5.19.2008

there is no political correctness. there is just common decency.

I recently complained about this on someone else's blog, so I might as well bring it here and vent at a more appropriate place.

In a baseball-related discussion, someone wrote that my partner's blog "often has a hair trigger on political correctness matters".

I hate this. Hate it!

For centuries whole segments of the population were disparaged and referred to in less than human terms. Now some of us insist this is wrong. We ask that we all refer to people as people, the way we ourselves wish to be spoken of.

This supposed "hair trigger on political correctness matters" means commenters on that blog don't ignore racism, sexism, homophobia or xenophobia. We see it, we call it.

In another irritatingly wrong usage, people who fancy themselves speakers of unvarnished, unpopular truths will say, "It may be politically incorrect to say so, but...". As if being so-called politically correct demands we not speak plainly, that we coddle difficult facts in euphemism.

First of all, words like woman, African-American and Muslim are not euphemisms. When one of my relatives calls a 50-year-old woman an "office girl", and I ask that she use the term "assistant", I am not being euphemistic. The person is a woman, and an assistant.

And on the other hand, where do we really see the use of euphemisms? Who is repackaging torture as "aggressive interrogation methods"? How did genocide become "ethnic cleansing"? Where did abortion rights become "pro-life"? It's our side that demands the plain truth.

We should crumble up that meaningless phrase "politically correct" and throw it in the trash heap of reactionary hoaxes. It can land right on top of "liberal media" and "feminazi".

There's no agenda. There is no "political correctness". There is just common decency.

59 comments:

kim_in_to said...

Thanks for posting on this matter. You've hit the nail on the head. In all the discussions I've heard on the PC phenomenon, few people "get" it.

Was there ever a time when we didn't care about common decency? If someone doesn't like the way we refer to them or speak about them, we adjust our language out of respect to their feelings. In Canada, we long ago switched from using the term "Eskimo" to "Inuit", because the Inuit people disliked "Eskimo". If someone tells you they prefer to be called "John" instead of "Jonathan", do you insist on continuing to call them"Jonathan"?

Unfortunately, when the phenomenon became the "PC" movement, we saw self-appointed "experts" dictating policy for the rest of the population, and most of these people had no background in Linguistics and had no business making decisions about language. The result was idiotic demands about the use of our language, which resulted in a well-deserved backlash.

The problem here is that it casts in a bad light everyone who criticizes or tries to call attention to inappropriate language (e.g., racism, sexism, homophobia). Anyone who points out inappropriate usage get branded "PC", and most people - even with a legitimate complaint - do not know how to defend themselves against that accusation.

Worst of all, it allows racists and bigots to hide behind the anti-PC banner.

L-girl said...

If someone tells you they prefer to be called "John" instead of "Jonathan", do you insist on continuing to call them"Jonathan"?

That's an excellent example! I'm going to use it from now on. Thanks.

The result was idiotic demands about the use of our language, which resulted in a well-deserved backlash.

This sounds like something distinctly Canadian that we didn't see in the US. Can you give me an example?

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post!

I definitely agree that you've hit the nail on the head here.

I guess my take on this issue before I read this post was to usually situate the whole fraudulent PC 'debate' historically.

Like take, for instance, John A. MacDonald. On many occasions our illustrious PM referred to aboriginal women as using a derogatory term which I will not repeat (and referred disparagingly to other minority groups as well) and he did it IN PARLIAMENT no less.

Whenever I hear the right-wingers complain about PC, I just try to think about the time when it first started becoming inappropriate to call aboriginal women that name and then I think about who were the people who resented this as 'political correctness' and who were the people who supported it.

When looked at historically, it's clear to me anyway that in 100 years, people are going to look back on these conservative reactionaries of today and cringe at the hatred they were spewing.

That knowledge always seems to bring a smile to my face.

L-girl said...

Paulitics, thank you so much. You are so right - what is at first disparaged and derided later becomes the norm (we hope).

I often note how (in the US, at least) today's heroes were yesterday's radical criminals - Martin Luther King, Susan B Anthony, Cesar Chavez, etc. You've shown me how that applies to language as well.

Thanks for stopping by. Your historical perspective is very welcome here.

kim_in_to said...

The result was idiotic demands about the use of our language, which resulted in a well-deserved backlash.

