit", a White boy was always the leader and both girls and Black kids were relegated to supporting roles.

One kind of counterexample to your view is that males were often represented as stupid relative to their wifes in regard to OTC drugs, and a few other things. I think the idea was that women would be the buyers of the product so they were pumped up. Having said that one almost never heard a female voice over. I believe that has changed but I Tivo fast forward through commercials and have little idea what is going on now in adult advertising, and no idea at all about children's advertising.

7:14 AM

Blogger Footprint said...

The following are links to the story you are referring to:

Ohion.com, NBC 4 Ohio,

12:19 PM

Blogger protected static said...

When my wife & I got married, we had the invitations addressed by how we knew the couple - in the case of hetero. couples, if we primarily knew the woman (but not the man), we addressed it with the woman's name first.

I was surprised how many people that were given fits by that decision...

And thinking about it now, when we knew both ppl. equally, we probably put the man's name first more often than not - it wasn't 100% of the time, but it was far more often than we probably realized.

Interesting blog you've got here... I don't stop by nearly often enough.

5:42 PM

Blogger Mark said...

"He" when used as an indeterminate pronoun sounds odd to me, and always has, whilst "they" sounds perfectly normal. I do not use it to avoid saying "he", it's part of my natural speech.

I'm 21 years old and British, to give some reference points.

6:50 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

yes, you are right about the OTC drug commercials! I never noticed that.
But, advertising is finely tuned to what appeals to both sexes, & age groups of males & females. Prehaps we should look at the commercials geared to the very youngest. The cartoon crowd.
My grandchildren age 4 & 6. They will be here this week-end & they will want me to look at t.v. commercials that tell them what they want for Christmas. I will pay close attention & report soon.

12:09 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Of course you said you did research on childrens advertising, so you already know way more about it, but, I am interested now, for myself.

12:13 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The dictionary is baised against women on many of its pages. Try to find a feminine counterpart for "avuncular"! Apparently, you can be a kindly uncle, but not a kindly aunt. Likewise, you can't find a masculine counterpart to "virago" or "harridan".

1:39 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

I notice that advertising for boys uses strong colors. Red, earth colors, green, black & the male voice is strong, forceful.
For little girls pink, yellow, light blue & female singing, also male voice overs, but not harsh, more daddy's girl type.
How much is our own perception & how much is our falling into advertising scheme?

10:36 PM

Blogger Mrs. Geezerette said...

Male nurse! It is the one profession I can readily think of that we sometimes feel it necessary to modify with the word male but never with the word female.

Another possibility is beautician.

11:43 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

How about, 'stay at home dad'.

12:47 AM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

According to this construct, the subverted group is robbed of the type of power required to oppress those who are part of the dominante group (the oppressors - remember, this systematic structure didn't happen all on its own). Therefore, men cannot ever be vicitms of sexism.
the above DOES NOT mean that it is a perfectly logical construct--in fact, it's a rather shallow construct when you take into account different gradations of values/behavior--yes, i understand this is an effort to create a stereotypical model; however, it hardly seems logical to fight stereotypes with a stereotypical model, therefore, men can be the victims of sexism and your conclusions are inherently flawed.

consider who is going to be treated, generally, better:

1. any random, long blond-haired, curvy female with equal traits masculine and feminine....or

2. any random, long blond-haired, curvy male with equal traits masculine and feminine...

i ask because i fall into category 2, personally, and have had my life threatened by some of the most extreme examples of "masculine" men all because they concluded, based on my appearance, that i was homosexual....OR

consider the fact that i'm not seen as a "man" because i'm not muscle bound, i'm scrawny....

consider the fact that most women are still blindly adhering to this "structure" you refer to, in other words, they foolishly, and much to their detriment, favor the stereotypical man you rail against, which basically means i can be prejudged by most women too...

i appreciate your efforts and whatnot, in reality, we fight for the same thing, that being, "the removal of power from our social construct."

however, the next time you claim that men are not the targets of sexism, consider at least two portions of the populations:

1. homosexual males

2. heterosexual males who don't conform to the traditional "male" stereotype (long blonde haired types like me who look better than most women on halloween when we dress like voluptuous whores!!!)


peace n whatnot,


9:32 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

I have to agree with you sean. I see women rail against men all the time w/out any backlash. I'm not talking about gay men, but men in general. But, not all women are like that. Some of us appreciate men. It does not matter who anyone is gender or race wise, there is prejudice against them. We all like to point at the prejudice against us, forgetting or own against others.

