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Old December 27th, 2010, 5:34 am
FleurduJardin  Female.gif FleurduJardin is offline
Join Date: 16th July 2006
Location: Shuttling between Europe & US
Posts: 1,607
Re: Feminism: Definitions and Opinions

Originally Posted by canismajoris View Post
My problem is this: Though ample evidence exists in our various languages that men and women are regarded wholly differently, I don't see how addressing this manifestation in language gets at the heart of the matter. For one thing, if two assertive and intelligent women such as you and Melanie can't agree on the matter, then it makes me wonder if there is really a right answer rather than two or more competing preferences. On a more empirical level though, I think it can be demonstrated that efforts to neutralize language is not in itself an indicator of equalized gender relations.
I think the disagreement between Melanie and me has roots both generational and linguistic.

Generational because I'm much older - I'm more than twice your age, Bill Canis, and it's possible I'm twice Melanie's age too*. I've seen the situation as it was in an era before you were born and Melanie was a toddler. The era when telling a woman "Hey, you're quite smart for a girl" was thought to be a compliment. The era when, a lot more than now, anyone in a position of power, or in a "prestigious" profession was automatically assumed to be a man. The younger generation kind of takes for granted (and minimizes the importance of) things we had to fight very hard for.

I was working for the UN as a translator, but when I said I worked for the UN, the question was usually "Are you a secretary?" or "Are you a guide?". A woman friend of mine, who was chief of her own department, was visited once, in her UN office, by FBI agents whose first question was, "Are you the chief's secretary?"

As to the UN itself, my friends and I were instrumental in changing the title of the leaflet for visitors which was called "Every Man's United Nations" to "Everyone's United Nations". That's rather illustrative, don't you think?

Though from the start, it was equal pay for equal work for both genders, there were glaring disparities in benefits (being met at arrival in NY, home leave benefits for spouses, security matters when working on the night shift, etc.), which we managed to correct in the late 1970's to early 1980's. The UN itself (I'm not talking about Member States) has, as much as possible, achieved gender equality. There's hope yet for the rest of the world.

The linguistic disagreement stems from the fact that my main language (French) doesn't have neutral articles, while English does. It makes a world of difference. I've already written at length about it and won't bore you all with a repetition.

ETA - Oh, and at the UN, no woman, in power or not, is ever addressed as "Sir". Even among the security officers, who are our police force and hold military ranks (sergeant, lieutenant, captain, etc.).

*ETA 2 - I just looked at Melanie's age and no, I'm not twice her age. I'm not quite THAT old. If I had had children early enough, I could still be her mother, though, so the generational gap is there.

Last edited by FleurduJardin; December 27th, 2010 at 5:53 am. Reason: ETAs
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