“I’m making this slightly theoretical point because it helps to explain why I don’t agree with Sherryl Kleinman’s suggestion that women who use terms like ‘guys’ and ‘dude’ are trying to claim ‘honorary man’ status. Rather I agree with Scott Kiesling, who argues that women use ‘dude’ for the same reason men do: because they want to express cool solidarity—especially, the evidence suggests, with other women. Rather than displaying internalized sexism, they’re like the little girl who sometimes wants to play with toy cars rather than dolls. It’s not that she wants to be a boy, she just doesn’t see why girls shouldn’t play with cars.”
The story is told of a focus group for a new $100 electronic gadget. The response in the focus group was fabulous, people all talked about the features of the new device with excitement.
At the end of the session, the moderator said, “thanks for coming. As our gift to you, you can have your choice of the device or $25.”
Everyone took the cash.
If you track this process over a long enough time-period, you’ll find plenty of cases where a word’s meaning has shifted from negative to positive, or vice-versa. For instance, sophisticated was once an insult (meaning ‘dishonest, deceitful’), and complacent was once a compliment (meaning ‘pleasant, obliging’).
Could –ette be making the same kind of journey? It’s not inconceivable, but on balance I don’t think so. Present-day English speakers may not make the old connection with cheap imitation materials, because most of those words have fallen out of use. But –ette remains common in its diminutive sense, so there’s still a basis for younger speakers to deduce that female-referring terms of the form X + ette imply ‘little X’ as well as ‘female X’—and potentially to find that insulting, just as feminists of my generation did.
The talkativeness of women has been gauged in comparison not with men but with silence. Women have not been judged on the grounds of whether they talk more than men, but of whether they talk more than silent women.
Dale Spender, quoted by Anne Thériault in The real reason some men still can’t handle the all-female ‘Ghostbusters’ for The Daily Dot, via fette. See also. (via blech)
Men’s greater success in the workplace is largely a product of their privileged status as men: just imitating their behaviour won’t give women their status. Yet here we are in the second decade of the 21st century, recycling the same old advice.
The trick is to pick the right sorts of projects for the top of the list. The ideal sorts of things have two characteristics, First, they seem to have clear deadlines (but really don’t). Second, they seem awfully important (but really aren’t). Luckily, life abounds with such tasks.
Hari’s rule? “If a third grader can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.”
My rule? Don’t base your diet on the pronunciation skills of an eight-year-old.
It’s common for men to demonstrate mild (or strong) disdain for how much women care about fashion or how much money women spend on clothes. But they are mostly just demonstrating a complete lack of awareness of a semiotic system that women are required to participate in, in order to accrue both economic and social benefits, which men are largely exempt from.