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Turf wars over TERF

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Leith
1350884.  Fri Jun 19, 2020 8:40 am Reply with quote

tetsabb wrote:
And should we English speakers be grateful that our verbs do not change depending on our gender?
Russian man says "я был" for "I was" and a woman says " я была". Unlike French, italian and Spanish, it does have a neuter, "я было".

It certainly has its advantages. On the other hand, though, speakers of languages that apply gender to inanimate objects perhaps have a head start when it comes to thinking of gender as an artificial construct that is not inextricably linked to personal attributes.

dr.bob wrote:
I think we've made some progress with this since I was a kid. It's now fairly uncommon (outside of awards ceremonies) to hear someone referred to as an "actress", and almost nobody uses the word "comedienne" anymore. But clearly we've got a long way to go yet.

This is also interesting to compare with the equivalent situation for speakers of heavily gendered languages.

What I saw of the equality movement in France was about reclaiming words like 'directrice' to mean 'the director / manager, who happens to be female', when previous usage favoured using 'directeur' for both, since 'directrice' historically meant 'the director's wife'.

 
Jenny
1350916.  Fri Jun 19, 2020 10:53 am Reply with quote

I find myself in a quandary about the whole business of actor/actress, waiter/waitress. By using the previously male version, doesn't that subsume the female into the male, the way 'mankind' is taken to subsume women, whereas 'humanity' is more inclusive? On the other hand it has the virtue of simplicity, and I guess as people get older the feminized version will eventually be forgotten.

 
suze
1350923.  Fri Jun 19, 2020 12:11 pm Reply with quote

Etymologically speaking, only some of the time!

The -or suffix is Latin and in Latin it is specifically masculine. The feminine equivalent is formed with -rix. There are a few -rix forms still in use in English, but it is only a few. A woman who flagellates people for money is a dominatrix, an old lady who keeps a B&B house may still call herself the proprietrix, although probably not if she is under 70, but I doubt that many if any female American estate agents refer to themselves as realtrices.

But English has never used actrix for a woman actor. The -ess suffix for the feminine is French from Greek, and so the word actress is an horrendous mongrel right from the get go. We should feel no guilt in casting it into the fire, so exercise that subsumption and use actor.

But once we get to agent nouns in -er, well that suffix is Germanic. In German a female -er is an -erin, but that has never been the way in English. Applying the French -ess would be mongrelness again, so let's not. A woman teacher has never been a teachess, Theresa May was not the Prime Ministress (we shall for now ignore the suggestion that she was scarcely the Prime Minister either), and a woman duke is a duke (a duchess is a man duke's wife, and the royal woman whom I must not name is styled Duc de Normandie in Jersey).

A couple of weird ones. We on these forums are keen on agent nouns in -ist, and have never insisted on the vaguely French -iste for a woman. In Italian and Spanish such nouns are usually -isto/-ista, but not barista. In Italian that is one of the rather few masculine nouns in -a, so the form baristo which is occasionally encountered is hypercorrect (or "wrong", if you prefer).

Why a female tutor is called a governess, God only knows.


Meanwhile, we learn that Frant's sister has a French name which people can't pronounce. Since the said sister is originally South African but doesn't live there, I am now convinced that her name is Labuschagne. Actually, Ms Labuschagne Llama has a nice ring to it ...

 
franticllama
1350926.  Fri Jun 19, 2020 12:50 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:

Meanwhile, we learn that Frant's sister has a French name which people can't pronounce. Since the said sister is originally South African but doesn't live there, I am now convinced that her name is Labuschagne. Actually, Ms Labuschagne Llama has a nice ring to it ...


I shall refer to her as such from now on.

Actually, and I'll leave it in a public forum after this as giving away my details is one thing, giving away hers is a completely different on. But, the only people in the UK we've come across who are able to easily pronounce her name are Polish.* If anyone would like to engage in a guessing game, please do so via PM :)

And French. Obviously.

 
Leith
1350946.  Fri Jun 19, 2020 5:43 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
But once we get to agent nouns in -er, well that suffix is Germanic. In German a female -er is an -erin, but that has never been the way in English.

