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Gender Spread (page 10)

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Like it or not, some people in the world are repressed as a result of their sexuality. At the same time, the equality between the sexes has never been greater. So why are their so many problems? In this edition, we examine various opinions on what it means to be a man or a woman, and have a look at how our gender affects our perception of the world, and the way the world perceives us.


Soapbox

I'm with you all the way...I'm passionate about the whole feminist issue...I firmly believe that if we, the young women of today don't speak out and...

...mind the kids' toys, I haven't had a chance to cleanup yet - got in late from work...

Sorry...and...yes...well...if we're not vocal and high profile, society will slip back into old habits of repressing women...We have to be ever-vigilant, we haven't really changed men's ingrained views, just their superficial...

...do you mind if we move to the kitchen? I'm just putting his tea on...Thanks...

...And what I find frightening is the millions - literally millions - of illiterate, uneducated women who don't have access to the knowledge and enlightenment of the women's movement. We are so lucky. I was just thinking today, in my lecture...

...yes, only one unit...time, child-care costs, you know...But it's great to get that intellectual stimulation, even for a few hours.. Keeps me sane...

Mmm...how lucky we are to live in this society at this time...Meeting? Oh, I'd love to, anything I can do...Tuesday? No, sorry, I've got a P&C meeting... Wednesday? No... Parent-teacher night...Here he comes.

"Hi darling...we were just chatting about the kids..."

Sarah Ryan


Shooting ourselves in the feet

One of the really strong beliefs of feminism, which seems to crop up regardless of other differences, is that changing small aspects of our language is very important. The argument runs that "language reflects attitudes, thus if we can change the language, we can change attitudes for the better". And this is not a bad idea. But while many people are willing to make others do this, they don't do it themselves. Feminists are also guilty of this, and have sometimes used both the concept and the techniques of gender-neutral language very badly.

Gender-neutral language is a very politically correct idea. It is also a very good idea, albeit maybe not as practical as we all might like. In English, it is not as great a hurdle as it could conceivably be in a number of European languages where many of the grammatical constructs rely on feminine/masculine properties of the words. But it still has its problems.

What brought me to be thinking about this issue is something I said myself the other day. I described two of my male friends (in different conversations) as 'boy'. Sure, one of them is only 18, and the other, while in his mid 20s, is very young for his age, they are both men, and I should recognize this in my language as well as my mind. After all, in my mid-20s I am starting to be a little miffed when referred to as 'girl', despite people who tell me I should feel complimented. I can't say that I liked my childhood so much that I want to go back, I'm so much happier where I am.

The point of that is that such language is inappropriate for anyone to use about anyone else. Obviously there are words that some people are allowed to use and that are offensive in the mouths of others. 'Poof' and 'faggot' are good examples of these. From the mouths of gay or 'gay-friendly' friends I have no problems, but from a drunken yokel (female or male) I find myself offended.

The other aspect of feminist use of gender-neutral language is that they seem to be going too far. Rather than staying neutral in their language, they're using substitutions which sometimes come out comical, rather than serious. The example I have in mind is the term 'wombmyn' as a substitute for womyn. Maybe others like it, but to me it is just silly.

And things could get much worse. Have you heard of 'perprogeny' (person), homosexually challenged (heterosexual), and of course, all the joke descriptions, that seem to only be used in joke situations. So regardless of how careful we are about language, it can still be very easy to slip up. A good guideline is to think about what we would find offensive if the roles were reversed, and avoid those forms of language.

Anna Hepworth


What's a nice girl doing in a place like this?

Can you reconcile the following two facts? 1) Ann is a committed, modern woman and a feminist. 2) Her job is a skimpy barmaid. Problem? There isn't one. But many people do find the two a problem.

Skimpy is not the best job in the world. It is also not the worst job I have ever done. My worst job I lasted around 45 minutes, skimpy I lasted 10 months, two agencies, and numerous pubs before I found a better job. I wouldn't say I loved it all the time, but I certainly enjoyed it. It also did great things for my self-esteem (and my bank - balance).

While some of the things that detracted from the work were related to the pub situation, they weren't directly connected to the job. There is always a drunk arsehole, who makes things bad for all (on both sides of the bar). Publicans aren't always nice people, but you don't have to talk to them, you are expected to talk to the paying customers. And city pubs suck. When I transfered from working country pubs to city, I started looking for another job.

From behind the bar is a great place to start men's educations about a lot of issues. They want you to spend time with them, flash for their money (dropping your top for even half a second is illegal, and not everyone does it) and generally give them the impression that they are shining examples of manhood. So the first lesson I work on is politeness. Any guy who says "Hey you" gets ignored. Anyone who tries to order me around ("show us your tits love") gets the smile and the flirty walk-off. Those who are polite and friendly, they get my time.

And they love to talk. They love to think they know everything there is to know about the skimpy. So you tell them you are at university - they want to know what you study. They ask you if you are a feminist (a standard assumption). They ask you what you believe. They ask if you are a lesbian. They giggle embarrassedly when you say 'sort of'. They don't understand. They ask more questions. Lots of opportunities to give them things to think about.

So how do I reconcile feminism and skimpy work? Feminism is about choice, and certainly chose to do the work. Simply because it is good money (up to $30/hr country, more if you freelance) is not enough reason. There is also the experience it gives you of other peoples thinking. And of course, there is also the reason that I never considered myself a feminist until I began this work. Until I discovered just how many guys there were out there with ninteenth century thinking, I didn't see the need for feminism. In my nice cloistered world of the university educated, most men understand the issues, and even if they don't believe totally in the concepts, at least are willing to pay lipservice to the ideas (the young ones at least). I may not have done everything I can for 'the cause', but I have done something that I value, and I got lots out of it too.

Ann