Category Archives: language

NPR Rocks This Week

by cacophonies

I have the luxury of a desk job where I’m able to listen to my mp3 player/FM tuner while working. I alternate between radio and mp3s, depending on my mood, but I always try to catch two NPR broadcasts: MidMorning (of the MPR variety), and Talk of the Nation, which are my favorite programs.

Monday on Talk of the Nation, athlete Steve McNair’s murder at the hand of his girlfriend sparked a discussion about The Violence We Ignore; men as victims of domestic violence. It was a great discussion that I hope you’ll listen to.

In other NPR news, Monday, July 20 was the 40th anniversary of the first human landing on the moon. NPR staff reporting on the anniversary continually referred to the event as the day that the “first person” walked on the moon. Hooray for non-gendered language being deliberately used to remember an event in human history!


Challenging Feminist Groupthink

by cacophonies

I’m of the mindset that for any social movement to be effective, supporters– especially people who identify as a member of the group that is fighting for any kind of rights or better treatment– must be willing to educate the people whose support they would most benefit from. It helps absolutely no one to make every attempt to alienate anyone. A prime example would be the “groupthink” mentality of most groups– namely, modern feminism. With the language used on many feminist blogs and in many feminist circles these days, you’d almost have to assume that these “feminists” don’t actually want to further their cause, or achieve any kind of equality. They seem to go out of their way to make sure that anyone who could be of help to their cause (like the people responsible for perpetuating sexist behavior) are effectively removed from their realm of education and discussion.

For those of you who are not already readers of Feministe, they often have guest-bloggers who post for a week or so about various issues, from varying perspectives. It’s a pretty great idea, and usually works out well. I’ve touched on it a bit with Queen Emily‘s introduction/ensuing comment hell, and written a follow-up post about the way that commenters were treated by the regular commentariat and moderators, and how the general treatment– or even the allowance of those comments to be published in the first place– is problematic and ultimately detracts from the point at hand.

One guest-blogger, Miranda, caught my attention, though, as she’s pretty young as far as standard good bloggers/writers are concerned. She’s an excellent writer, and from what I’ve read, quite knowledgeable.

Some of Miranda’s posts have been related to youth- or teenage-centered topics, which is great, because we can talk about young women and issues they face all day long, but it’s far more valuable to have a (I am assuming) 16- or 17-year-old actually speaking from her perspective.

The other day, Miranda posted what seemed, at face value, to be a thoughtful post about womanism, and appropriate language for white feminist-identified woman to use to show their support for womanism. She used the blog’s wide readership to basically ask what kind of identifier would be most appropriate for her to adopt. Is it better to say she’s a womanist ally, a womanism supporter, etc.?

The commentariat did, of course, find several ways to tell her that she was very wrong in even posting that piece in the first place, and that it was a very glaring reminder of her white privilege. To be fair, there was some reading and effort needed that Miranda didn’t seem to get to before writing that post, but the comments nearly made that point completely irrelevant by turning it from a suggestion to a personal attack and insulting her intelligence and displaying blatant ageism.

…This isn’t just a rant about Feministe’s groupthink behavior or PCer-than-though attitude, though. This time, several people spoke up with thoughtful, arguably sensical complaints about the idea that people belonging to oppressed groups should never be expected, or even respectfully asked, to even minorly help aid in the education of a person who has more privilege than they do (in relation to the question being asked; in this case, race). For context, here’s what Miranda asks in her original post:

I want your insight on how we can acknowledge the ways The Feminist Movement has and continues to fuck up, while still identifying with its goals. Specifically, I’m wondering how I, a white woman, can acknowledge the dire need for womanism without stepping on the toes of women activists of color.

One question, for commenters of all demographics, with particular emphasis on WOC/self-identified womanists: is it fair to call myself a pro-womanist feminist, as a move towards accomplishing these goals? If not, how else can I humbly and respectfully identify myself?

