A great post, from the Master of Language, on use of the word "bitch", feminism, and the Jackals, (now theres a word I'm getting a little sick and tired of seeing used derogatorily, myself)
Subject: Jackyl use of "bitch" in reference to Dr. Laura
James Zakany writes:
>>I dunno, guys. She seems to fit the colloquial definition of "bitch,"
>>which is 'spiteful woman' (Webster's II New Riverside University
>>Dictionary). She also seems to fit her own definition of the word
>>she likes to use so much: "slut."
>>Perhaps sunlion was simply being accurately descriptive in the
>>simple, but vulgar, language of her admirers.
Dicky Dunn writes:
>Gotcha Zak, Hey Doc Charlie? I think in our high minded zeal, we may
>be coming off like a couple of fundies.
Dr. Charlie writes:
I don't think we have to worry about that. Anyone of average intelligence who reads my posts should have no trouble realizing that I'm not a fundie, nor do I have a problem with profanity. I cuss quite liberally here myself. I am a Southerner after all, and I recall hearing about a survey many years ago that found that Southerners and New Yorkers (NYC) were the two groups in the U.S. with the highest incidences of the use of vulgarity. Worldwide, I think Hungarians were supposed to be the most foul-mouthed. Kind of makes you want
to learn Magyar doesn't it?
I just think some terms go beyond the pale and should be discouraged.
I understand Zakany's point that according to the dictionary it could be said to be a perfectly accurate description. However, there are connotations to the word and a history of usage not covered by any dictionary. Allow me bring up a personal note to explain:
When I was growing up in Tennessee, I thought that the word nigger what was you called a black person who you thought was an asshole. A bitch could likewise be said to the word for a woman that you think is an asshole. But just as the word nigger encodes a history of violence and oppression, I think the word "bitch" does as well. If one term cannot be divested of those overtones, then the other cannot either.
The problem is that many people would agree with Zakany's point and say a bitch is just a mean, unpleasant woman, a female asshole, while few people, outside the South especially, could be found willing to argue that nigger can just mean a black asshole.
The reason for this is that the oppression of blacks has been more "open" than the oppressive treatment of women. (Or perhaps that relatively few men are willing to face up to how women have been treated, or most men want to say, "well, I don't treat women that way!" and then ignore the problems that really do exist.) It could be argued that the injustices to blacks were more systematic, more institutional. I think that the oppression of women could be seen as systematic and even institutional (maybe in a more informal way) as well. I think if women were asked they could voice some pretty good support for this.
I think there maybe a problem of perception; people (men) don't really realize how subtle some of the oppression can be because they are never in the position to face it themselves. So they think it's all illusionary, or women make too much of it, or they focus on the progress that women have made to say that it doesn't really exist anymore.
Now remember I come from a background where people used, in effect, to deny that blacks were really oppressed. Even during segregation they'd say "Well, we treat our niggers pretty good around here, and never had any problems. I don't think they're really oppressed at all. They've got their own schools; their own this and that, etc." They're focus on the superficialities and use that to shield themselves from the the unpleasantries.
Now you may say that I'm somehow comparing apples and oranges. And I think we should keep a stopwatch handy and see how long it takes some idiot to try to "refute" what I'm trying to say by hanging on me the ad hominem labels of "feminazi" and "gender-traitor." Yeah, I'm a pro-feminist male. When I first came to grad school in Ohio I got stuck in a TA office with some pretty intimiadating feminists. I learned quickly to keep my mouth shut; then I learned to open my eyes to some of the problems women face in the real world that men aren't all that sensitive to on the whole.
Consider domestic abuse. How many women are beaten or killed by their husbands or boyfriends? Consider sexual abuse. I think the figure there is supposedly 25%--one in four women will be sexually assaulted at some point in her life. Somebody may quibble with the numbers and statistics, but I think that obviously there are an intolerably large number of these crimes happening everyday. What causes these crimes? I think it would wrong to imagine them as just individual events. I think the root of these crimes are attitudes--male attitudes towards women and ways of seeing them which are negative or degrading. Now not all men are at fault. Just as all Southerners in the 50's 60's were not klansmen, most men are not that strongly affected by these attitudes. But they are there. I even see traces of them in myself sometimes.
