In Curious Things, Part Two

Part One is here.

I've recently noticed a very pervasive and insidious conveyance of misogyny: The use of light synonyms for "woman" (girl, lady, sister, gal) to communicate "hold this female person blameless" and the use of "woman" to communicate "hold this female person responsible."

So, let's say someone got a haircut, and the female stylist cut it too short. If that someone wanted to communicate zie isn't mad at the stylist, it was just a miscommunication, no harm no foul, but still convey zie's unhappy with the cut, zie might say: "The gal at the salon cut it too short."

If, however, that someone wanted to communicate zie is unhappy with the stylist and holds her wholly responsible for the too-short cut, zie will likely say: "The woman at the salon cut it too short."

In the latter case, I'm not even talking about someone who is so pissed zie's on the verge of a slur. I just mean someone who isn't feeling particularly inclined toward niceties while sharing the story.

What I've observed is that we intuitively infer a kinder disposition toward a female person described as a gal, or a girl, or lady, or a sister, than we do toward a female person described as a woman.


And the thing is, I find myself doing it, too, occasionally using those unencumbered synonyms, not because I think "woman" is synonymous for some manifestation of less than, but because I am intuitively aware that other people do.

I'm really going to try not to do that anymore.

[Commenting Note: As with all posts that encourage readers to reflect upon how language entrenches oppressions, please recognize that immediate impulses to share exceptions and/or say you've never heard anyone do that often come from a place of privilege. Take care not to silence or derail.]

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