From what I've seen, it was more of an international phenomenon than anything Canada-specific. Case in point: my brother is an engineer. He gave me one of the most ludicrous examples. In technology, when you have cords that attach or one item which plugs into another, typically, one end has a shape that protrudes, while the connecting item has a hole. Traditionally, we have used a sexual analogy: the parts are referred to as "male" (the protruding end), "female" (the end with the hole), and we say that the parts "mate". At the height of PC, someone was afraid that someone would be offended by the terminology. The solution (and here is where I rant about non-Linguists making language decisions): they are now referred to as "male" and "reverse-male". I kid you not. As far as I recall, this example came from the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), which is an international body.

I'm also referring to more general examples such as the demand by some feminists to replace "history", which has nothing to do with the pronoun "his".

kim_in_to said...

BTW - I think it speaks volumes about our government - and its lack of commitment to resolving First Nations issues - that it still has a Ministry of Indian Affairs.

Sarah O. said...

kim_in_to, I do agree with much of what you are saying, but I do want to point out that "history" does originate from a masculine term ("... from histor "wise man, judge," here), and that even if it didn't, I still think radfems and other feminists who suggest the change deserve the benefit of the doubt. Regardless of etymology, history has been overwhelmingly male-centric, resulting from millenia of patriarchal societies. Why can't feminists suggest a play on words to drive home this point? All of us here have already acknowledged the power that words carry.

Re: PC-ism as a hoax, I remember this coming up as a topic of discussion in my journalism law class during my undergrad. That's where I was first introduced to the theory that this idea of excessive pc-ism is a strawman, a term that was possibly/probably stolen by conservative mouths from the liberal thinkers who had used it ironically and as a form of self-criticism. Wikipedia actually has a pretty succinct summary of the uses of the term, if you'll all forgive me for sourcing it!

L-girl said...

The solution (and here is where I rant about non-Linguists making language decisions): they are now referred to as "male" and "reverse-male". I kid you not.

Well that's completely insane. As you said, a backlash is well deserved in cases like that.

I'm also referring to more general examples such as the demand by some feminists to replace "history", which has nothing to do with the pronoun "his".

Right, there's a whole language around that. The "womyn" group.

BTW - I think it speaks volumes about our government - and its lack of commitment to resolving First Nations issues - that it still has a Ministry of Indian Affairs.

I've often thought that too.

kim_in_to said...

Sarah:
Thanks for pointing that out. I had actually just learned that, as I looked it up before I posted, and was surprised to see there is actually an element of sexism in the etymology. But what I am pointing out is the false analogy, resulting from the incorrect parsing of the word as "his" + "tory", leading to the retaliatory "herstory". This is false, and a lot of people know it is false, and that is what gets "PC" attitudes into trouble.

What we need to do is first find out if there is actually a problem with this term: do girls feel excluded by the use of the term? If so, then there is a problem which needs to be dealt with. And to do so, it is Linguists who need to be consulted, so we don't end up with new terms which are in themselves problematic or poorly-chosen or -derived.

L-girl said...

Why can't feminists suggest a play on words to drive home this point? All of us here have already acknowledged the power that words carry.

I would never say someone could use a pun or wordplay to make a point. But etymology is what it is. The word for an adult female in the English language is woman. It's not womyn. That's just incorrect spelling.

That's where I was first introduced to the theory that this idea of excessive pc-ism is a strawman, a term that was possibly/probably stolen by conservative mouths from the liberal thinkers who had used it ironically and as a form of self-criticism. Wikipedia actually has a pretty succinct summary of the uses of the term, if you'll all forgive me for sourcing it!

I used the Wiki entry when I was writing this.

I am also old enough to remember when PC was used - completely non-ironically - on the left and actually had meaning. It meant, am I being inclusive? Am I being sexist or heterocentric? Is this something I should think about more, rather than just accept the majority norm?

Unfortunately it has a different meaning now, another successful theft by the right with a huge assist from the corporate media.

Jere said...

Okay, I watch some TV shows that show people's ignorance so we can laugh at it, or watch others react to it, stuff like that. Ricky Gervais shows, Ali G/Borat, Sarah Silverman, Larry David and Conchordes sometimes... As a lefty-type, I feel like these people are on "my side." Yet people will proudly describe these shows as "politically incorrect." It's ridiculous. I was so happy to see an interview with Gervais and Stephen Merchant where they were asked about their "politically incorrect" show, and one of them corrected the interviewer, saying the show is politically correct.

