Monday, October 25, 2010


I love words. Really, really, love words. New words are twisty fun things that get spun around and investigated like women on TV do with jewelry. There's a line from a book I read forever ago, Ramses, I think. Something like that, by Ann Rice. He said something about language and thoughts. If I owned that book, I'd probably be reading it again right now, just to find that line. The gist of it is that the new language gave so much more freedom for thought. I thought it was a wonderful idea -- and I've been thinking a lot about the words we use every day. About the ways it changes what we think of the world without even intending it.

Starting with the inherent sexism that has made me sad since Hillary Clinton ran for the Democrat ticket for president. (I'm not sure, can we say she ran for president? Even if she'd won that election she wouldn't have been president, it was a vote on who got which money and which amounts of publicity and political pull thrown their direction. The primaries. They confuse me.)

She is stern and professional and they say she seems inhuman with no emotions. She cries at something that's worth crying over -- and not big sobbing tears, just visible sadness and she is suddenly overly emotional just like a woman. As a woman it makes me want to become overly emotional and rain bloody death down from the heavens. That image from the vampire movies, reaching into people's chests and ripping out their still-beating heart.

Yeah, that.

And no one suggests that Queen Elizabeth (the first or the second) has been incapable. Perhaps it's just us American women who are incapable.

And I've been thinking words.

Girly. Someone close to me used it the other day, next to my daughter and it made me want to flay skin from bones. "Is it too girly?" they asked. Because girly is bad. Because boys can't be thought to be girly.

Boy-y. Boyie. Boy-eee. Not a word.

Boyish. Amusing. Innocence. Harmless and cute.
Girlish. Haven't heard it. It doesn't sound -bad- or -wrong-, you know, wordwise, but it's not really used.
Girly. Weakness. Cowardice. Wimpy. Or when used as an adjective it means featuring scantily dressed women.

There's screamed like a girl.
There's run like a girl.
Cry like a girl.
All these uses imply a lack. A smallness. Putting girls beneath boys and shaming boys who might show hints of these qualities.

Man up.

And if you think about it, this doesn't only limit my girl.  It limits my boy. Things he can't touch, can't wear, can't be. Because even having interest in girly things makes him less of a boy. Women cab be respected when they play in the man's world and beat them at their own game. But they are less womanly.

Husband and I can be occasionally cruel in our views of the world and we look around and think someday all the old bigots will die. But then we also believe that there are fewer bigots created every generation. (Not proven by today's news, but I can't let go of that belief).

So if things will get better every generation for race relations, will it get better for equality between the sexes too? Even if those words are still around? Or are we reinforcing this separation every time we use these words? Or do I worry too much about things I have no ability to change?

No comments:

Post a Comment