11:47 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Thinking Girl, when you say, "I'd like to suggest taking this a step further" in your last substantive paragraph you reveal that you don't read very carefully. I said, precisely what you said in that paragraph when I wrote, "In using these male oriented terms we not only treat females as invisible we also see males as being the normative sex." How is that different from what you say de Beauvoir said?

The radical feminist creed you parrot is no different in principle from dogmatic, doctrinaire leftist, rightist, and other ideologues who decide to settle on a one-sided picture of the world and declare it to be the whole picture, deluding themselves without having much impact on the rest of society. Where in all of your rhetoric is you? I see Marilyn Frye and de Beauvoir. I would think a "thinking girl" would be an independent thinker, not one who slavishly cites the views of others.

The idea that men cannot be the victims of sexism is silly -- just as silly as saying that whites cannot be the victims of racism, the parallel position from the doctrinaire race police. In the early '60s, I had Jewish friends who stood no chance of working for gentile-dominated companies in Houston, but also had a gentile friend who stood no chance of getting a job from a Jewish-dominated company in New York. Gentiles can be the vicim of prejudice, as can men and whites though there is no doubt that Jews, women, and Blacks get the bulk of it.

Men are easy victims of false charges of rape. I had a pledge brother at the University of Oklahoma whose date went around the back of his car before going into her house (to write down his license number he later decided). He was arrested for rape later that night. The cops dropped the charge when she ran off with two male military guys proving that any evidence she would give in court would be easily defeated. The girl needed a cover story for coming in much later than her parents liked and so served my friend up as her excuse. I don't know how often this sort of thing happens but I would say this was an instance of victimization of a male by a woman. Hence a sexist action.

8:37 AM

Blogger Pierre Tristam said...

Your piece was cited on our Monday Morning Bloggerback segment at Candide's Notebooks: www.pierretristam.com

9:02 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Well, my grandaughter-4 wants every girl toy advertised. She is mesmerized by every commercial that advertises anything for girls her age. Ditto w/the grandson-6, He wants every boy gadget on the tube, even tho the one he had to have last year, did NOT work at all like on T.V. & he was very dissapointed. We had a disscusion about it, even. Apparently, when the commercials come on, logic goes out the window.
I know we are discussing serious things here.so, that is all I'll say on the subject.
Except, I do believe that childrens advertising reinforces the gender roles accepted by the majority of Americans.
In our own family we encourage the little girls to identify with the females. We want them to appreciate pretty things like we do(1 example) & the little boys to identify w/the older males. To eppreciate the new Truck, for example. It is part of our bonding w/them.
The problem comes in when we reinforce bad behaviors, like intolorence for ours, disrespect for the other sex, abuse of resources, etc...

You are right that this stuff (Lousy word, but I'm in a hurry) is very important & is a big deal. If only to keep it in the forefront of our minds when we are setting examples for young children.

9:47 AM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

the topic is sexism...

sexism is a form of discrimination...

discrimination is the act of unjustly showing favor or preference, usually based on a "pre" judged conclusion... it is the act of forming a judgment, an opinion, as though it were knowledge, without actually having any factual, rational reason for forming that judgment...

already, we can see the many different ways that discrimination can be perpetuated via the act of jumping to conclusions, which, every human does in their own little way, in their own little head, based on the loose definitions they choose to depict the world with...

being that sexism describes discrimination based on sex, albeit we generally think of sexism as an injustice done unto women, in reality (because everyone THINKS, their reality is slightly different), ANY type of judgment regarding a person based on OPINIONS of what a man or woman SHOULD be, is sexism...

i'll repeat that:

ANY type of judgment regarding a person based on OPINIONS of what a man or woman SHOULD be, is sexism...

i repeat it because that is exactly what is going on in the man's head when he commits a sexist act; he is making a judgment based on what he BELIEVES a woman SHOULD be, and acting in accordance with that belief...

the same man, no doubt, has, in his head, ideas of what a man SHOULD be, and, would, no doubt, be more than willing to make more false judgments without reliable information upon MEN who do not fit his idea of what MEN should be...obviously, if he's not willing to hire a woman for the job simply based on her sex, he's going to be willing to discount potential MALE employees because they don't fit his idea of what a MAN should be, after all, he didn't hire the WOMAN because she wasn't what he thinks a MAN should be...

the biggest difference?

he KNOWS the woman has a vagina.