So are righty-types watching these shows, not realizing they're being made fun of? Do they just sit there waiting to hear antiquated terms and laughing at them without considering the context? Probably...

Jere said...

Above in my last line, I should have said "laughing in agreement with them," meaning the antiquated terms--like, Hey, I say that one, too!

L-girl said...

I don't know if either of you are familiar with Mary Daly. She's a radical feminist who reinvents language in surprising, pointed and often very amusing ways. I enjoy her work (although it can be a bit one-note once you're familiar with it).

I do enjoy the feminist language play (like herstory, womyn, she-roes). I just don't think it has a place in every day language. But just MO.

L-girl said...

As a lefty-type, I feel like these people are on "my side." Yet people will proudly describe these shows as "politically incorrect." It's ridiculous.

Excellent point, Jere! I forgot about that silly mis-use of the term.

So are righty-types watching these shows, not realizing they're being made fun of? Do they just sit there waiting to hear antiquated terms and laughing at them without considering the context?

Good questions. Damned if I know the answer.

I also think some people use the expression "politically incorrect" to mean anything at all bawdy or sexual. As if we're the prudes who are obsessed with sanitizing all entertainment.

L-girl said...

Do they just sit there waiting to hear antiquated terms and laughing at them without considering the context?

It might be this.

I'm thinking of people who on several blogs I've read did not see the difference between calling someone a "nigger" and (for example) Bob Dylan's use of the word nigger in the song "Hurricane" ("...and to the black folks he was just a crazy nigger, no one doubted that he pulled the trigger..."), or Stevie Wonder in Living For The City (in the cop's voice, "get in the cell, nigger").

People said Dylan "used the N-word".

What can account for this?

impudent strumpet said...

Even if you don't care about common decency, there's still the need for clear communication. In any context if you use a word other than the most neutral and benign one, people are going to assume you chose it for a reason. That's just how we deal with all these synonyms in our language. If you approach a stranger on the street with "Yo, motherfucker!" or "Hey you sexy beast!", you can't expect them to assume your intentions are the same as if you'd said "Excuse me..."

one of my relatives calls a 50-year-old woman an "office girl"

See, that's just unclear. It gives no idea whatsoever of what her job is. If you're in that office and someone says "Go ask the office girl," you aren't going to find the right person.

they are now referred to as "male" and "reverse-male".

Oh ewww, that's even worse! If you're uncomfortable with the m/f terminology, why not just innie and outie?

Re: history, I'm pretty sure the "his" isn't intended as a masculine pronoun because the "histor-" constructionexists in every European language but English is the only one where "his" is a masculine pronoun.

The weirdest backlash to perceived "political correctness" that I've seen:

1. False etymology of the word chairman in an attempt to stop people from changing it to "chair" or "chairperson." And I've met some people IRL who are really attached to this idea for some reason.

2. Some guy thinks the word vagina is feminist terminology (instead of, I dunno, medical terminology?)

Sarah O. said...

In my defence, I never said I approved of "womyn." I think it's better to understand the background and baggage of a word, rather than mispell it or create a new one to replace it.

In that vein, I've never taken the call for "herstory" very seriously, seeing it as either a rhetorical device or as a somewhat absurd (etymologically erroneous, false analogy) end point of a legitimate ideological concern - patriarchy and women's traditional absence in academic and popular history. I just think that if I give the idea of replacing the word 'history' too much weight, I risk turning it into a strawman (woman?) just like "PC" or "feminazi."

L-girl said...

Sarah, no defense is necessary, and I hope I didn't seem to be attacking you. I think these are interesting issues.

In that vein, I've never taken the call for "herstory" very seriously, seeing it as either a rhetorical device or as a somewhat absurd (etymologically erroneous, false analogy) end point of a legitimate ideological concern - patriarchy and women's traditional absence in academic and popular history.

That's the way I would look at it too - another word for "women's history", in a playful or at least non-serious context.

L-girl said...

one of my relatives calls a 50-year-old woman an "office girl"

See, that's just unclear. It gives no idea whatsoever of what her job is.


