Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sexist Pet Peeve: You Guys, The Male As Generic

As I have regularly pointed out, language is extremely important.  It signifies the way we order and understand our world.  I must admit that there is one particular pet peeve that has just gotten to the boiling point with me.

I simply cannot stand to be a part of a group and be addressed as you guys. It makes me want peek down my pants to make sure my favourite gadget is snug and in place.  When you use the colloquial phrase you guys, you are automatically setting the masculine as the default human identity. Since fifty percent of the population is female by  birth, or identity as women, socially we are creating women as less than.

Before you start on me about being a part of the language police, I ask you to consider this one fact.  The male is generally speaking the default position while the female is used as the pejorative.  Does anyone want to be told that they throw like a girl, or do anything like a girl in fact?  Of course not because womanhood is conflated with weakness, imbecility, and docility.

As independent, active beings we want adjectives that are tough, engaging and strong.  Look at the way balls are celebrated in our culture.  If you have the balls to do something you are courageous.  When we want to add real emphasis we say that someone has huge balls.

Have you ever heard someone being called a pussy and seen it accepted as a compliment?  Of course not. A pussy is a weak, whiny, defeated individual. To declare that someone is a pussy  is a call to arms.

Every time I hear balls said as an affirmation of someone's personhood  it makes my stomach cringe.  This kind of jocular language is not innocent.  It is part of a daily denigration womanhood.  If everything attached to masculinity is good, and everything attached to femininity is negative; what we have is a gender binary that works to reinforce a patriarchal construct.

As the proud owner of a pussy, I know that it is damn valuable thing.  As a woman that has to put up with more than my share of bullshit, I know that being female is a ticket to struggle in this life.  Every where I look, I see my sex daily denigrated to profit those who would exploit me.

I am well aware that the MRA have an argument about the portrayal of male idiocy by the media to offset the position that I take; but I feel it is necessary to point out that those caricatures are created by males.  They further usually occur in a context wherein the males supposed stupidity leads to the woman assuming more than her share of responsibility.  Of course this kind of power exchange only happens within the household.    As soon as the scenario changes to a place of business, somehow the male characters suddenly regain all their cognitive skills.  Then the mystical male becomes ballsy enough to be the superior alpha dog that patriarchy has breed him to be.

I think that it is time we start to excise this kind of sexist language from our everyday discourse.  When women use it without thinking we are only reaffirming our second class status.  In every single thing that we say, or do we need to affirm that women matter.  The colluders might be happy being weak little pussies to their  cretin, troll like, MRA partners, but I for one know that I am too damn bad ass to be constructed that way.

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