1. non-working MOTHERS
Chet’s father was employed in the postal service and became a middle-class, senior supervisor. Despite his dad’s relative affluence, with seven offspring to feed and educate and a wife who did not work, there were still many times in Chet’s childhood when he was hungry.
– Affluenza, by Oliver James
The second sentence above annoys me, even though it comes in the middle of a rant about materialism with which I agree, because a woman with seven children works, dammit. She doesn’t do PAID work, and she doesn’t ‘work outside the house’. Although Oliver James is arguing that women should be paid for motherhood because it’s as worthy job as any other, he does the cause no favours by employing this ‘mother doesn’t work’ language. There are genuinely people around who believe that being a mother is not a form of work, but simply a relationship. Until everyone realises that mother, particularly to very small children, is an occupation and not just a family relationship, the status of stay-at-home mothers is unlikely to improve.
Mothers, themselves, can often refer to themselves as ‘unemployed’, when in fact the true definition of ‘unemployed’ should not be extended to mothers who have a full-time job caring for the young, not unless they’re registered job seekers who hope to then employ an outsider to work in loco parentis for the day shift. (Which is not a value judgement, by the way, on mothers who choose to do just that.)
My suggestion: … with seven offspring a a wife who did not do paid work…
2. ‘OUR WIVES AND MOMS’
Stop calling us ‘wives and moms’ is from Salon, regarding President Obama’s tendency to talk to men, rather than to women directly, about their wives, mothers and daughters.
I Am Not Your Wife, Sister or Daughter. I Am A Person from Belle Jar
This article is a little different — it’s another tale of a man who gender-swapped online to prove his theory that women have it easier than men on dating sites — but the commentary is about how so very often men seem to need to experience sexism for themselves before they believe women. From FTB. I believe the language around how men sometimes talk about women — as wives, mothers, daughters — reflect how difficult it is for men to imagine what it’s like to not be a man.
3. ‘OLD LADY’ AND OTHER GENDERED WORDS USED AS INSULTS
It’s been around forever. Or at least since 1964.
“Tea used to be considered a beverage for sissies and old ladies. However, nothing could be further from the truth.” excerpted from To The Bride, 1964.
I’m sure every man here has, at least, once been called a girl as an insult. And every woman here would have overheard it. Maybe you’ve even wondered, as I have, why being a girl, or being a sissy, is such an insult. Likewise ‘old woman’.
Because girls and boys hear this message pretty much every. single. day. Adult me hears it every. single. day. Here’s yesterday’s sexism, from my Facebook feed (because you can’t choose your friend’s friends).
Call the bastards on it.
The Sissy Boy Experiment. Why yes, there was such a thing.
4. ‘FEMALE DOMINATED’ WHEN DESCRIBING PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION
Michio Kaku gave a talk called “The World in 2030” which I should have found fascinating but which I instead found infuriating, not least for his assertion that ‘The Internet is now female’. Why? Because 51% of internet users are women and girls.
This reminded me of the question ‘Why Do Female Authors Dominate YA Literature?‘ posed by The Atlantic. Answer: They don’t. Ladybusiness pointed out that if women made up 40% of any other area in life then everybody would be congratulating women for almost achieving equality.
Let’s hit ‘female dominated’ on the head in relation to anything close to 50/50. This obfuscates the unfortunate fact that women are still far, far underrepresented in almost everything important, well-paid and influential.
The Big O: Between Ellen and Everyone’s Mom, Oscar Night Turned Into Ladies Night is from a feminist website, but no, more women at the Oscars does not a ‘femme fest’ make.
5. JOURNALISTS POINTING OUT ‘ABSENCES OF GROOMING’ WHEN REFERRING TO FEMALE SUBJECTS
The Guardian recently reported on Lionel Shriver’s latest book. It’s not unusual for reporters to describe the way a subject dresses and acts, and that is true of both men and women working in creative industries, even when a photo is attached to the article.
