Today, courtesy of Rachel Clarke and via Dave Weinberger, I learned Gender Genie thinks I write like a girl. Which got me to thinking, what happens when a woman or a man uses words commonly associated with the opposite gender? Do we still hold on to certain ideas about what a man should say versus a woman? What about the roles we pursue?
For instance, I find it utterly bizarre that the bastion of democracy in the free world has yet to elect a female president. However, Pakistan and the Philippines, countries with significant Muslim populations, (and therefore, according to popular sentiment, totally against women) have both elected female heads of state. Talk about a contradiction.
Margaret Thatcher rose to power in the UK during a time when the world remained balanced between two super powers led by men. Politics aside, Thatcher held her own in the boy’s club. “Being powerful is like being a lady,” she said. “If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” (courtesy of quotationspage.com)
What about on the flip side? Recently, presidential candidate John Edwards was criticized for how much he spent on a haircut, something no woman (except for Hillary Clinton) might expect censure for. Do we want men to “feel our pain,” or would we rather they throw around statements like “wanted, dead or alive?” Are we more comfortable turning to women for words that ease our heartaches and relying on men for words that promise justice?
We punish ourselves and each other with our expectations of what’s feminine and what’s masculine. We use different words for each gender to describe similar behavior. Please note, this isn’t a feminist rant by any means. It goes for both men and women. Actions that give a man the label of ‘aggressive’ could easily be used to justify calling a woman ‘domineering.’ For women, behavior labeled as ‘compassionate’ could just as easily be labeled ‘weak’ if shown by a man.
Think about the words you use. Now think about the words you don’t use, words that may feel off-limits or taboo. Why aren’t you using them? Sure, some might fall in the category of inappropriate like cuss words or derogatory slurs. But what about the rest? There are hundreds of thousands of words just waiting to be put to work, waiting to capture your ideas. I demand you use them. Please.