There are a few suggestions and ideas, then Caoimhe Ora Snow responds to Miranda’s question with this:

Probably makes sense to ask the womanists you support, rather than here at a non-womanist site?

I’m just sayin’.

Miranda responds directly to this criticism by informing her that she has emailed two prominent bloggers, who are women of color, and asked them the same question. (Renee from WomanistMusings responded to Miranda’s email via a post on her own blog.)

Fair enough, right? Unfortunately, Caoimhe was wrong (according to other commenters) in instructing Miranda to ask anyone questions. No one calls Caoimhe out on this, though. My guess is that it’s because s/he’s already criticizing the original poster on her unintentional display of privilege, so she’s gained points within the community for calling someone out, and therefore is privileged enough to avoid criticism or her own call-outs. But the following comments take it from there, further criticizing Miranda for daring to ask women of color what they would feel comfortable with in terms of how she, as a white woman, identifies herself when it comes to being a supporter of womanism. Allison gently informs her that:

I know this might seem like a post that aims for nuance and complexity, but in asking for Renee or Tami to give you “input” — you are asking both of them to instruct you on language. It is not their job to teach you or provide you with a consise label for your activism.

..and is very gracious in providing several links where she feels Miranda should have consulted instead. Restructure! finds it appropriate and useful to inform Miranda that:

I got here via twitter expecting something insightful, but I find a white woman’s mini biography. The part about actual womanism is quoting a random Womanist Musings post, which I’ve read before, a long time ago.

Allison further explains that

It is a function of privilege to request someone’s input, knowledge, and experience to serve as your guiding post for philosophy.

ZC uses the “insults and ad hominem attacks work better than constructive criticism” method, complete with patronizing reassurances about eventually learning how to be a real, smart person when she calls Miranda names:

Well, Miranda, sometimes it sucks being young and dumb, but fortunately we got to read some great links as a result of you sticking your neck out, including the fantastic We Don’t Need Another Racism 101. That’s it. Labels don’t matter, actions do. Live your convictions whatever the hell they’re called and learn from everyone. I stopped calling myself a feminist a long time ago, and decided to BE one instead.

The blatant contradiction that ZC has posed, where s/he states that it’s not important what you call yourself (since we are constantly inundated with new, more appropriate things to call ourselves), can be left for later.

There are, of course, many more ways in which Miranda is criticized for asking how to be respectful toward people over whom she holds privilege, but I don’t want to copy and paste the whole post, so I’ll get to my point:

None of these comments suggest an alternative to Miranda’s supposedly disrespectful and problematic questions other than “read.” No one even went so far as to let her know how it is that she should be expected to know what to read, and where to find it (although a few did provide a couple of links that they themselves were already familiar with fr one unknown reason or another– prefaced by a snarky remark about how easy it was to Google it). Fortunately, like a breath of fresh air, we see several commenters sticking up for her (in indirect ways) by intelligently and clearly critiquing the expectation that privileged people should automatically be aware of their privilege, be okay with being considered an ass hole by everyone all the time, and not ask questions. Manju, who is presumably a woman of color, counters:

of all the new-fangled anti-racist rules out there, the one that leaves me the most gobsmacked is the “don’t ask POC for instruction” or its many variants.

its totally counter intuitive, to the point that anyone who’s outside the narrow echo-chamber of the radical left would find it preposterous. And i suspect that includes the vast majority of POC. Has there been some survey indicating we find this offensive? normally asking for instruction is a totally respectful thing to do

Shah8 is very insightful and makes many good points when s/he says,

While I understand very much about the whole privilege of asking for the signposts as if you were tourists asking for assistance from the native guides, I think this issue can be abused the other way around. I think that context and judgement is really important in deciding how to handle n00b questions.

I hate insular behavior, and creating “safe spaces” gives you the right be *curt*, not abusive.

We should always judge whether the n00b is an asshole, rather than assume so. The latter is treehouse politics.