... and just to confuse genealogists with German families, the -in suffix also applied to surnames prior to the 1800s (occupational surnames in the part of East Prussia my family came from, at least), though in this case I understand the -in suffix meant 'wife of'.

 
Dix
1350955.  Sat Jun 20, 2020 3:01 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:

Why a female tutor is called a governess, God only knows.

I think it's a safe bet that there was no divine intervention. :-)

Could it be because a male tutor was referred to as a master and mistress was already taken for other purposes?

 
crissdee
1350965.  Sat Jun 20, 2020 4:44 am Reply with quote

Dix wrote:
......mistress was already taken for other purposes?


Budge up on the naughty step would you? I can barely fit in here.......

 
Dix
1351026.  Sat Jun 20, 2020 2:49 pm Reply with quote

Oh wow, I've never been invited there before!!!

 
dr.bob
1351090.  Mon Jun 22, 2020 4:44 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
I find myself in a quandary about the whole business of actor/actress, waiter/waitress. By using the previously male version, doesn't that subsume the female into the male, the way 'mankind' is taken to subsume women, whereas 'humanity' is more inclusive?


I will bow to suze's superior knowledge of the subject if she says I'm wrong, but I'm under the impression that, historically, the word "man" used to mean "human being" regardless of gender. A male personage was then called a "wereman" (c.f. werewolf), while someone of the female persuasion was called a "wifman" (c.f. wife).

I understand your concerns about the male subsuming the female, but I would argue that words for professions should describe the job irrespective of gender. Words like teacher, nurse, bricklayer, electrician and doctor don't have a female-specific version, and nobody thinks this is a problem.

In certain cases (chairman, policeman, fireman) the word seems to imply a certain gender, and these cases are best tackled by picking a slightly different, gender-neutral term (chair, police officer, fire fighter). However, most words that appear male-specific to us, like "actor", "comedian" or "waiter", only do so because our society invented female-specific versions of these words*. Once they fall out of use, I believe the so-called male-specific term will become as gender-neutral as bus driver or plumber.


*Jeremy Hardy always used to point out the absurdity or such terms by going way overboard and referring to someone like Amber Rudd as a "female lady minister-trix".

 
CB27
1351098.  Mon Jun 22, 2020 6:10 am Reply with quote

I agree that job titles don't need a female version of their name, and where "man" is in the title it's often easy to find an alternative.

In terms of pronouns, about 4 years ago I became aware of someone at my work who was gender neutral, and on their advice I helped promote the idea of people adding their preferred pronouns to their email signature (as an example, mine has "Pronouns: he him"), and I've become aware of plenty of people in other organisations who do the same. It's also useful for those of us with unusual first names (I had an Italian guy called Luca working with me for a while, and people who never met him kept referring to him as her).

The one I find interesting is the services (military, police, fire service, etc), where (depending whether they're commissioned or non commissioned, and different countries) senior male officers are addressed as "Sir" and senior female officers are addressed as "Ma'am". I don't know if it's the unease that people outside these services have with using "Ma'am", but in many films and TV shows you often see female senior officers addressed as "Sir". In most other languages that I'm aware of, all senior staff are addressed by their rank.

 
PDR
1351101.  Mon Jun 22, 2020 6:34 am Reply with quote

There's a british military tradition thing when it comes to addressing officers. You may address an officer who is your junior by their commission (rank title) or appointment (post title), but an officer who is senior to you is usually addressed as Sir/Ma'am. This is not a hard rule but evolved as Mess etiquette to the point where it is now verging on impertinent to address a superior officer by their commission unless it is in the 3rd person.

So it would be a gaffe for an Army Captain to say "Major, may I be relieved?" rather than "May I be relieved, Sir?", but it would be acceptable to say "Would The Major allow me to be relieved?". This would apply to both communications between officers and communications between officers and enlisted personnel, with the minor exception that the most junior commissioned ranks (Ensign, Sub-Lieutenant Pilot Officer, Flying Officer, 2nd Lieutenant) are often addresses as "Mister" from above and below (come back to this in a minute).

The asymmetry only applies to officers - non-commissioned officers can be referred to by their rank from above and below (and even sideways), with the exception of Warrant Officers (who are usually referred to as "Mister" as they are "nearly officers" and Midshipmen as they are trainee officers who are neither fish nor fowl.