You're right, it is unclear. But it's more than unclear, it's demeaning.

I enjoy women describing themselves as girls in certain contexts - I ought to, given my online name - but in a workplace, I think it's really inappropriate. You can be sure no one calls the assistant's boss a boy or a girl.

1. False etymology of the word chairman in an attempt to stop people from changing it to "chair" or "chairperson." And I've met some people IRL who are really attached to this idea for some reason.

Holy cow. I didn't know anyone had a problem with chair or chairperson. But of course they do...

Some guy thinks the word vagina is feminist terminology (instead of, I dunno, medical terminology?)

That is just plain scary.

Daniel wbc said...

Thank you for articulating what I believe, too (and not for the first time).

L-girl said...

Thank you Daniel :)

Ryan said...

Meh, conservatives should like so-called political correctness. If anything, it's just good manners.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about anyone else but I see political correctness (as distinct from simple courtesy) fairly regularly though not often.

It shows up when people get lambasted by third parties for using terms that don't upset the people they are describing, only the third parties.

I run into this most often with the term "indian" being used to describe North American natives. Of course the term is inaccurate and silly considering it's origins, and of course some may find it offensive. But if the people getting offended aren't actually native people then I think it is an issue of being "politically correct" rather than polite.

With regards to Ryan's comment, I do like good manners. I think common courtesy or simple decency does a lot to improve relations between people.

But on issues like the term "indian" I take my cue from the native guys that I actually know rather than the ones I read about in the paper and some random non-native person. The native guys I know use the term indian. They're not offended by it and they don't use terms like "First Nation".

Of course I actually use the term "native" more than "indian" most of the time. That's partly because I got tired of those annoying (typically white) third parties implying that I was somehow racist for using the same terms as an indian guy.

deang said...

Thank you for articulating this issue so well. I have felt the same way since right-wing think tanks foisted their strawman of a "political correctness movement" on the public back in the early 90s. It has been disheartening to see it take off and become a true propaganda coup, not only fooling people of all political stripes within the US, but also spreading throughout the anglophone world, causing people to be self-conscious about using respectful terms lest they be subjected to ridicule.

This post made me remember that when the term was first being pushed massively in the early 90s, a friend who was not very politically aware was confused by it when she first heard it applied to the liberal target terms we now associate it with: "But where I'm from [rural Pennsylvania], 'politically correct' means adopting Republican positions in order to get ahead in politics, because that's the norm there." On the face of it, it does sound like it would be a relative term.

For a really absurd case of organizations changing official terminology to avoid offending certain people, check this one out from my oil executive father. When the AIDS epidemic hit in the 80s, the word "aide" was removed from official, internal company documents to avoid its use in the plural. This was done as much for homophobic reasons as out of sensitivity.

L-girl said...

Thanks Dean. :)

That "aide" story is too much. A real head-shaker.

FWIW, the native people I know call themselves native, and do refer to First Nations people. The origins of the word Indian are enough for me to stay away from it, personally.

magnolia_2000 said...

http://www.languagemonitor.com/wst_page20.html

heres a list of stories about this subject from the language monitor. some are serious and some are just funny. my favourite is the staffing company in australia who discouraged their santas from saying "ho ho ho" because its offensive to women.

magnolia_2000 said...

well so much for trying to link. just not smart enough i guess. i put the link in between the < > but it wouldnt take.

kim_in_to said...

The First Nations people I know do use "First Nations", although probably more with those outside the community. They also use "native", although this has been used in a pejorative sense for a long time, so my take on this is that they have taken ownership of the term, much in the same way that blacks use "nigger" or gays use "fag"; it's used within the community but I personally wouldn't assume that makes it ok for those outside the community to.

The term "indian", in addition to its origin, also has a long history of pejorative use, and is regarded by many as simply archaic, in the same way that "Oriental" is (those in the Toronto area might want to ask city councillor Rob Ford about that one).

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's a west coast thing then. I don't recall having heard any of my friends or acquaintances use the term "First Nations". (Or "Native" for that matter).

Anonymous said...

As for that whole "term used in the community thing, but not by outsiders", that's a whole different issue. I tend to think that that if you don't want people to use a term, it's probably not a smart idea to use it yourself.

magnolia_2000 said...

i was reading earlier tonight that in europe people of asian ancestry prefer the term oriental while those in north america consider it a slur. i had never heard that before.