(emphasis mine)

Tumbril says it well with:

All these syntax games and competing to see who can be the most sensitive, and of course, call out others on their insensitivity, making you their moral superior and in a position to lecture them, are really unhelpful. Do we want people to know what we’re talking about so we can affect change, or do we want to impress each other with an ever-expanding plethora of labels and sub-categories that mean absolutely nothing to anyone other than us?

(again, emphasis mine)

I’m happy to see that, while it’s important to be inclusive and respectful in language and considerations, people are finally speaking up in larger numbers about being consistently expected to grovel at the feel of anyone over whom they hold any kind of privilege, to beg forgiveness for merely existing. Miranda is clearly not an asshole, and should not be treated as such unless (not until) she proves herself otherwise. Who wouldn’t expect that treatment?

Piny from Feministe wrote a quite controversial post challenging a trans woman of color who was notorious around her circles for being unreasonably rude, mean, and insulting to everyone, and using her oppressed status as an excuse for that behavior. The comment thread ended up ripping Piny a new one in several ways, but ultimately, Piny had the guts to come right out and call a woman out for using her oppressed status to abuse other people. While it angered many people, it’s clear that it also got a lot of other people really thinking, and potentially reconsidering their propensity to be loud-mouthed assholes to everyone without considering whether or not they actually deserve it.

I’m glad to see that some people are really embracing the idea that groupthink just isn’t a very good idea.

An Apology/Clarification

by cacophonies

A little while ago, I wrote a post in response to some comments on a Feministe thread about whether or not it’s transphobic to not date a transgender person, when the reason is because they are trans.

The comments that I received in response to that post were not hostile and did not come across as particularly angry, but I know that I offended some people.

I want to apologize for offending anyone. This apology is not a “sorry that you took it the wrong way” apology (which I find to be disingenuous and completely useless) but serious and heartfelt.

While the purpose of the post was to illustrate how I believed that a particular action is not necessarily transphobic, upon rereading that post a few times, I now see that many of the things I said could easily have been read as transphobic, or that I was painting myself as a transphobia apologist. This was absolutely not my intention.

When writing the post, I knew that the sensitive nature of the post itself was likely to cause a bit of a stir, but I didn’t realize that my often overly-wordy, rambling, and tanget-making style of writing distracted so much from what I was really trying to do with the post, which was to simply defend good or well-meaning people from being labeled as transphobic. That perhaps there are people for whom choosing to not be romantically involved with a trans person is not necessarily phobic or inspired by hate, but instead the consequence of certain non-bigoted or prejudiced goals, beliefs, or orientations that the person may have.

There were concerns brought up that I was primarily focusing on situations where one part of a hetero couple came out as trans when I gave examples; this is just because I was in a situation where that happened in a past relationship, and I was familiar with the issues that can arise. The other examples I used (fertility issues, mostly) could be applied to any romantic relationship; I was not very clear about that.

Thank you to everyone (especially people who are trans) who commented on that post with constructive criticism of what I said, or with other valuable insights. I hope that people who are transgender who read that and were offended at anything I said will accept my apology. It was not, and is not, ever my intention to make anyone who is transgender feel like there is yet another person who thinks it’s okay to discriminate against them based on their trans status.

Please understand that I am not asking for praise or “cookies” for my apology. I just want anyone who may have been hurt or offended by that post to know that I recognize the problematic things that I said, and that I am sorry for them.

Counter Point to ‘Thoughts On Privilege’

by imnotme

I have been reading and reflecting on Cacophonies’ last post on privilege, a post I very much enjoyed, and instead of commenting, thought I would simply counter-point since my comment is truly another perspective and not necessarily a criticism.