What’s different about the way women are treated, however, is that first it seems mandatory to mention a woman’s appearance when a man’s appearance is more likely to be mentioned only if his image is unusual. Second, it seems okay to talk about what a woman hasn’t done (according to the journalist’s expectations) rather than what she has done to create a brand or a particular image for herself. In Lionel Shriver’s case, her lack of make up is worthy of comment:
But Big Brother, like Kevin, can only serve to fuel the cult of personality that has grown up around Shriver, a figure of fascination whose makeup-free complexion has become the female equivalent of Tom Wolfe’s statement white suit.
These are not equivalents. The difference between Shriver’s ‘makeup-free complexion’ and Tom Wolfe’s ‘statement white suit’ is that Tom Wolfe wore the white suit precisely in order to be different — he could have chosen to wear a regular office suit, and might therefore expect the white one to become his signature, to his benefit — whereas the choice for women seems to be ‘either conform to society’s very high expectations of you, spending valuable time in the bathroom, and money on overpriced cosmetics produced by companies with dubious ethics’, or we’re going to build it into your image for you.
In short: we are still talking about women’s beauty failures, even in ostensibly feminist articles such as the one in The Guardian.
In an article on Margaret Atwood from Quill & Quire:
Wearing an oversized suit and sensible shoes, she curled her mischievous smirk on cue, first under an archway of stone skulls and cherubs at the University of Toronto, then while leaning against a café wall – she’s done this a thousand times.
Is the suit oversized because it’s not showing off her figure? Should she be? There’s something rather condescending about describing a woman’s shoes as ‘sensible’, because it connotes a certain school ma’amishness which would not be an issue for an older male author, also choosing flat shoes (I presume), over high heels. Have you ever heard a man being described as wearing ‘sensible shoes’?
But of course English speakers have an Anglo history chock full of inequalities, so let’s not keep looking or we’ll have to start speaking Esperanto. Oooh, hang on.
Related: No Make-up: Why so brave? from The Hoopla
6. BITCHES, TARTS AND OTHER GENDERED INSULTS
This is a weird one, because you could argue that a gendered insult is no worse than a non-gendered one. You could argue that the word ‘asshole’, for instance, usually refers to men. Women are more likely to get ‘bitch’ than ‘asshole’, perhaps.
But I do have a problem with bitch, especially since so often it refers to a woman who is not liked, as if she should be likeable, and the gendered nature of that insult implies that she should be likeable because she is a female.
Also, I like dogs. I don’t think dogs should be used as insults.
If I run a meeting efficiently, I’m less likely (compared to a man) to get thought of as a “strong leader,” and more likely to get thought of as a “bitch.”
– Makeup, mobility and choice: the things you don’t have to do from Geek Feminism
Women Are Bitches, from The Rumpus.
How we signal our displeasure to someone matters, because it is in our attempts to cause harm that we reveal how we really feel about who they are. I take “bitch” more seriously than other insults because it attempts to use a piece of my identity – my femaleness – as a weapon. Reclamation projects aside, we all need to carefully consider when and why we take aim with a B-bomb.
7. FEMALE DOCTORS, MALE NURSES, MAN-WHORES ETC.
I have a problem with the humorous term ‘manwhore’ because embedded in that word is the assumption that only women can be real whores. Everyone else needs a hyphen. Also, why does the word ‘manwhore’ have a humorous ring to it whereas ‘whore’ does not? Centuries of sexual repression in women, I guess. Too soon to start joking about that? Yep. I reckon.
Related: What’s in a name?—The Controversy Over “Manholes” from Inequality by (Interior) Design
I’m not sure this particular problem will evaporate anytime soon, since Google translate has a gender problem.
I’m sure there are plenty of married women reading this who are very happy that they switched from ‘Miss’ to ‘Mrs’ but I think the distinction needs to go away. Women’s value should not be determined first on her relationship with a man.
