Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I'm Sorry I Said That

The last post and comments on it set me to thinking about how I regard myself as a "feminist" but still use some sexist lingo from time to time. For example, I used to refer to some of the male executives in the company I worked for as "old women", and I did not mean this as a compliment. To castigate my hysterical and panic prone superiors in such language entailed a judgment that "old women" are in some way defective. The image I was aiming to convey was one of two old hens squawking and flapping their wings at the slightest stimulus or two frail and hypersensitive old ladies swooning at the slightest inconvenience.

Now I know for a fact that most old women are nothing like this. My grandmother was as courageous as anyone I ever met. Most old women I have had the pleasure to know have been as tough as they come (I wanted to write "tough old broads"), and they would make better executives than a lot of them as haunt executive suites. I wasn't thinking of grandmaw when I called those guys "old women". In retrospect, I reckon that I slandered old women, and I am sorry for that.

Another example I recall is that I referred to my baseball throwing skills by claiming that I had the "arm of a little girl". I was in a "masters" league and was at 40 the youngest member of the team. Because my teammates were as decrepit as they were, we "youngsters" were sent to the outfield where were expected to be able to shag flies better than the coots. Hell, the coots couldn't even cover the infield, so we ended up chasing a lot of grounders. I tore my rotator cuff in my throwing shoulder. Anyhow, I was employing hyperbole when I said that I had the arm of a little girl, and I was trying to evoke the image of a feeble young lass who had never learned to throw properly.

Now I know for a fact that a lot of girls have guns when it comes to throwing. My sister was an excellent athlete and far better than I at any sport. She could throw hard and accurately as could her daughter. I wasn't thinking of my sister or my niece or any of the other hard throwing gals I have known when I denigrated my abilities by comparing myself to a little girl. Come to think of it, it was a pretty shitty thing to say, and I'm glad I didn't say it in front of any little girls.

In both instances, my aim was to conjure up negative stereotypes pertaining to females for the purpose of talking in a derogatory way about men. Does that sound like something a "feminist" ought to tolerate in himself? I'm thinking not, and I aim to make adjustments. Using these stereotypes perpetuates them. Yes, there are nervous old biddies, and there are female children inept at throwing things, but there's no good reason to characterize entire categories as having these deficiencies.

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