L-girl said...

The term "indian", in addition to its origin, also has a long history of pejorative use, and is regarded by many as simply archaic, in the same way that "Oriental"

That's another thing that some people make a big fuss over. "First we were supposed to say coloureds, then Negroes, then we were supposed to say Blacks...", like it's a huge imposition.

As if language isn't changing all the time, as if new words haven't entered their vocabulary and others fallen out of disuse.

My grandmother kept food cold in an ice-box, my mother played records on a hi-fi, in my own life I've seen the advent of VCR, VHS, DVD, CD, internet, wifi, Blackberry, etc. etc.

But for some reason it's a big deal to lose the word Oriental and replace it with Asian.

L-girl said...

laura's link tutorial:

[a href="URL HERE"]name of link here[/a]

substitute < > for [ ]

you need each part of this, including the " "

Amy said...

I first read this yesterday and meant to come back to comment, but then forgot.

My initial reaction was to just say, "You go, girl," but I was afraid that wouldn't be seen as politically correct. :)

Great post, and great discussion! The discussion of whether the fact that a group (native Americans, e.g.) accepts a term such as Indian is enough to make it acceptable is an intriguing one. This comes up for me with young women in the 20s who refer to each other as girls---not in the "you go, girl" sense, but as in "the girl who spoke in class." That is, they are using the term to refer to their adult peers in a way that I never would have when I was there age in the 1970s because we saw the term "girl" as demeaning. These young women do not. I find myself wanting to correct them, and sometimes I do, depending on the context and the person. How can I correct the men who use the term "girl" if I don't correct the women?

Amy said...

Uch, should have said in "their" 20s and "their" age.

Need to wake up more before I post...

redsock said...

But if the people getting offended aren't actually native people then I think it is an issue of being "politically correct" rather than polite.

I'm offended by many comments and terms that have nothing to do with being a white male. If another white man refers to someone as a nigger in speaking to me, it's still a racist term, even if there are no black people around.

...

Did I read somewhere that Oriental is making a comeback?

L-girl said...

I'm offended by many comments and terms that have nothing to do with being a white male. If another white man refers to someone as a nigger in speaking to me, it's still a racist term, even if there are no black people around.

Good point.

Did I read somewhere that Oriental is making a comeback?

Possibly on this thread? Magnolia mentioned that she has heard it's the term of choice for Asian people in Europe?

L-girl said...

This comes up for me with young women in the 20s who refer to each other as girls---not in the "you go, girl" sense, but as in "the girl who spoke in class." That is, they are using the term to refer to their adult peers in a way that I never would have when I was there age in the 1970s because we saw the term "girl" as demeaning. These young women do not. I find myself wanting to correct them, and sometimes I do, depending on the context and the person. How can I correct the men who use the term "girl" if I don't correct the women?

Thanks for this, Amy. It's an interesting issue for me, too.

My feminist (female) friends who are older than me won't use "girl" under any circumstance, won't use the word "bitch", even to mean complaining.

Those younger than me have no problem with either, in any context.

I feel context is very important. I'd be bothered by "girl" in what you're referring to - and I'd correct women and men. I've been correcting my mother for that for 20 years or more! Now she says "The girl - oh no, I mean young woman - who...". But she makes a big deal out of saying "young woman" like she's speaking a foreign language. Grrr.

Sarah O. said...

Speaking as a twenty-something, feminist woman, "girl" is still the first word that comes to mind to point out another other twenty-something woman. I have to make a conscious choice to use "woman." I'm reminded of Denise Riley's book Am I That Name?. It's odd, but when I call myself a "woman," it feels like I'm giving myself more power - more credit? - than I really have (that's why I've embraced its use). I don't know how else to explain it or what to call it, but I just think many women in their twenties today don't know if they are girls or women, or what it means to be either, and probably don't even realize the power they can draw on as a self-described woman.

Amy said...

Sarah, I know exactly what you mean because it was the same for me when I was in my 20s. It felt sort of odd and presumptuous to call myself a woman, but I forced myself to. At the time, there was a big push among feminists, so it was not only my age but the age that made it feel both hard and necessary.