Cacophonies wrote, and I will summarize rather than quote/cite, that, while oppression and privilege exist in varying degrees, does not each individual existing along that spectrum have their own right to lament or have concerns regardless of their level of privilege? To this I say yes, each individual has that right in-arguably. However, there is a further ethical question here… or, an additional axiom with which to calculate preferable behaviour. A consideration that I think is quite fair since the original complaint of Cacophonies is a social one, i.e. it is the social repercussions of ‘people with privilege who complain’, that would cause people to say things like “you know, Paris, others have it worse, so don’t let your day get ruined over this chip in the paint on your favorite Ferrari.” It’s possible that the roots of this sentiment are envy, but I don’t think it’s very likely. I think the sentiment is altruistic in nature and that it’s generally said one privileged person to the next. So that one investment banker would tell his stressed out coworker at their private spa that “Hey, your portfolio fell flat this week, but you know, look at us, we’re doing fine, be grateful.”

This to me is not a criticism of the plaintiff’s feelings, but a reminder that things will probably turn out okay given their relative well standing, be it economic, medical, spiritual, or social privilege that a person enjoys. Additionally, people do not tend to console each other over types of privilege they do not have in excess. This means that a wealthy woman would be less likely to remind her wealthy friend who recently lost a loved one that they are privileged as an effort to lessen that person’s pain. Contrarily, a person of very little wealth may indeed console an equally impoverished friend on the loss of their loved by reminding the bereaved that they led a rich life and shared many beautiful moments together. So I believe that the impulse to console, or temper if you will, another person’s emotional reaction to a perceived or real pain is done so by individuals who share the same privilege.

On a brief sidenote, I am accounting for the underprivileged who either feel they are, or actually are oppressed by the ultra elite as separate from this argument in that polarized class struggle is a social phenomenon, and therefore, it is another topic entirely.

Back to the point then. I would offer up the notion that personal excesses beyond survival necessities (say, food and shelter) can readily be called ‘privileges’ since they do not enter the realm of life and death, and furthermore, easily open the door to exploitation when labor or resource distribution are factors. I offer this notion as additional to Cacophonies’ general thesis and not necessarily contrary or irreconcilable to it. Yet, using this more definitive approach to privilege it certainly follows that those with privilege, or those with more than they need to survive, may not have a socio-ethical “right” to complain about their privilege-dependent concerns (although, here the court would, of course, withhold any harsh convictions upon children raised in privilege and simultaneous ignorance).

In this sense I would readily accept the burden of holding my tongue when my computer fails, because it is more than I need to survive, and survival is a pretty accurate indicator of whether or not one’s needs are met. And I hasten to restate now, that I hold the unsatisfied elite in great contempt when they lament within the context of their privilege, but would never console them about their lost child or dying relative within that same context. With that I feel that I have touched on a more mysterious universal truth of sorts, in as much as people can mostly agree that reasonable people who are poor or unskilled are generally provided a basic standard of living, and reasonable people who achieve incredible privilege are pressured in some way to give from their excess (and by reasonable, I mean non-malicious or non-predatory).

Finally, if it is the right of one person to complain, then it can only be the right of the next person who shares the same type of privilege to say, “hey, you may have lost a rug here, but it seriously could be worse.”, and it would most certainly also be the underpaid fast food worker’s right to roll their eyes at the tirade a wealthy person unleashes in front of them about the quality of their fast food.

Thoughts On Privilege

by cacophonies

The other morning at work, a group of my coworkers congregated around one of the windows (we’re on the 17th floor), where we could see the AT&T building. Employees were picketing for better health care or benefits or contracts of some kind. I didn’t know all the details, but I knew it was healthcare-related. I went to lunch with imnotme and we walked past them, scowling and irritable, because imnotme had worked for AT&T in the past and knew their union’s benefits; neither of us can afford the benefits offered to us at the national bank that we work for. How irritating and privileged of them, we thought, to complain about their benefits, when I work 40 hours a week for a large corporation and earn a reasonable hourly wage, and still can’t afford medical insurance with their plan? I can’t go to the doctor without severely taking from my money available for monthly bills, because I cannot afford the $120/month plan my employer offers.

