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Not now, not ever

17
Oct
2012
 

By Miranda

This is always a courageous affirmation, and I do mean 'courageous' in the Yes, Minister (that is, 'likely to lose the next election') sense, but it's a particularly silly one to make in respect of language, whether about meaning or about grammatical construction. The one constant of language is that it is always changing.

Here in Australia we've had the honestly shocking experience recently of a politician speaking brilliantly from the heart. Regardless of context or of one's political persuasion, Prime Minister Gillard made a truly wonderful speech which, not unnaturally, was taken up by the blog-and twitter-spheres as women around the world heard, from a position of great authority, recognition of the underlying prejudice against women in our society.

Julia Gillard speech

Image: www.abc.net.au

A prejudice made plain if you study the percentage of women in high positions, both public and corporate, or the discrepancy in salaries, overall, for men and women in similar positions, or the discrepancy in basic pay for people in professions seen historically as 'caring', that is, 'female' in nature.

Not to mention the language of reporting on or protesting against women in public positions, the former still including marital status, number of children and what she's wearing as a matter of course, and the latter exercising a nauseating degree of gender-based vitriol.

But this isn't about politics, whether gender politics or not.

One thing that's happened as a result of this speech is that the Macquarie Dictionary is expanding its definition of the word 'misogyny' from the simple 'pathological hatred of women' to include the notion of misogyny as describing this 'entrenched prejudice against women'. In doing so, Macquarie is recognising this sense in which the word 'misogyny' has been used over the last thirty or so years, and certainly in Prime Minister Gillard's recent speech.

From a linguistic point of view, this is an inevitable process of recognising fact. But will we be grown-up enough to accept this update without falling into old language prejudices ourselves?

22 Responses to

Not now, not ever

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said:
October 17, 2012 at 4:00 PM

good on her miranda was good to see at least she can stand her ground

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kragzy said:
October 17, 2012 at 5:21 PM

Well said Miranda. As a man who was 'high up' in the corporate world before embarking on my pathway to retirement, I am forced to agree that there was (and no doubt still is) a suspicion, at least, of ambitious women. That said, the Chairman of the Board of one of the companies in which I was a senior executive, was a woman and she was one of the smartest minds I have ever worked with - breathtakingly brilliant. Also, on the executive team, there was one young (40ish) woman who, in my view, was the best of the new bloods (speaking as an old codger in his 50s at the time). I was pleased to hear that she was recently appointed CEO of the company. Frankly I enjoy the viewpoint that a female mind brings to the dusty grey of a male dominated board. Hopefully without generalising too much, women see things differently and we crusty old men do well to recognise the value they contribute to critical decision-making. Thank you for fanning the flames that our PM ignited.

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gracie10 said:
October 17, 2012 at 6:00 PM

Good for you kragzy. I have heard it said that there will not be equality between the genders until there are as many women promoted above their level of competence as there are men. In one of my previous jobs, the prejudice against me on the grounds that I was a single parent, with a good figure (and generous endowment upstairs) etc etc was just horrendous. Currently, many people assume that the man on the job must be the supervisor, when in fact, it is me.

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Mojito said:
October 17, 2012 at 7:47 PM

You have my vote, kragzy. And thanks Miranda, great article.

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pdiaco said:
October 18, 2012 at 10:31 AM

Misogyny is a bit of a myth. Philandy, philogyny and misanthropy are far more prevalant in my personal experience. One should not take any current Australian politician seriously, male or female. Let's talk about genuine honesty, morality and ethics and don't be distracted by spurious opportunitstic gender politics from any Australian politician.

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kragzy said:
October 18, 2012 at 10:32 AM

Gracie, to the extent that I represent all of those boorish blokes out there, I apologise for the harrassment and prejudice. Working daily alongside the lady executive mentioned above, I noticed that some men could not help themselves but make comments on her appearance. She was (is still I expect!) very attractive but as a working partner I thought it was inappropriate to say anything about her appearance - her work was excellent and I was pleased to comment favourably about that. That was, after all, why she was where she was. Funny, no-one ever commented about my appearance! "You're looking very handsome today Kragzy"... I don't think so! Good thing I can represent myself as a little cheeky boy in my avatar - you wouldn't want to see the real thing! :-). Just as an aside, when I left that job to embark on my retirement phase, one of the comments made about me was that I brought a new level of dignity to the place. I cherish that comment. I hope your workplace will transform sufficiently for you to be recognised for your leadership and skills, as they should be.