I have two daughters in their 20s---23 and 27. My older daughter now regularly refers to herself and her peers as women. My younger one is not yet there completely. I think it has as much to do with self-image and seeing yourself as an adult as it does with sexism. Yet I never hear my 20 something male students refer to themselves or each other as "boys." Maybe as "guys," but not as boys.

Sarah O. said...

Amy, I agree with you completely. I would only add how much our popular culture limits our - all of our - ability to imagine ourselves as whoever and whatever we want to be. I just mean, that even our self-image is limited to a certain degree by sexism and patriarchy.

I read two excellent posts on that topic today, in fact, one at Shakesville (here) and another at Rants for the Invisible people (here.) The Shakesville link, incidentally, discusses American Aboriginal culture.

I'm off to work - looking forward to following up on this discussion later.

Amy said...

That seems right, Sarah. It may be harder for 20 year old women to see themselves as adults than it is for 20 year old men, given the pressures and messages from society as a whole.

Interesting links, especially the first one. It reminded me of what my brother has told me about why he, a gay man, enjoys fantasy and science fiction---it enables him to imagine a world where things are not as they are in this world.

L-girl said...

Using "woman" was also foisted on me in my 20s, when it didn't feel completely right. But I adopted it and I was glad I did.

We lack the female equivalent of "guy". "Gal" is ridiculous and archaic.

In many workplaces that are predominantly female, people avoid the girl/women issue by referring to a group of women as "ladies". I HATE THIS - but I can't do anything about it except not use it myself. I'm the only person at work who refers to female staff as women. Everyone else says "ladies" for plural and "girl" for singular.

briz said...

Renaming (or attempting to rename) Male/Female connectors is absolutely ridiculous. I work in telecommunications and I've never met somebody who has an issue with this naming convention. I believe this is an example of people attempting to appear politically correct without understanding the issue at hand. I can't even see people who are against binary gender classifications being offended by terminology used to describe connector ends, but that’s just my view.

Since I know you’re a baseball fan l-girl, and I was at the Toronto – Cleveland series last weekend, I thought I’d ask: What are your feelings on the Cleveland Indians? Should the history of the team, or the opinions of the fans, supersede the calls to change the name, or logo? I know this is a complicated issue, and fans typically resist change, so I was curious what you, or others, thought about it.

L-girl said...

I would only add how much our popular culture limits our - all of our - ability to imagine ourselves as whoever and whatever we want to be.

This is a very good observation, and extends well beyond the issues we're exploring here.

At one point in my life, I made a conscious decision to identify myself as a writer, as opposed to the many ways I earned my living. I thought a lot about how we are often identified by our income-earning jobs, but how those jobs may or may not be a basic part of our identity. It felt fake or phony at first, then I became more comfortable with it - and calling myself a writer actually helped me write more, and work on my craft more.

Hmmm, I think I see a future post...

L-girl said...

What are your feelings on the Cleveland Indians? Should the history of the team, or the opinions of the fans, supersede the calls to change the name, or logo? I know this is a complicated issue, and fans typically resist change, so I was curious what you, or others, thought about it.

It is not a complicated issue at all. The name is wrong, period, and should be changed.

I wrote about it here, among other places.

"Should the history of the team"

A, the team was not always called The Indians. B, history is no excuse anyway. Slavery is part of history. Lots of things were part of history that we now realize were completely wrong or inappropriate.

"Fans typically resist change"? People resist change. Progressive people do not. Progressive baseball fans are disgusted at the refusal of the Cleveland team to change its name or its hideous logo.

On Joy of Sox (my baseball hangout), we don't use the name "Indians" or "Braves" at all. We call the teams Cleveland and Atlanta.

Allan calls them "The Spiders", as that was the team's original name.

L-girl said...

Allan's post on the Cleveland name and logo, and a brief follow-up.

briz said...

Right on. Thanks.

I remember watching Atlanta fans doing the "Tomahawk Chop" during the '92 series, and being more annoyed than anything. Granted I was 9at the time. Now I find it offensive.

Amy said...