Then I realized that I have been in their position, in regards to a number of different issues, a million different times. I’m privileged, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have the right to complain if conditions aren’t ideal. If my $3,000 poodle pooped on my $10,000 rug, that might be a more desirable problem than potentially starving to death, but don’t I still have the right to be upset about my ruined rug?

I realize that was a shallow example, and I certainly can’t afford a $3,000 dog or a $10,000 rug. But the point remains: do I not have a right to complain if someone else could ever, in any possibility, have things a bit worse off than I do?

Each one of us has certain privileges, and each one of us suffers from oppression. The degree to which each of us experience these vary, of course, but we can’t very well argue that there are some people with zero privilege, or zero oppression.

As someone who is very privileged in comparison to a great number of people and/or groups, I can say that I’ve been both accepting of my privilege and try to take necessary steps to make sure that that doesn’t negatively or unfairly affect others, and also that I’ve been simply resentful of any implication by anyone that I don’t have the right to complain, to feel oppressed, or to feel hurt by accusations that I abuse my privileges, when it’s not my fault that I have them.

People who feel “more” oppressed than others will often call people out on their privilege, which often yields a defensive and knee-jerk response from the alleged oppressor, which often makes the alleged oppressor shut down any openness to understanding. The alleged oppressors then anger the less privileged by making angry statements declaring that they, too, have rights, stop reversing the oppression/various “-isms.”

Where do we come to a common ground here? I think much of the problem lies in what we collectively consider to be privilege, and what we consider to be oppression. When engaged in a discussion about privilege/oppression, people often play what many refer to as the Oppression Olympics, comparing various ways that people are oppressed, how it’s worse than certain other groups’ oppression, how one is more deserving of attention than the other.

I’m privileged in a number of ways, and while I am very aware of that, I feel a biting resentment toward anyone who would say or imply that my experiences as a white, heterosexual, able-bodied female are less valid or deserving of consideration than others that come from someone less privileged than I am (in a general sense; who ultimately decides?). My knee-jerk reaction is to declare that the “more” privileged person is being silenced, being shoved aside and told they don’t matter. The response of the accuser is that people with less privilege are often shoved aside and made to believe that their experiences, perspectives, etc., don’t matter, and that that should be enough to make me shut up. To stop being so expectant of privileged treatment all the time, and let others have a turn.

I was raised by a single mother who was on welfare for a while, and that affected my perspective in a number of ways. Another female with an identical upbringing, but who happens to be a person of color, may be more oppressed than I was because of her race, but her presence (on the internet? in the room? On the planet?) doesn’t negate my experiences. If you want to follow the logic that it does, you’d have to follow it to the only one, solitary person who is the very most oppressed in the world, and it certainly isn’t you, so you’d better shut your mouth.

That doesn’t make sense. Do you think you should just shut your mouth? I don’t. I don’t think I need to complain every time I think something “sucks,” but I don’t think that I just need to shut up, either. I resent the implication that I need to be all-inclusive in my speech and behavior at all times, when the same isn’t required (or even expected) of everyone else. I resent the fact that, while it is a good idea to be all-inclusive as much as you can be, I’m a member of what seems to be the only group who is held accountable for that.

For example: mainstream feminists blogs won’t even touch the fact that the vast majority of black voters are against gay marriage. Mainstream feminist bloggers are nearly all officially in support of gay rights and effectively anti-racist, but for some reason they all shy away from criticizing any non-white person who behaves in a oppressing way toward other minority or disadvantaged groups. When someone else brings it up, they sarcastically and dismissively brush it off, saying something about not silencing oppressed peoples voices or how white people, both men and women, should be entirely responsible for changing everything, and everyone else is off the hook for helping to change our society, and even volunteers are suspect.

