A California city voted to ban some gender-specific words in its city code and replace them with gender-neutral options.
Berkeley’s municipal code will no longer feature words like “manhole” and “manpower,” and instead say, “maintenance hole” and “human effort” or “workforce.” The measure passed unanimously and replaces more than two dozen terms.
Gender-specific references to job titles, like “policeman” and “craftsmen,” will also be changed in the code, to “police officer” and “craftspeople” or “artisans.”
And the use of gendered pronouns, like “he” and “she,” would be replaced with specific titles, like “the attorney” or “the candidate.”
Rigel Robinson, the council member who proposed the measure, praised its passage in a tweet Tuesday.
“There is power in language. This is a small move, but it matters,” he tweeted.
“Things don’t have to change the world to be important.”Steve Jobs
It doesn’t take an investigative mind to prove that change happens regularly before our very eyes and ears. Some changes are significant but many are trivial. I suppose my mind today is on the latter, but I really want to share with you some observations. I’m curious whether you have observed the same changes.
Here are some questions for you:
1. Have you noticed that many celebrities when introduced on TV programs now walk onto the stage applauding, apparently, for themselves?Surely that is a fairly recent habit.
2.What about the experts interviewed on news or talk shows who when asked their opinion begin their response with “so” and then proceed?So, when did this trend begin and does anyone think it adds to the information provided?
Words are inanimate so they do not have the power to change, but we at times change their pronunciation for no obvious reason. The first time I noticed this was during the Vietnam War. Out of the blue, that country was pronounced differently for a while.
Let me make clear that I am not talking about the mispronunciation of words. I have the utmost empathy in such circumstances since it has never been a personal strong suit. I don’t know if teachers still have students read aloud in class, but back (way back) in my day it was expected. Like it was yesterday, I recall my humiliation standing in front of the class and reading in Ms. Miller’s fourth grade. Suddenly I came to a big word that I had not encountered before but I forged ahead and read, “She was deter-mind-ed to succeed.”
3. Have you noticed the different pronunciation of any of these words over time? Is there a big authority somewhere who arbitrarily one day simply proclaims, “We will henceforth pronounce __________ differently!”?
Please share some of your own observations with us.
Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world.
Does anyone remember Connie Chung? She was one of the first female TV news anchors and worked for essentially all broadcast networks and several cable channels at one time or another. She was quite good at her job, perhaps too good since she was terminated for her tenacious interview tactics. One thing I remember very clearly is that she was sometimes referred to as an “anchorette.” Do you remember that? If not, please don’t think the term has gone away over the past few decades. It has not. As proof, I recently saw an article entitled “Television Business News – Hot Anchorette Wars . . . .” There is a lot here that merits discussion, but I’ll stick to the topic at hand.
Over the past twenty or so years I attended numerous high school dance competitions. The teams, made up almost exclusively of female students, had names including Champettes, Tigerettes and Spiralettes, silly names using the suffix “ette,” the diminutive form of the whole. Just as we unconsciously refer to female babies as “little” girls, it generally goes unnoticed that girls’ sports teams are considered “less than” from day one. You may say this is not important precisely because it goes unnoticed, but I disagree. It is the very insidious nature of some words that makes them detrimental.
Think of the multitude of words that are altered to indicate “less than,” such as kitchenette, dinette, towelette and the meaning is clear, they are not the whole, not the real deal. When applied to a person, usherette, bachelorette, suffragette, why would that person not believe they are inferior to the original.
As petty as it may sound, I stated in an earlier post (Words Matter – I) there are words I do not like. It has taken nearly a lifetime for me to fully understand why. Here is a list of some of my least favorite words and terms and short explanations of why.
“Girls” for women of all ages
Substitute for “women”
Woman is not a dirty word!
Substitute for “woman”
Maid/Matron of Honor
No male attendant equivalent
Name before marriage
I use “birth name”; in time may not be an issue
Mr. for all men regardless of marital status
Why not male equivalents?
I believe that some words, disguised as harmless, are actually demeaning. Are there words you especially like or dislike? Words you would like to change? Please share your thoughts and opinions with us here in the comment section.
If a child is told often, from a very young age, that he or she is limited (slow or weak) in some way, do you think the child will become an adult who believes he or she can accomplish anything of which it dreams? Or, will the child become an adult who is restricted and unsure of their capabilities? I believe what a child hears over and over has a significant impact on what the child sees as its potential.
When I was a nursing student I remember hearing that nurses and other caregivers talked to male and female newborns differently. I didn’t have enough time as a student to fully appreciate this truth. Later though, when I began to teach OB (obstetrics) to nursing students, I rotated classes into and out of labor and delivery, newborn nursery and postpartum care. During three years of observation I indeed saw that what I had heard was true. It began as soon as the child slipped from their mother’s body and into the cold, bright and noisy delivery room.