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pdiaco said:
October 18, 2012 at 10:36 AM

That should read Misandry, not Philandy. Is Misotypoey a hatred of typos :).

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said:
October 18, 2012 at 1:46 PM

love the comments well done guys

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gracie10 said:
October 18, 2012 at 2:13 PM

Thanks kragzy - obviously, it's not all bad, otherwise I would not be a supervisor in the first place, or had my previous high level job. There are some good blokes out there - should I call them gentlemen or is that old fashioned and stereotypical? I think that's a really great comment you received - sounds like you were/are a true professional.

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said:
October 18, 2012 at 5:04 PM

I have fought against this 'entrenched prejudice against women' as long as I can remember. Growing up with 3 big brothers who were quick to say I couldn't do something because I was a girl. Well, that always inflamed me and made me determined to show them I could do it... better! Julia is an inspiration to me because she is not the stereotypical achieving female. She is kind, soft and endearing and still kicks butt! She has helped me see that I don't have to 'fight the fight' on male terms. I can be true to myself, embracing my femininity, and still rule.

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said:
October 19, 2012 at 10:17 AM

true jaffa i have four brothers so know where you are coming from

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marcibak said:
October 19, 2012 at 9:00 PM

Australian politicians should put their comments into the alternative sex check and see if it works for both. If we had called any other male prime ministeri. a silly b" etc. or if the same was said about the American President there would have been a riot. I am glad Prime Minister Gillard spoke out as she has and so well.

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pdiaco said:
October 20, 2012 at 3:50 AM

Hmmm.

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gracie10 said:
October 20, 2012 at 7:41 PM

I am glad that we have a female prime minister (not before time), and also that the US has a black president (once again, not before time). This doesn't mean that I think either of them are perfect (none of us are) although I do have a great deal of respect for both of them. And I think it shows we have made some progress in the recognition of real ability regardless of gender, race etc. Hoorah!

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Rilla said:
October 22, 2012 at 12:08 PM

I agree with gracie10 that it is great the US have a black president, it was definately time for one. But I do not think it is a good thing we have a female PM. She has, as far as i can see, done nothing to recommend female PMs. In fact I think the sooner we get a decent PM the better. Whether it be male or female. Personally I think we would be better off with a male, it's the male leaders that have got us where we are today,in most cases, whether it be good or bad. Too me things seem to be swinging the other way, prejudice against men rather than women.

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said:
October 22, 2012 at 5:33 PM

I have read all the previous comments and tend to agree with Pdiaco and Rilla. Miranda said "PM Gillard made a truly wonderful speech etc" but a lot of people viewed it as a denigrating unwarranted personal attack on a very good man. Misandry describes her character attack on Mr Abbott but at the same time she was defending Mr Slipper. I am afraid it does not make much sense does it? Miranda also writes, " But this isn't about politics, whether gender politics or not." This is written after a picture of the PM and 3 or 4 paragraphs praising her and the speech. I'm sorry but I just don't get it.

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grantdood said:
October 23, 2012 at 6:33 AM

Hey People, nobody has answered Miranda's question. "Should we accept this change to our language"? Personally NOT NOW, NOT EVER. Why should Macquarrie Dictionary, or any other authorative source, permit the misuse of our language to become a definition of our language? I hope they haven't yet added 'fave' to the dictionary.

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pdiaco said:
October 23, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Any prime minister that alienates men and women has got to go.

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said:
October 23, 2012 at 11:30 AM

English is a 'living' language and, as such, popular usage is more relevant than any dictionary meaning. Do I think misogyny should have a change in meaning? Personally, I think not. A misogynist is a woman hater. An ugly word with an ugly meaning. Abbott is not a misogynist but he is a serious chauvanist. Perhaps a bit of hyperbole on Julia's part, grand standing for the media. But she got our attention and that was her intent. PS. I wonder how Abbott's texts with Peter Slipper read when they were mates...'like attracts like'. Abbott, like Slipper is certainly a creepy sleeze.

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said:
October 23, 2012 at 4:05 PM

dont know them so cant comment .. wish they would do there jobs without this carrying on

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gracie10 said:
October 23, 2012 at 7:27 PM

Jafa, I agree with your point about language being 'living' - I think what you are referring to is the difference between 'langue' and 'parole' - as defined by Ferdinand de Saussure (if I remember correctly). That is, the difference between formal language rules, and language as it is used in everyday life.

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gracie10 said:
October 23, 2012 at 8:48 PM

Forgot to mention, my avatar doesn't look like a nerd for no good reason:)