March 31, 2013

"There are abundant terms of endearment and appreciation for women and children, and far fewer for men..."

"... this says more about the nature of the appreciation than about the nature of those being appreciated. There are many words and expressions that present women as commodities; you can still read, for instance, about women being 'married off.' Men are sometimes forced into arranged marriages, but the language used of this is not dehumanizing. We also see gratuitous modifiers: someone is described as a ‘lady doctor’ or a ‘male nurse,’ implying norms (male doctors, female nurses) that are outmoded. Even apparently innocent terms such as girl and lady are more heavily sexualized than their male equivalents."

Henry Hitchings, "The Language Wars: A History of Proper English," pages 223-224.

17 comments:

edutcher said...

When did the Lone Ranger ever stick around for testimonials?

rhhardin said...

Lady blonde.

Lem said...

When titus referred to a "sky slut" for airplane stewardess the other day... I thought it was hilarious, not only because I pictured a female in my head... but because I had never heard those two words together before.

But now, reading this, I'm remembering something about the gay flight attendant myth. And wander if titus "sky slut" reference stood for short gay male.

Gays have a whole language of their own.

Revenant said...

Yawn.

bagoh20 said...

Yea, but "bitch" is pretty even handed.

Two different meanings both equally complementary.

Enjoy the decline, bitches.

tim maguire said...

His complaints sound pretty dated to me.

sydney said...

When I hear "lady doctor," I think "gynecologist."

Michael K said...

My second wife called me by my full first name, which no one else did, and it was a very touching endearment. Too bad she was crazy.

ironrailsironweights said...

Hardly anyone has said "lady doctor" or "male nurse" in a non-ironic sense in many years.

Peter

Michael Ryan said...

We have a tradition in my house. Whenever I'm stuck doing to some heavy or nasty or otherwise highly undesirable chore that my wife can't or won't do, it is her job to appear periodically, stand akimbo, and recite "oh, you big strong man you!"

n.n said...

A biased perception engenders a distortion of reality. Hitchings needs to moderate his prejudice for profit or otherwise. The tendency of some people to extrapolate from the specific to color the general is a flawed character trait, especially when done to advance political, economic, or social standing.

To avoid further confusion, all people, irrespective of feature or achievement, should heretofore be referred to as "It".

Is that sufficiently neutral to accommodate a diversity of Its whose sensibilities motivate all manner of political, economic, and social opportunism?

Dante said...

The tendency of some people to extrapolate from the specific to color the general is a flawed character trait, especially when done to advance political, economic, or social standing.

You are living in the cart and buggy days, as my wife once told me. Good luck.

We need a new movie:

Mr. Kruglove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Decline

Saint Croix said...

"There are abundant terms of endearment and appreciation for women and children, and far fewer for men...this says more about the nature of the appreciation than about the nature of those being appreciated."

Ah, feminism is so whiny.

Why not work on appreciating men more? Find something endearing about men? Think up something nice to say about a man that hasn't been said before. Add to the language. Women talk, talk, talk. How is it that the words you use to speak about men are so limited?

It's rather interesting, if you think about it. Language is very democratic. Everybody talks, in every society. So if the words for women and children are nicer, and more varied, and more interesting, than the words for men, what does that tell us?

We might say the same thing about fashion, by the way. Fashion for men is very limited. While fashion for women is far more varied and interesting.

I would suggest that both inequalities have to do with a power imbalance in regard to sexuality. And it's a power that women hold. Women get all the endearments because men are trying to get into your pants. And women focus on fashion in order to keep their sexual power.

There are many words and expressions that present women as commodities; you can still read, for instance, about women being 'married off.'

And what about that word that feminists have added to our lexicon, "fetus"? Is that a term of endearment or appreciation?

And unlike most of our language, that particular word is not democratic at all. Imported from the pagans, it was imposed upon our culture in 1973. It came down to us, from our unelected superiors. (The medical term "gravida" also comes from ancient Latin, but there's no political purpose for gravida, and so that non-endearment has never caught on).

As for this feminist complaint about "commodities" such as lady or girl, what about the unborn child? She has been actually defined as property. It's a legally inferior status. And it's feminists who have defined her that way. And they do so, yes, out of a desire for power and control over human sexuality.

Saint Croix said...

Women get all the endearments because men are trying to get into your pants.

That's a rather vulgar way for me to put it. Sorry, I'm a vulgarian. And it doesn't actually explain why there are such varied endearments for children.

And the answer, of course, is that all these sexual endearments for women are broader than the pleasure of sex. It's an intense desire to reproduce, to have a family, and to provide for it.

Jamie Bee said...

My biggest pet peeve is the use of the word "co-ed" to describe a young woman who is enrolled in college. Considering that well over 50% of the college population is now women, it seems retrograde and demeaning. "Oh aren't you cute, you silly little woman trying to swimming in the academic ocean with the big smart boys...." I don't hate Fox News but I do cringe when they use this word - and they do, with regularity, usually in reference to a missing or murdered attractive white woman.

jr565 said...

There is some merit to the idea that some language is charged or outmoded or assumes gender roles, but at the end if the day it's just language.
And people can be sticklers in ways that are really obnoxiuos. Two examples that spring to mind- in college I happened to be speaking to someone in my hall who was an ardent feminist. I happened to be talking to her about how I wa goin to be meeting my girl friend later that afternoon. And I got a lecture about how the word girlfriend is demeaning because she's a woman an not a girl. And my response was that she called me her boyfriend and saying she's my woman friend sounds awkward. But I was offended that it was even a discussion frankly.
The second time I got in trouble was when I referred to someone who was Japanese as oriental. I hadn't yet gotten the memo that you should say that about people (it was ok to say it about objects though) I was instead supposed to use the word Asian. My point though was that Asian wasnt as precise as Oriental since there are plenty of other Asians who aren't from
The orient. Besides, I hadn't heard that I couldn't use the word that way.

Lucien said...

Once you have "mensch" what further term of appreciation is needed?

I also maintain that it is suitable to compliment persons of any gender by saying they have "huevos".