Category Archives: Changing the Language

She’s Upset but he’s Annoyed – more language talk

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This is an interesting one, why was I seen as upset by a couple of women  when complaining about a service this week and not plain annoyed?  I’m sure if I was a man, my complaint would have been seen as me being annoyed or even angry, but you don’t hear that a man is upset when he is complaining about something?

Recently, I found this happened to me during a conversation with three women at my Daughters school where I was complaining about the difficulty getting a response from the accounts area to check the school fee bill.   I was complaining about the service and the lack of ability of someone to take a message and return a call.  Instead of my complaint being relayed correctly, or even half correctly to the person in charge, the first thing that they said to me when getting on the phone to me this morning was, ” I believe you are upset”.  You have got to be joking!  After I expressed annoyance and the request for a meeting with who ever was in charge I got that I was upset.  This female to female mode of operation just devalues us all.  Why are women afraid to call it as it is? I was plain angry, annoyed and somewhat pissed off at the efforts that I, as a paying customer had to go to in order to get a response.  I was not  merely ‘upset’?  But upset is a term that is easily equated with a woman.  When I was young, people would describe some women as ‘nervy’ or ‘highly strung’ meaning that they were most likely frustrated with the limitations of their life and expressing this frustration in a ways that were not acceptable.  Instead of addressing these issues, particularly men choose to negate the feelings of these women by labelling them with belittling terms like nervy.  Other women bought into this and the women who was ‘upset’ was pacified with a Bex powder or sedative to get them back to peaceful submissiveness.
Recently I saw the movie, “hysteria”‘ which is about the events that lead up to the invention of the vibrator around the time at the first female suffragettes were speaking out about the injustice of inequitlty for women and were demanding the right to vote.  These women were clearly annoyed, they were frustrated with the lack of opportunity open to them to have self determination in their own lives and agitated for change.  The display of annoyance, defiance and outspokenness was at odds with the norm of the day and the view that women should defer to men in all things.  Their accepted role in society at that time was to be supporter and carer, a mere object of a man’s desires, not having the ability to shape their own lives.  This must have been incredibly frustrating and many women would surely have been angry without fully understanding the reasons for their anger.  Unfortunately for many women at the time, this annoyance and anger was seen as abnormal and something that needed to be treated by the medical profession.  They were seen as having a mental illness and society at that time just couldnt accept that women could experience the same feelings of annoyance, frustration and anger as men.  The condition became medicalised and an illness called hysteria was created.  Women who’d persisted in trying to assert their rights were seen as difficult and very often committed to mental institutions suffering appalling conditions as a result.
The film deals with this period in a light hearted way and describes one doctors search for a cure to hysteria.  Surprisingly he did this by providing a ‘medical procedure’ that today we would call masterbation, abiet administered by a male doctor in a surgery.  At the time females were not considered to be sexual and it was just not even considered that they would need to be satisfied sexually.  The treatment worked to relieve the symptoms of hysteria by ‘releasing’ a build up of stress and ‘nerves’.
So lets stop treating each other like nervy, upset women.  Lets stop playing into the stereotype of frail, emotional women and as other women, lets start treating each other as individuals that should be respected and acknowledged for the people we  sometimes display justifiable annoyance!  The whole ‘upset’ tag just serves to put us back in our place of disempowerment – so lets stop doing it to each other.

No Ms, Mrs or Miss

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Very often when I am filling out a form I am asked if my title is Mrs, Miss or Ms. I don’t like to put Ms because it carries the connotation of feminist which I don’t consider myself to be.

I am a person and don’t want to be labeled as anybodies anything. I want to be me. I just want to have Susanne Moore with no title because my name is my title. I am me.

More Language Talk – Content is KING and Gender Stereotyping Ads

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King chess

King chess (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Isn’t it interesting how we don’t stop and think often enough about the language that we use and what that language actually says about what we are saying, in terms of the underlying meaning to the words and phrases.  The term “Content is KING” is a very male and one that is not gender inclusive.

So if content is King, then what are we actually saying?  Is it that content management and the success of good content is based on masculine terminology or is it simply that a King is the most powerful?  Media advertising often uses very macho descriptions of things like ‘feel the power’, ‘stand out from the pack’ or ‘win that race’, etc to make a point about their products ability to stand out from the rest.  Its slightly aggressive but can serve to be a differentiator.  It would be great to get our marketers to think more about the terms that they are using because I think that this underlying exclusivity portrays a bias and continues to promote gender stereotypes.  It is subtle, but it is there none the less.