I find "ladies" demeaning as well. I think it goes back to being told as a little girl to "act like a lady," which usually meant---don't make noise, don't run around, sit quietly and be polite. "Lady has a whole different connotation than "woman."

magnolia_2000 said...

many universities and secondary schools in the u.s. south use the term lady before their nicknames. such as the delta state university "lady statesmen". haha. university of tennessee "lady volunteers". the lsu "lady tigers" used to be the..wait for it..."ben-gals". i kid you not. the university of new orleans privateers were the "buc-ettes". ole miss dance team are the "rebelettes". the dance team at the university of alabama are still the "crimsonettes". i could go on and on. i did a paper on this once. one more, i cant help it...louisiana tech are the bulldogs unless its a women's team then they are the "lady techsters".

magnolia_2000 said...

one more, maybe the worst still in use...university of southern mississippi "dixie darlings"! grown women are officially referred to as DARLINGS!!!

kim_in_to said...

Yow. I'm glad I ain't one of them.

kim_in_to said...

Did I read somewhere that Oriental is making a comeback?

I haven't heard that (which doesn't mean it's not true), but I wonder if it has more to do with regional variation.

Being of Japanese descent, I am appalled when I see people use the abbreviation "Jap", but while I launch into a history lesson for North Americans (who in my experience have always been grateful for the lesson and vow never to use that word again), I've found that for Australians it's not even close to their consciousness. I've seen this abbreviation used most often on internet forums by Australians. I don't know if it wasn't used in a derogatory sense there during WWII, and I've never met anyone who knows.

Anonymous said...

If another white man refers to someone as a nigger in speaking to me, it's still a racist term, even if there are no black people around.

You make an excellent point redsock. I wouldn't say I'm "offended" when that happens, but it does make me angry. I'm more talking about terms that native people don't find offensive.

Anonymous said...

The whole lady/woman/girl/gal one is a good example of why people shouldn't take terms too seriously. I can understand why Amy doesn't like the term "lady", but I know a number of women who prefer it. "Woman" makes them feel old, and they don't like it. The lack of a convienient equivelent for "guy" is also a problem. As Amy said, 20-something males don't refer to themselves as ""boys", but then my friends and I never refer to ourselves as "men" either. Just guys.

The fact is that people like and dislike different terms. "Groups" aren't monolithic entities with identical preferences. People just have to be as polite as they can and on the flip side people should try to be less offended when no offense is intended.

L-girl said...

I used to be a big fan of the "Lady Vols" - Univ of Tennessee women's basketball team. The men are The Volunteers. Hence, the Lady Vols. Gag me!

But women's teams overwhelmingly want to keep these names. They identify with them and love them. But the players also want their sports to be referred to as "women's sports" - not girls. :)

And a related tangent: If it's "women's college basketball" then it's "men's college basketball". Not "basketball" and "women's basketball".

* * * *

I also find "ladies" demeaning - I friggin hate it! - but, like Issachar said, many women do prefer it.

I agree that it's important - and simply kinder, more human - to recognize intention, whenever that is possible.

At the same time, we can seize opportunities to educate when we see them. I'm never going to stop correcting my mother when she refers to a grown woman with three children as a girl. But I also know her intent is not to demean or disparage, so there's no reason to actually be upset with her.

L-girl said...

I love the discussion that this post generated! It was totally unexpected. I thought this was kind of a throwaway post, but it resonated with a lot of people. Thanks, all.

L-girl said...

I remember watching Atlanta fans doing the "Tomahawk Chop" during the '92 series, and being more annoyed than anything. Granted I was 9 at the time. Now I find it offensive.

Briz, good for you! I'm glad to hear it.

I first saw "the chop" in the 1991 playoffs and the amazing World Series that year. That was enough to keep me rooting for the Twins.

AMneverperish said...

Wow. Can I come to Canada? I'm afraid we are being ground down by a prevailing (increasingly illiberal) culture in the UK. The language of Orwell IS being turned by degrees into 'Newspeak' with desperate, grim euphemisms trotted out by government and big business (which mean much the same thing anyway, sadly).

Meanwhile those of the prevailing illiberal bent still think 'Nazi' is an apt term for German footballers. Personally I love my language, and never met such dumb ignorance until (bizarrely) I worked in an overwhelmingly right-wing, conservative environment which actually encourages euphemistic drivel. The only openly right-wing friend I had before this was an Italian, who knew loads and loads about history and economics and was not 'PC' at all, thankfully.

Perhaps someone here will soon start a 'We Move to Europe' blog.