he BELIEVES the man does; and if he doesn't believe his male target of sexism has a vagina, he assumes that the candidate will act or behave as though he has one...

the point is, thinking girl, whether you BELIEVE it or not, sexism applies to both male and female...

the term sexism is a word that was developed, no doubt, to more accurately define FORMS of discrimination---

so, unless you'd like to suggest a new word (which i'm not opposed to) that more accurately defines various FORMS of sexism, then

i'm a victim of sexism too, damnit,

now give me my money!!!!


peace n whatnot,


11:38 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Sexism is not in the big dictionary (Webster New 20th Centaury, 2nd edition 1966) But, is in my Readers Digest Encyclopedic Dictionary defined as:

sexism 1.Discrimination based on sex; esp. prejudice against the female sex. 2. Any abitrary stereo-typing of males & females on the bases of their gender.

When in doubt, use the dictionary.

11:31 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Artist: Beastie Boys
Album: Liscened To Ill
Title: Girls

Girls - all I really want is girls
And in the morning it's girls
Cause in the evening it's girls
I like the way that they walk
And it's chill to hear them talk
And I can always make them smile
From White Castle to the Nile
Back in the day
There was this girl around the way
She liked by home-piece M.C.A.
He said he would not give her play
I asked him, "Please?" - he said, "You may."
Her pants were tight and that's ok
If she would dance - I would D.J.
We took a walk down to the bay
I hope she'll say, "Hey me and you should hit the hay!"
I asked her out - she said, "No way!"
So I broke North with no delay
I heard she moved real far away
That was two years ago this May
I seen her just the other day
Jockin' Mike D. to my dismay
Girls - to do the dishes
Girls - to clean up my room
Girls - to do the laundry
Girls - and in the bathroom
Girls - that's all I really want is girls
Two at a time - I want girls
With new wave hairdos - I want girls
I ought to whip out my - girls, girls, girls, girls, girls!

6:27 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

This conversation is deteriorating.
We all know what sexism & racism are, by now.
How about when it involves opression? This is the issue right?

9:46 AM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

ahhh...yes my dear Dancing Crow....it is because of mistreatment that i have developed a strong personality....

and, unfortunately, i could be wrong here, but i think that my strong personality is at least one of the causes of the mistreatment...

as i stated earlier, my physical appearance is one that seems to cause people to assume that i'm some type of "girly-man," some type of "harmless, pretty boy," and i believe people are taken aback when we actually start to talk and share ideas and experiences(hence the reason i conclude that most people make way too many quick judgments based solely on appearance)...

it seems like people expect me to be a person they've created in their mind, which, happens to look something like me--and, when they find out i'm absolutely nothing like they expected, they vehemently reject and oppress anything they disagree with...

this particularly sux in the employment arena...one story, then i'll stop this lengthy post:

i have over 10 years of customer service experience in telemarketing, in-home, business to business, retail, and other forms of sales--not just experience, but a proven track record of success that includes multiple awards and multiple jobs where i reached the top of the sales board---

one of the retail jobs i held for almost 2 years in madison was a cellphone accessories and service store...

about 5 months ago i went to pick up an application at a local nextel retailer here in eau claire...

when i asked for an app...i got this queer look from the well-dressed woman behind the counter that screamed "we don't hire hippies here!"

what she actually said, upon my request, before handing me an app, was,

"we're looking for someone with previous sales experience."

i smiled, and replied,

"excellent...perhaps we'll be a perfect match...sales is all i've done since i turned 13..."

she leered and fired back,

"well, we're specifically looking for people with retail cellphone experience..."

i maintained my smile and said,

"actually, the last retail position i had was for a retail cellphone company..."

she rolled her eyes and finally handed me an app,

"all i can say is apply, we've already got quite a few quality candidates and have begun interviewing; but, i guess it can't hurt to put one in..."

i thanked her and gave the cliche "have a great day" thing...

to which, she said absolutely nothing...

just turned around and walked away...

great customer service at the nextel store over on london road....what a world!!

i never got the job...



4:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that the act of men forcing their wills on women is likely more biological than linguistic in origin, and by that I mean sexual. I've found most women don't understand the strength of a man's sex drive. It is like the need to eat when very hungry; it is like the need to breath when out of breath. And it can be cumulative. The more it is frustated the stronger it becomes, to the point that it bleeds into other areas of the brain, including the parts that enforce logic and morality. Certain men who have sex drives that are overly frustrated in some way, I believe, will take that out on the object of those sex drives.

