Words can inspire and words can destroy. Choose yours well.
– Robin Sharma
About a hundred years ago (okay, slight exaggeration… but it was in the last century!), as part of my undergraduate French course at UCC, I wrote a special study on gender in the French language. I can’t remember much in terms of my conclusions, but the project awoke in me my first awareness of the prejudices and assumptions inherent in language. As people have become more conscious of the gender implications of language, we’ve seen many changes in recent years. For example, the word ‘actor’ now covers all genders , as does ‘Garda’, while terms like ‘lady doctor’ are no longer acceptable usage. I’m sure you all have your own examples.
And yet, despite a widespread consciousness of the importance of avoiding gender discrimination and sexism through language use, something like this can appear on the website of a national newspaper.
Really annoyed by the use of one particular word here… pic.twitter.com/dHuHlLseuy
— Tracey Kennedy (@Tracey_Cork) July 27, 2016
(If you can’t see what’s upsetting me here, stop reading now – this is not for you.)
Getting married is obviously a very significant personal event for anyone, but should one of this country’s top broadcasters be defined by ANY element of her personal life in a news report about listenership figures? What possible impact could her marital status have on those figures? The (**cliché alert**) bottom line here, and we all know it, is that no male broadcaster would ever be described as ‘newlywed’ in such circumstances.
In the aftermath of yet another horrific sexual attack on yet another woman in this country, my irritation may seem trivial. The reality, however, is that every instance of objectification, sexism, or gender discrimination by any means, however trivial it may seem, feeds into a culture that allows such attacks to occur (cue barrage of criticism and, possibly, abuse). And every time we accept even the most trivial of such occurrences, we are complicit.
People who question the relevance of feminism in today’s world, are you answered yet?
Come on, Irish Independent – you can do better than this.