Recently, a middle-aged man came into our office and repeatedly called me “dear”.
Many years ago, in the midst of a dysfunctional parish and diocesan situation, I called a priest friend for some advice. He told me not to “get my titties in a twist”.
A dental student presented a healthy weekly diet in a nutrition class. A professor asked her if this diet reflected her own eating habits. She replied that it did. The professor then said, “no wonder girls like you stay so skinny without exercising”! The student was too dumb-founded to tell him that she was not only a licensed physical therapist, professionally knowledgeable about a healthy life-style, but also a Triatholon athlete.
Sexist language is all around us. We see it in increasingly dumbed-down sitcoms. We hear it in main-stream music. We read and hear it in our language of worship. And, it is glaringly obvious in media coverage of women leaders and political candidates.
The Women’s Media Center in the US has decided to provide some concrete solutions to the problem. On March 26th, they published the Media Guide to Gender Neutral Coverage of Women Candidates + Politicians, available on the web-site Name It, Change It: sexism and equality don’t mix. Believing that awareness is “the strongest tool that both candidates and members of the media have in combating sexism”, the guide gives examples and evidence of sexism directed at female candidates and politicians. The Rule of Reversibility is offered as a general guide to follow,
Don’t mention her young children unless you would also mention his, or describe her clothes unless you would describe his, or say she’s shrill or attractive unless the same adjectives would be applied to a man. Don’t say she’s had facial surgery unless you say he dyes his hair or has hair plugs. Don’t say she’s just out of graduate school but he’s a rising star. Don’t say she has no professional training but he worked his way up. Don’t ask her if she’s running as a women’s candidate unless you ask him if he’s running as a men’s candidate. A good test of whether or not you as a reporter are taking sexism seriously is whether you would cite race, class, ethnicity, or religion in the same context.” — Gloria Steinem, Journalist and Co-Founder of the Women’s Media Center
The document also provides a practical and valuable glossary of terms to be avoided. An explanation is given of why they are offensive, and offers alternate words and phrases that can be used. This glossary should be required reading for all journalists, writers, bloggers, and media personalities. Actually, everyone should be aware of what language is acceptable, and what is not acceptable. It is not a matter of being politically correct. It’s a matter of basic human respect and decency.
I do hope that Rush Limbaugh gets a copy.