I also think that if women really sat down and thought about what they are hearing, they would see that much of the masculine vernacular doesn’t appeal to them. I am not saying that women need to have things expressed in ‘feminine’ ways, but what I am saying is that the language could be more inclusive and less based on old expectations of how men and women behave, and what their aspirations are.

I find that many advertisements on television and many television programs still actively promote a female gender stereotype that plays into the masculine view of women as supporters.  Changing Women can do something about these types of gender biased marketing campaigns by simply not buying the products.  Consumer’s have real power and since women are usually treated as mere consumers, let’s use this power and make an impact.  I regularly tweet about advertisement that I find are gender stereotypical, here are a couple of examples;

14 Aug @NESCAFE perpetuating the stereotype of older man much younger women in their latest ads #gendersterotypingads

 11 Aug @VirginAtlantic can we have an ad with a female pilot in the front next time? #gendersterotypingads

 

Are you creating an ‘internal barrier’ to help those ‘external barriers’ to workplace success?

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1950 CVTC 22 Homemaking

1950 CVTC 22 Homemaking (Photo credit: wistechcolleges)

Something I was told by an older woman when I was just started out has stuck with me ever since and it is the way that women often refer to their husband or partner ‘helping out’ with childcare, (as mentioned in this article) or housework. This woman said to me that by saying that you want your partner to ‘help’ you with something assumes that it is your job when in fact, it is a parents job to raise children, not just a mothers. Similarly, when you are asking your partner to ‘help you’ with the housework, it translates to him as it being ‘your job’ and he is just ‘helping you’ on this occasion. Given our propensity to speak like this, it is not surprising that women then take this underlying internal and external commentary into their workplaces.

I have heard many women ask a male colleague to “help with the minute taking in this meeting”, and then the same women wonder why they end up doing the minutes again and again. Its because the male thinks that he was ‘helping’ you do ‘your’ job! This is one of the internal barriers that many women put up for themselves and then their language just embeds the ‘external barrier’ even more.

Perhaps it stems from an underlying belief by women ( I would say through socialisation) that it is their job to do the housework, the bulk of the childcare and the support work at the office. Whatever the cause, this is one barrier that we can all break ourselves by changing our language and how we feel about it.

See this article I have referred to by Natalie Bickford

Diverse thinking

Date: 18 Feb 2013 http://www.workingmums.co.uk/working-mums-magazine/top-story/6694273/diverse-thinking.thtml?goback=.gde_687467_member_215105269

How nice to read this, see if you can see the difference.

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Today I received the usual WordPress update into my email in box and  I must say I look forward to receiving these because they always contain some great handy hints that I can use on my blogs.  So this one was no different, except in the language that it uses.  See if you can pick up the difference.

Your Unique Visitors

by Jeff Bowen

For all of you stats junkies — you know who you are! — we’ve added some holiday cheer to your WordPress.com Stats Page. In addition to the number of views your site receives, you can now keep tabs on how many unique visitors come to your site, all on a single, easy-to-read chart.

A visitor is a unique user or browser/device that views one or more posts or pages on your site. When your friend checks out your site from her laptop and then again from her phone, that’s two visits.  If she clicks on four different posts, that’s four views.

read the rest of the article here

I am collecting phrases and words that, if we change how we use them and change there meaning will change the world! Examples are, ‘babe’, ‘chick’, paternity instead of maternity and many others.

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From Jody, via Changing Women on LinkedIn

Let’s change “stay at home mom” to “stay at home parent“. I am a mom and the working parent in my household. This makes the title applicable to dads as well as moms and helps us change the attitude that if one parent stays home with the kids it doesn’t automatically mean its the mom.

Good idea Jody, “Stay at home PARENTS – I will add this to the list!  You are so right.  The current term discriminates against men who choose to stay at home and will help to change attitudes.  Interestingly, I am in correspondence with a men’s group in India who are trying to ‘change women’ by getting them to accept that men can do traditional female roles!  We take this for granted in the western world, but fathers and husbands in India are having a tough time convincing women to share the traditional feminized roles of carer, primary parent and stay at home manager.  They argue (and rightly so I think) that women need to accept that men can do these roles as well as women and this action will help the fight for the equality of women because men will start to accept their own ability and responsibility.  They currently feel hindered by the enormous cultural pressure and history of women as carers, supporters and primary parents and feel that men that choose to express themselves in using the stereotypical (soft) ‘female attributes’ are being discriminated against by feminists.  It’s an interesting discussion and I am currently encouraging them to join our Changing Women.org site so we can start to discuss each issue one at a time.  It is vitally important, I think for those of us who have a voice to help those who want a voice to be heard.