4:05 PM

Blogger Ripple said...

D. Crow,
Maybe I am excessively forward with my remarks by overstepping the bounds of peoples comfort levels, but I feel people can appreciate the opinions that I've stated. As for polite company, I feel like there is a time and place for politeness. People are too soft nowadays and look to medicine to solve all their psychological problems. That's part of the reason that the American family is falling apart. Kids are being put on Ritalin because moms and dads don't have the time to rear their children properly in such a fast paced world. I blame most of this on women because rather than accept their role as a nurturing mother, they have to forge their way into a professional life for respect and prestige and self-worth. Who knows? Their real duties and role in society as a wife and mother come in second and third and that is the real tragedy of American and European life today.

Another question is what causes the divorce rate to be up over 50%? I don't have enough time to sit here and speculate, but for some reason men have always been men and women constantly strive for change in gender roles. They want men to pitch in more around the house. I understand this. My wife doesn't want to do crap around the house. I have to cook and clean the house. She does the laundry and dishes. That is fine because she has her professional life and she is busy with that. Of course I still have to do all the male type stuff like wash the cars, repair the cars, fix and maintain the computer, move stuff like furniture and boxes around, do the electronics and wire stuff, and the list goes on. From what I see, it will be up to me to make sure that when we have kids, the kids will turn out OK because from the looks of it, she is just too busy taking care of her own life.

Also, you can read my blog too, but it has nothing to do with this stuff. It's just another boring journal. There' a good borsch recipe there that I posted.

5:20 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

I love borsch! I'll be over.
Paul you make some good points and so does anon. & so does everyone else. It is the connotation of words that we are argueing about & I see that as opinions more than any thing else.
But, I see more & more the need to keep explicit definitions clear as they were intended to be. What if Dictionarys were like Bibles? One version for this group, one version for the other group.
New words come into being as the need arises, but, to try to change the meaning of a word that exists to fit a theory or an ideal is wrong. It is like changing history. Some things have to remain constant.
This language guy is where the 'Big Deal' is.

6:53 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Hey D. Crow come to my site & dicuss 'Historical Inevitability' I'll tackle it. It's getting too crazy here. (Musings, rants & ravings)

1:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul F., this is an intelligent discussion. I don't think anyone here puts people in their care on Ritalin. That excuse for lacking politeness doesn't fit here.
You mean to explain your general outlook but everyone has their way of arguing. Your points come round anyways.

I point out gendered language to a friend who says, 'I hear you but it doesn't change the world, doesn't lead to discrimination.' I agree that words and phrases alone are not crucial but everyone should be aware of their workings.
Take this: I read a (scientific) text without knowing the author's (first) name. I don't initially think of wondering about the author's sex but I imagine a male writer. This is not very stupid regarding the overwhelming male majority in print. When the author uses gender-neutral language and doesn't qualify himself as a man or herself as a woman, I tend not to notice the text's lack of reference to gender questions. On the other hand, a woman writing would more necessarily need to apply (feminist) critical approaches.
Another reaction to a male or female author's name might be to disqualify one or the other.
To my friend I would say that an author can argue conservative and patriarchal values better when using gender-neutral terminology or such that equates human with male.

8:44 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dancing Crow, 'historical inevitability' is Marx' gift to social theory: socialism will inevitably come, it is the final social order, all other 'stages' of society are intermediary.
But! All these stages, like feudalism, capitalism, have to be passed. That becomes important when people locate post-colonial societies' stage of development in the middle-ages or for Indian Marxists' confrontation with capitalism and global trade.
This is just for cliff notes. You could read Marx on India and CAPITAL.

9:01 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi, it's the widow/widower back again. :-)

to answer tiel's question:

When I get mail that's just for me addressed to Mrs. HisFirst HisLast, I try to correct it, but gently and without making a big scene of it. (Don't want to embarrass the writer and leave them resenting "uppity feminists"!) Unfortunately this is hard since I live on the opposite coast from most of the elderly relatives, so there's no chance to just casually mention it in passing. Instead I mention it to my mom, who sees those relatives much more often, and ask her to do my dirty work for me. Fortunately she is willing and sympathetic. I originally wrote "and she understands the issue" but I think that may be overstating it; I don't think she understands *why* it bugs me so much, but she understands that it does and wants to help.

I have a first name that's not very common, but nearly always male, so I often get mail from strangers addressed to "Mr. MyName". I don't regard this as sexist. Actually I find it kind of useful: before I even open the letter, they have announced that they don't know me and probably have no good reason for contacting me, so I should walk over to the shredder as I slit the envelope.