The topic of exploring what these attitudes consist of can be taken up later if others are interested in continuing that line of thought. Let me not go too much at length, and just move to the next point, subtle forms of oppression, wolf whistles, propositioning, even to an extent oggling. The problem here is that you can't eradicate male (hetero)sexuality. But you can recognize how the behaviors characteristic of this reveal the hidden presence of sexist attitudes in men who either simply don't recognize, or refuse to recognize them.
The fact, in my eyes, is that women do live in a threatening environment with all this; they face a lot of fear in their lives because of all of this--real, justifiable fear--and it *oppresses* them. They cannot live their lives as freely or as fully as they should be able to because they always have to be taking precautions, looking over their shoulder's, living with fear.
I think the word "bitch," considering how it is often used to mean "a woman who doesn't conform to male expectations of how she should act, or a woman who doesn't give a man what he wants--who doesn't comply with the role a man expects her to play" evokes all those things for a woman when she hears it. I think that it does have its roots in sexism--that it carried a lot of meanings for a woman--in the images it summons up, the impact it has when she is called that, in the subtle attitudes it does reveal in many instances when it is used--that a man does not realize. This applies even when the man may not have wished it to carry that message, and the man who said the word is not really a sexist.
That's why I think the use of the word should be discouraged. Call her an asshole instead, if you must--its a genderless term and doesn't carry that baggage or have that impact on a woman.
>The Poster Formerly Known As SunLion (PFKASL from here on out) is
>a proven wit and we may have focused too much on his relatively tame
>use of language.
PFKASL is a man who clearly, one can tell from reading his posts, is a very enlightened, open-minded individual who has demonstrated extraordinary character. He just doesn't/didn't see the same connections in the word that I do/did. No one should get the impression from this that PFKASL is in any way sexist. He just got carried away because he has strong feelings of indignation in what he sees DL as representing.
>I for one was chiming in behind you, but was mainly
>referring to posts like Anonymous Coward's. I just liked your
>"Eloquent Critics" thing so much that I had to put my 2 cents in.
Clever Snowball, the ARC. I 'm still trying to figure out if there's some clever allusion Dr. G intended with that nickname. But even assholes may sometimes provide insight to the wise, Dicky. Don't let your effusivenss turn into sycophancy.
>The other Jackyls have been curiosly silent, an I think it's because
>the whole "language police" smell is a bit distasteful.
>I understand and applaud your point, but I think Zak said it best;
>"I don't know guys"
I have tried to explain my reasoning. Feel free to express disagreement or present criticism (preferably of the intelligent and productive sort).
I certainly don't want to set up a Politically Correct Language Inquisition. I think some of the stuff that came out of the PC fad was useful, but that it went too far--e.g changing "handicapped" to "differently abled." I liked Zakany's point that in the sense of the dictionary definition it was an accurate description. I love accuracy and precision in the use of language. But I do think some terms carry powerfully destructive, negative connotations and those should be recognized as such. People should think twice before using
those terms. Plus there was the silly talk about DL going postal.
What it boils down to is this: I'm not the morals or language police of
artd-l. I can't stop PFKASL or anybody else from calling DL a bitch. I can't kick PFKASL out of the Pack o' Jackals or prevent him from calling himself a Jackal if he wants too. I was just using that and my title of Master of Language to provide a little leverage when making my point: Jackals are supposed to be the best posters here. Therefore, they should not make cretinous, adolescent comments like that, and getting carried away is no excuse. In the final analysis, I was just voicing my individual opinion--that saying stuff like that about DL goes too far. If people want to, I can't stop them. But I can complain, and I won't have much respect for people who can't make their feelings known in a more mature fashion. PFKASL is very capable of doing that.
As far as my belief that these types of statements should be discouraged--at least for anyone who aspires to Jackal status--let me sum up with my strongest point. We get enough flack from Laurettes as it is--let's not needlessly give them more ammunition to use against us.
And remember the Master of Language did not announce any formal restrictions on what you could call another *poster.* I ain't policing people's personal spats around here.
>I'm not wearing underpants,
[obvious one-line retort omitted...to save space :)]
High Councilor of the New Usenet Order
Master of Language
Master of History
The Enemy on Both Sides