From Day One
When a boy was delivered there was congratulatory talk, often booming loudly and as the boy infant began to cry everyone talked about his strong lusty voice. As he was wrapped in a blue blanket there were predictions of his first touchdown, layup or hole-in-one, whatever might please the proud father. When genitalia appeared without the external apparatus it was likely to result in hushed “ahhhhhs” as a pink blanket was held out to swaddle a baby girl. The remark most often heard was regarding her appearance using words like beautiful, dainty, maybe even predictions of her being a little “heartbreaker.” The love and gratefulness for a healthy newborn was not unequal, one not valued more than the other, but the words used were different.
Without a doubt the newborn would be referred to as “big” or “little” not according to the actual measurement of weight and length, but according to gender. There were exceptions, to be sure, if the child was a great deal smaller or larger than average, but nearly always a boy was referred to as “big bouncing” baby. A girl, even when over eight or nine pounds, was a “sweet little” girl.
This trend continued in the nursery while the newborn was bathed and examined and then transported back and forth to the mother’s room for feeding and bonding over the next hours of hospitalization. If you doubt this, I challenge you to listen carefully as your friends and family members discuss the babies in their lives. Observe the words that are used when the infant is spoken to and sung to and handled. It may seem insignificant at the time since the baby does not yet understand words, but the truth we need to remember is that this is just the beginning of a persistent message. Day after day a child is reminded that she is the “weaker sex,” to use an outdated term, and unable to do or be anything in the world to which she aspires. This is not intentional, not sinister, not done out of unequal love, but these facts do not dilute the message. Words matter, especially when repeated through years of developing a sense of who we are and what we are capable of achieving in life.
It may sound trite, but there are words I do not like. It is not necessarily that they do not sound pleasant, although that may be part of it. And, have you noticed words do not sound the same to everyone? For instance, “coin” is one of those for me. When I say it one of my daughters chuckles quietly. I think I pronounce it normally, but obviously I do not say the simple four letter word correctly. My Mom had a similar problem with the word “oxygen,” however I find that more forgivable. But, I am getting sidetracked before I actually begin.
What I intended to discuss are words that either do not sound like what they mean or that have meanings with which I disagree. Let me start with depression, which sounds like a lower surface, a dip or swag. A road uncared for might have a depression. An old floor may be depressed in spots. This versatile word may be applied to the economy or even a weather pattern. You get it, but what if this word is used regarding another human? Many people immediately think of a person in a bad mood, sad probably and maybe even lazy. Too often the person suffering from depression is told to “snap out of it” or “get over” themselves. Even if not said in actual words that is likely the message they receive, whether intentional or not. I believe it may be time for a new word for this complex diagnosis which covers an entire spectrum of symptoms from mild and transient to suicide.
Another word, or term rather, is not only inadequate, like depression, but is also inaccurate. “Domestic violence” describes a range of situations from emotional and physical threats to injury or even murder. There is nothing “domestic” about “violence!” This terminology should never have been used to begin with and it serves an injustice to victims of violence, whether in the home or elsewhere. Recently, the term “Relationship Violence” is sometimes used in media reporting and I strongly support this more accurate terminology. Some prefer “intimate partner violence,” but in my opinion this comes up short. First, it obviously leaves out victims whose abuser is someone other than a partner. The abuser could be any relative or friend with whom one has a relationship. Statistics indicate one in three women will be the victim of intimate partner violence, but including other types of relationships would most certainly increase the statistic greatly and there is no reason to limit attention to a particular type of relationship or gender.
Pink & Purple
For many years October has been Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we have been encouraged to wear pink to bring attention to this illness which effects over 124 women per 100,000 population (1.3 men/100,000). Wear pink if you choose, it isn’t my favorite color and reminds me of
girl babies more than women, but I would suggest pink ribbons do little to combat this deadly disease which has touched most of us either directly or indirectly. More helpful is knowing the signs of breast cancer, performing self exams and having regular mammography.
Someone in all sincerity I’m sure, has designated today as Purple Thursday and we are asked to “Wear a little purple with our pink” today. I must admit purple is one of my favorite colors, but rather than looking for something special to wear today I am writing this post. I wish to bring attention to Relationship Violence and encourage each of you, regardless of gender, to take action against this devastating situation which, like cancer, effects so many. Relationship Violence may take various forms other than physical abuse, including emotional, sexual, financial or verbal mistreatment. The signs and symptoms can be reviewed Online, including such sites as this National Hotline: http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/
Let’s be better informed.
Let’s be brave enough to report, whether it is personal or is suspected in another.
Let’s refuse to say, “domestic” violence from this day forward.