Seealso : Ms, Miss, Mademoiselle … why titles for women matter from The Conversation and Why words like manorexia, murse and manscaping are dangerous from Role Reboot
8. Women ‘Stealing’ Other Women’s Boyfriends
I know, I know, that one is from Frisky and is therefore *ironic*, and you personally probably stopped doing this after high school if you ever did at all, but it’s amazing how often women are thought to have somehow done something to repel or attract a man, treating him as an object without emotions and actions of his own.
Angelina Jolie … answered the question about whether she stole Brad Pitt from Jennifer Aniston by bluntly stating she had plenty of lovers and didn’t need to steal another woman’s man. Almost ten years later, she’s still a polarizing topic of conversation.
– The Difference Between Bad Girls and Bad Boys from Role Reboot
9. USE OF ‘HIS’ AS IF THERE’S NO OTHER WAY OF REFERRING TO PEOPLE IN GENERAL
In his preface to the 1986 version of The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins writes:
I am distressed to find that some women friends (fortunately not many) treat the use of the impersonal masculine pronoun as if it showed intention to exclude them. If there were any excluding to be done (happily there isn’t) I think I would sooner exclude men, but when I once tentatively tried referring to my abstract reader as ‘she’, a feminist denounced me for patronizing condescension: I ought to say ‘he-or-she’, and ‘his-or-her’. That is easy to do if you don’t care about language, but then if you don’t care about language you don’t deserve readers of either sex.
Richard Dawkins is an expert in several important areas, but masculine privilege, equality and inclusiveness are not among them. This was demonstrated much more recently (2011) in Elevator-gate. If only the feminist who advised Dawkins on his language use had given him more practical tips. These days, reading the books of Richard Dawkins, with his abundant use of the impersonal masculine pronoun, I feel like I;m on a timetravel trip to an earlier, outdated time. This is unfortunate. I can’t understand why an otherwise intelligent man, whose grasp of language is otherwise impeccable, can’t work out how to make use of the plural pronoun to avoid the impression that the history of evolution included only male rats and monkeys.
See: Using Sensitive Language: Sexism And Sentences With They, His, And Her from Writer’s Relief, as well as The Use Of Gender-Neutral Language In Your Writing
Why you dislike singular ‘they’, from John E. Macintyre at The Baltimore Sun
The After Deadline blog points out many examples of gender neutral ‘they’ in modern journalism and argues that ‘they’ will win out in the end.
While men are increasingly told that they need a ‘beach body’ and suchlike before going out in summer, that message is still pretty limited to men’s health magazines. Women, on the other hand, have trouble avoiding the message because it seems to pervade every type of media aimed at women.
Here’s how to get yourself bikini-ready: Go to the damn store and buy yourself a bikini. Buy it in your size. Put it on, go for a goddam swim.
11. SO EASY EVEN YOUR GRANDMOTHER COULD DO IT
Here are some grandmothers who probably kick your hack ass.
In a recent role, the (male) editor scolded me for lifting heavy reference books off shelves; for swearing, and for drinking vodka and diet coke rather than wine at media events held in pubs, all solely on the basis that this was not what women do. Then I was instructed to ‘brighten’ contributor pages with pictures of young female writers, creating the illusion of a 50:50 ratio of men and women when the real proportion was 90:10.
– from The F Word
I was very happy to see Lisa Kudrow’s character on Scandal call a journalist on this kind of gendered bullshit recently, and when we see this kind of speech in fiction, it helps inreal life:
“Are you saying that Governor Reston is sexist?” the interviewer asks her.
Yes. I am. And it’s not just Governor Reston speaking in code about gender. It’s everyone, yourself included. The only reason we’re doing this interview in my house is because you requested it. This was your idea. And yet here you are, thanking me for inviting me into my “lovely home.” That’s what you say to the neighbor lady who baked you chocolate chip cookies. This pitcher of iced tea isn’t even mine. It’s what your producers set here. Why? Same reason you called me a “real live Cinderella story.” It reminds people that I’m a woman without using the word.
Why words matter, a comment at GMP.