When I'm addressing letters, I always opt for leaving off all titles and simply writing the first names (e.g. "Jamie and Pat Jones") or "The Joneses" whenever possible. It's easier to duck the entire issue. :-)

7:38 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Language is such a powerful and insidious tool - its an open question as to whether we shape it or it shapes us.

One of the comments mentions something about how people don't learn when they can't identify with something.

Imagine a more inviting English that didn't place such primacy on one gender.

Who knows how I different I might have been had English been clean of sexism? Who knows how much more any one of us could have been? How much less dominating and how much more understanding could we be? Why can anyone stand up and argue for these artifical barriers?

In research labs throughout the county we are starting to accept personalities of machines. But we are stripping away the personalities of more than 50% of all people by marginalizing them in language. Read that over again. Think about how insane that is.

This is a real problem, one that can and should be addressed.

12:21 AM

Blogger Charlie said...

Though I agree with much of what you wrote, I have to disagree with your analysis of the term "date rape." A separate term exists for date rape because at one time many people did not take seriously the idea that it was really a woman could be raped by a man she knew. The idea was to reframe the concept of rape so it was immediately obvious that women can and are raped by their dates. It could just have easily been "marital rape" or "aquaintence rape," and I'm not sure why it wasn't (in fact I prefer the last one myself). But the term isn't meant to somehow soften the concept of a rape. It was meant to heighten awareness of the fact that just because a woman consented to a date doesn't automatically imply consent to sex.

12:46 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

What about languages that use affixes to signify gender? Do people in those countries deal with this issue? Is the absence of gender in English the reason we talk about the cases where it occurs??

12:43 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

There are problems with languages that use affixes to mark gender -- not words like mother or father or sister or brother but, rather, vocation terms that have inherent gender that seem to lock out women from certain vocational choices (and men from others, I suppose). In a way, our "actor" vs "actress" is pernicious in that "actor" is seen as the default term that is used when referring to both. Although the Oscars distinguish Best Actor from Best Actress, most actresses call themselves "actors," which is the smart thing to do.

1:49 PM

Blogger c said...

This is a very interesting debate. I am surprised to see that the stud/slut dicotomy has not yet been brought into it. A man that sleeps with lots of women is a 'stud' or a 'player' but a woman who sleeps around is refered to by the much more perjorative term 'slut' or 'whore'. Interestingly the term 'whore' was orginally used to refer to either a male or a female but in today's society it has become gender specific so that the term 'man-whore' or 'man-slut' can be heard. (A little like a 'male-nurse' it seems whoring is now a gender specific occupation that must be qualified if refering to males.)
Another example of sexism in the English language can be seen if you swap the pronouns in a piece of romantic literature. It has hilarious results but also highlights the gender stereotyping in our society and language.

2:08 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Wow, did you miss the point. Nothing I can say will help.

11:04 AM

Blogger Erica said...

In your essay, you said that the use of Ms has failed. Maybe that's a regional thing... I am a high school student on the west coast and almost all of the female teachers I've ever had have used Ms instead of either Mrs or Miss. Whenever I, my mother, or my stepmother get letters, it has Ms (or nothing.) In fact, I can only think of one woman I know who uses Miss. Here, at least, Ms is very common!
I use "they" as a singular genderless pronoun and so do all of the young people I know. It always makes me mad when my English teacher tells us not to use it. It feels so natural! She tells us to switch every sentence between he and she, but I think that's so stilted and potentially confusing. However, I'm hopeful that the next generation of teachers will loosen up and not penalize their students for not wanting to go to ridiculous lengths in order to kowtow to the grammar god.

6:15 PM

Blogger About Me said...

Your opinions seem to be informed by Columbus, Ohio, and thus, rather out of touch from my point of view. First, the term "Ms." has become so widespread where I live (on the East Coast, specifically New York), that newspapers such as The New York Times use it. I have not seen "Miss" or "Mrs." in print for a good number of years. Only older (much older) women insist upon being called "Mrs."

But more seriously---and it is very serious---date rape is more than a term. Unfortunately, it is a crime, a very serious crime that used to be dismissed as a ridiculous charge, much as marital rape has been. You are right to say that rape is rape, but you are wrong to assume that all rape is taken seriously as even being rape. Language can be powerful, and using the term date rape gives credence and if you will legitimacy to what used to be dismissed.

11:07 PM


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