I have to say I don't know how the "Mister" form of address applies to female midshipmen, warrant officers or junior officers, because I've never known any!

PDR

 
Awitt
1351102.  Mon Jun 22, 2020 7:10 am Reply with quote

dr.bob wrote:
Quote:
There have been various issues mentioned about which prison a transgender person should be sent to, or which branch of sports they should be allowed to compete in, or which toilets they should use. All of these immediately cease to be problems if we stop thinking of people in simple binary male/female terms.


Last year at my school we got a new student who'd started high school elsewhere but was in the process of a gender transition from female to male. They'd known some of our kids from the primary school and it was noted in the intro/admin notes that they were to use the disabled toilet space in the office area as this is neither male/female and the school has only gendered spaces for students and staff.

(In early March, having the time, I offered to go around all areas to put up the required Government Covid 19 posters for public bathroom spaces and felt a bit self conscious about entering all the male ones.
I did what I have experienced some cleaners doing in public toilets -some of them call out 'hello - the cleaner entering'. Though I simply said 'A. entering' in case there was anyone - and there was a teacher in the male staff toilets, who saw what I was doing and didn't worry about it)

We also have two other female students who prefer they/them pronouns.
And I have two friends who also prefer that, though two out of these four are happy with using their female names.
One of the school students' full names can be shortened to a male form which they now prefer, though when calling the mother, the year level coordinator wasn't sure if mum's aware of her daughter's preferences, so coord. ended up using the full name.

There is also the teenager of a woman at my church, who has transitioned from female to male, though I've noticed this mother uses the he/him pronouns now.

 
suze
1351104.  Mon Jun 22, 2020 7:27 am Reply with quote

A couple of comments on the posts above. I can't be arsed with precise quoting, mainly because I only have a 30 minute lunch break today.

Do we know when police forces in Britain stopped having a rank called WPC? A lady inspector was never LI, but for some reason a woman constable couldn't just be called PC like the man constables. Was there a reason for it eg some parts of police work were deemed unsuitable for women, and if so did that thinking cease when the rank ceased?

A female midshiphuman (next para ...) is apparently to be called Ms in circumstances when a male one is to be called Mister. If British people could now learn to pronounce Ms correctly (Miz sounds a whole lot better than Məz), this would sound less inelegant than it probably does.

When Barack Obama sat in the Oval Office, he got his SecNav onto the case of whether the rank of midshipman ought to be renamed now that there were women in the rank. Cadet was suggested, but the Navy didn't like it because it's an Army term.

Also yeoman, which is the name of a job role in the US Navy. (A yeoman is a US Navy person who does clerical work, I don't know what the job is called in the British Royal Navy.)

As far as I can tell, nothing actually came of that - and it appears to have dropped off the To Do list under the current President.

 
Awitt
1351105.  Mon Jun 22, 2020 7:50 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
Quote:
I am now convinced that her name is Labuschagne.


Suze's good cricketing husband should surely know that that is the surname of an Australian cricketer - whose first name is Marnus. I thought I'd heard it before.

 
Jenny
1351114.  Mon Jun 22, 2020 10:25 am Reply with quote

dr.bob wrote:
I'm under the impression that, historically, the word "man" used to mean "human being" regardless of gender. A male personage was then called a "wereman" (c.f. werewolf), while someone of the female persuasion was called a "wifman" (c.f. wife).


Yes that's true, and it's because the male was considered the norm, and the female a kind of aberration from the norm. 'Man' stands for 'human being' because man was the norm, and that's why we have 'mankind' rather than the gender neutral 'humanity'. Perhaps you have sources for the common usage of "wereman" but I have to say I've never come across it before, and I'm fairly well read, so I can't believe it to be all that common. Hence 'wifman' - the woman only exists in terms of her relationship to the man.

This is still the case in medical research, where research on various diseases is essentially done using the male body as the norm, and hence often doesn't apply to the same condition in a female body.

https://nwhn.org/taking-on-gender-bias-in-clinical-trials/

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/nov/13/the-female-problem-male-bias-in-medical-trials

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1761670/

 

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