In a similar vein, a group of women talking about how all men are ass holes, violent pricks, rapists, etc., isn’t any better than a group of men speaking derogatorily about women as a whole. Just because they are understood to be part of an oppressed class should in no way exempt them from basic rules of respect when it comes to other human beings. It is unfair to hold only those who have relative privilege responsible for their infractions. The blatant hypocrisy ruins anyone’s credibility, for one.

The point I’m ultimately trying to come back to (believe it or not) is that, while privilege is confusing to deal with, oppression is uncomfortable to admit to being a part of, and no one knows what terminology to use anymore, we really do all have to try.

If I find myself noticing, for example, that 8 out of 10 people that I know and see every day claim to be bipolar, and I roll my eyes and think at least half of them are just being dramatic, that’s when I have to stop myself and remember that I’m not bipolar. I couldn’t possibly be so arrogant to assume that I know better than they do what is going on inside of their head. I think this applies to many other ways that privileged people can forget their privilege and effectively blame oppressed people for their oppressions, and not acknowledge how they, as a privileged class, are helping to oppress those other people, no matter how indirectly.

There’s no real attempt at understanding where anyone is coming from, there are accusations and declarations that the privileged just “know better” about what the oppressed individual or group is going through, or what they need to do.

It’s really as basic as putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, trying to understand what it is that someone goes through on a daily basis, and how you would feel and how your perspective would change it it were you. And remembering that, and acting accordingly.

I catch myself violating these rules, and I keep trying to eliminate that from my behavior and change my perspective when I find myself acting or thinking in a very privileged manner. Everyone should do this. It’s not a defeat or a concession. Think of the different ways that your voice isn’t heard, and respect the voice of others, because you know how it feels.

One thing that is hard for me, and many other people, is calling out racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic behavior when a member of my peer group expresses it, and it’s easily one of the most important and influential things that you can do to help raise awareness. Instead of rolling your eyes and chuckling at your friend’s “tranny” joke, even when you don’t think it’s funny, because you don’t want to start an argument or cause a scene, you actually say something about how it’s disrespectful and ask them to stop using that language, or think about what it is that they’re really saying.

All that said, acknowledging your own privilege doesn’t mean being quiet and letting people who are less privileged walk all over you, simply because they themselves get walked on all the time. That’s not productive and it furthers the problem.

I’m not even sure that I am comfortable with the current privilege/oppression model anymore, but it’s just the easiest to use at this point.

A Question for Men

by cacophonies

This is really meant to be more light-hearted than anything, mostly because I doubt that any of the men reading this post would fall into the category of people that I’m really addressing, but:

Men, adolescent males, etc., what, exactly, are you thinking to yourself when you whistle at a girl and say something to the effect of, “hey baby, lookin’ good!”?

After work today, I went on a short errand to pick up some beer and smokes for myself and imnotme. What happened in that 20-minute span of time was this:

I walked into the convenience store, walked up to the counter, where the young-ish male working behind the counter greeted me by name (he always does; he remembered from my card, or ID, I guess) and lamented about how I never come in anymore. This interaction, in and of itself, is not necessarily problematic. It’s more innocently flirtatious than the others, but still irritating when it happens… every single time… that I go into this store without imnotme. When he’s with me, dude says nothing.

I leave with my cigarettes, and I head next door to the liquor store, where the group of 20-something men in an idling car whistle at me. I keep looking down, knowing from experience that eye contact only invites more obnoxious comments, propositions, or whistles. The guy who left the car to go inside looks at me, and I can’t tell if it’s a glare, or somehow “appreciative.” It wasn’t a casual glance. I go inside and I buy my beer.

I leave without incident, drive home, and park in the garage. I walk through the backyard to get to my porch. Next door, a group of maybe 5 20- or 30-something men who live there and hang out there are talking and joking. When I get to the middle of my yard, conversation comes to a halt. I’m not exaggerating; the deadening silence was noticeable and incredibly awkward. I walk faster to get to my door, looking down. One guy says, “hey baby girl…” I glance up and wave with my free hand, not saying anything. He continues, “with your fiiiine self…”

I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit at that, because it kind of seems completely fucking ludicrous for anyone to think that someone talking like that to a perfect stranger will yield anything but uncomfortable responses and quick exits.

