Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Speaking the Lingo

Seth and the dog-child.

Fed up with hearing about inclusive language? Of course not,obviously.

Firstly, thinking back to the whole 'Ms' controversy, it seems that French women don't have an equivalent, and this doesn't make some of them happy. The only redeeming aspect is that the title, 'Madame' is generally used to all women after their mid-twenties, so why not just use it and nothing else ? Frankly, I think I'm tending ever more towards the, 'let's just get rid of titles' point of view.

Secundo, we've got the different levels. The 'in-yer-face' sexist lingo. 'You guys' falls into this category.
A term that is specific to one gender (I'm not a guy, guys don't breastfeed, a guys night out means women don't go), applied to both genders, straightforwardly sexist, - 101.
Then there are the made up feminised forms that have lesser status. Actor - gender free, actress, different, lower status meaning. (Which is why most women actors now don't use the term 'actress').
But there are some terms, like 'master' and 'fellow', that have come to have a male meaning attached to them, but in their original form, were gender-free.
'Fellow' - ORIGIN Old English, "a person who lays down money in a joint enterprise", from Old Norse, ‘property, money’.
And 'master' comes from the Latin, 'magister', meaning teacher. 'Salvete puellae!' our Latin teacher used to say, to which we would reply, in unison, 'Salve Magister!'.
The problem with 'Master' is twofold. Firstly, Latin was a gendered language in that gender was attached to words rather than the meanings of words. Thus, 'Nauta' and 'Poeta' (sailor and poet) were words in a feminine declension without having any particularly feminine meaning.
Magister was in a masculine declension, but had no masculine meaning attached.
But since 'Master' has had not just a male connotation, but a very dominant, patriarchal one, it is going to be difficult to reclaim.

Ok, had to get that out.

And sometimes, there's more than language. The other evening, I had to go to Shopper's Drug Mart late. So...late-night rush to the shops, what would you be wearing? And so was I - baggy jumper, jammie trousers, slippery shoes. Now recently, I have had the opportunity to observe a friend who is a pharmacist at work, and this isn't what she wears, thus I was surprised, and yet not, when a woman, whose sartorial choice made me believe she was a Muslim, came up to me and asked me where the aspirin was. We were standing fairly near the painkillers, to I looked along the shelf and pointed to it. But no, she wanted it for her child. I told her that I was pretty sure you weren't supposed to give aspirin to small children, and showed her the children's options, but tried to persuade her that at this point, she really needed to talk to the pharmacist.

Always happens, I must just have an aura of shop assistant about me.


karemay said...

P'J's are my first choice attire, though not sure I'd get away with wearing them for work. I put them on every evening as early as I can and in the mornings keep them on as late as I can. All our clothes should be as comfortable:)

Sleepy said...

Housemate Claire has joined your fight!
She is trying to educate her blog readers but it finding the resistance is from the ladies.
It doesn't occur to them that it is sexist!

Good to see the hound looking happier!

Schneewittchen said...

Karen - ain't it the truth! I've noticed that there are some of the Chinese/Japanese women here who wear jim-jams in the street.

Sleepy - Housemate Claire has a blog! Can you send me the url? The problem is that point about both women and men subconsciously giving higher status to men's things. They don't want to give up aligning themselves with the higher status group. Also, that whole 'Stockholm Syndrome' thing where it is more difficult to throw off the role of oppressed than oppressor. It took a small group of women and their male allies in every country to get women the vote and thus recognised in law as 'persons'.
As well as that - people are just fundamentally lazy.

Hazel said...

Not sure if this is relevant, more of passing interest - 'girl' was originally gender neutral, and could be used of boys and... girls. I say revive its neutrality. Seth could be Alex's girlfriend.

Schneewittchen said...

Hazel! You totally rock! Let's do it! Reclaim 'girl':))))