My point, and question, is this:

Why do (some) men do this? I know this is not a universal trait that men share; please don’t read this and think I’m accusing anyone male of being guilty of this annoying and uncomfortable habit. It’s only a certain breed of weird men that do it. But I also know that, for the men who do this, it’s not because they actually think that the woman is necessarily super attractive, or because they actually want to “get with” her.

I don’t know any woman who has ever answered any such advance positively and formed a relationship, or hell, even a one-night-stand with the guy. Do men actually think that this is an effective way to meet women? I can’t possibly say that I think that to be the case. So what is it, then? If it’s not legitimate attraction, then the next motivation in line has got to be intimidation. Objectification. Etc. Most males who engage in this behavior can tell how uncomfortable it often makes the woman, and I think that eggs them on. Rarely, if ever, do I see women behave toward men in the same manner.

I challenge you to actually find a woman who is consistently appreciative of this kind of behavior. I cannot speak for all women, but it does not make me feel flattered. I know that they say the same thing to every other woman that crosses their path, unless they say something outright mean, instead. What, exactly, is with this behavior?

Anyone have any light to shed on this?

Gendered Language, Part II

by cacophonies

The recent post about gendered language and the common defaulting to male got on quite a tangent. I’d like to raise a few points to maybe clarify, or expand on, what I was saying.

My annoyance at being defaulted to male, like when a customer sends a letter to me, a female, addressed to “Sirs,” is based less on historical context or its relevance to current societal problems or legal issues, and more to do with what the words or phrases mean in modern society.

No, discontinuing the official use of gendered language is not stopping women from “facing legal penalty for being raped in misogynistic cultures,” but it is holding onto, and perpetuating, the idea that women are not equal to men. Whether the person who writes the letter or defaults to male pronouns in speech realizes it or not, or whether or not s/he is actively sexist.

I readily acknowledge the fact that meanings of words have changed with time, and the root of any one word may mean something completely different in a different time than its modified version does now. I agree that gendered language is slowly evolving and becoming more inclusive. I’m also not denying that, 50 years ago, when the same elderly person that called me a sir in their letter to me wrote their first letter to her bank, it was 100% expected that a man would receive that letter and handle the person’s problem. Maybe more women were accepting of that then, and they aren’t now. Times have changed, and I understand that.

My post was, ultimately, touching on a small annoyance that I, as a female, have to deal with in my professional life. Defaulting to male when addressing or describing people is now outdated and, because of the fact that women occupy nearly all positions in the corporate world, sexist, whether intended or not.

Gendered language does, however, grow into larger problems. The little boy who learns that it is expected to assume everyone is male when addressing an audience, a letter, or telling a story, will grow accustomed to the idea that he is the default, and therefore, the most important or most valuable. The little girl that learns the same thing will grow accustomed to believing that she is an afterthought, or not as important, and that she will always have to struggle to be recognized– more so than her male counterparts.

The subliminal messages (whether intended or not) that we get and process as a result of gendered language can, in fact, be problematic on a larger scale. Maybe, if the 20-year old college guy hadn’t been assuming that everyone defaults to male, therefore not realizing that he sees himself as more valuable than women, or sees women as a people who exist for him, he would have listened when the girl that went to the frat party he threw said no, because he would see her as a peer, someone who had the same ability to make decisions for herself as he had.

That’s a bit of an out-there example, but I think it fits. Acquaintance/date rape is a huge problem, and the victims are more often women than men, and gendered language that defaults to men is only aiding in the mindset that that’s expected, or acceptable behavior. Like it’s just another part of being a female that we have to live with, comparable to our periods.

That’s not how it actually is, and that’s not the idea that we should perpetuate with something so easily changed and modified as our language.