Wednesday, March 17, 2010

WTF Wednesday: One from the Vaults

Today, most of my research time has been taken up with yesterday's Linguist E-mail, so I haven't had time to foam at the mouth about anything current. I did find this little snippet of spleen in my files, though, and it's as true now as it was then, so I thought I'd dust it off and take it out to meet the neighbors.

A Few Words About Feminism, circa 2007

I had been following the nomination process for the new Bishop of Chicago, and I read the profiles of the candidates with interest. I was delighted to see that almost half the nominees are women, but not necessarily surprised—the Episcopal Church is historically among the more progressive denominations when it comes to women’s issues. As I read the female candidates’ statements, they all mentioned in some aspect the challenges peculiar to women priests. One of them even recalled the warning of one of her professors at seminary: “When large numbers of women begin to be bishops, the office will have lost its respect, power and prestige – not unlike what happened with school teachers in the United States and doctors in the Soviet Union.” 

Oh, surely not, I thought. Look how far we’ve come; society must have moved beyond misogyny by now.  For instance, a recent article about generational differences in the workplace in Working Mother magazine highlighted several amenities offered to today’s working women that our great-grandmothers would scarcely have believed. (And yes, I know it’s odd that I read Working Mother magazine when I am not a working mother. I was, however, a working receptionist who was frequently bored enough to read all the magazines in the waiting room.) Young women of my generation are fortunate enough to live in the world our foremothers dreamed of creating—we have immeasurable opportunity to pursue our diverse passions, and many of the overt obstacles to our success are things of the past. In fact, the situation of American women has improved to the point where many young women see feminism as a thing of the past as well—and this is what worries me.

My youngest sister thinks that she doesn’t need to pay attention to politics at the age of sixteen because “it doesn’t affect her life.” My friends start Facebook groups called “Misogyny: An Enlightened State of Mind.” The Chick Lit phenomenon, in the name of women’s empowerment, spews out vapid, materialistic fiction about shopping, sniping at other women, and snagging bland commitment-phobic hunks as examples of what women are supposed to like. And one rarely hears the term “feminist” when it is not immediately preceded by “bra-burning.” Perversely, this could be taken as good news—the fair treatment of women has become obvious enough to my generation that it doesn’t really warrant our attention. Ceasing to take it seriously, however, is a huge mistake; what is it they say about those who forget the past, after all?

No, I don’t really think that anyone is literally out to abolish the 20th amendment and banish women to the kitchen, the sewing-room, and the menstrual hut. I’m not a tinfoil-hatted paranoiac, after all. Still, just because there are now decades of legal precedent for women to demand fair treatment doesn’t make the rape statistics any less alarming, the assault on women’s self-image any less infuriating, or the casual taking for granted of all we have achieved any less worrisome. Worse, the people who call attention to continuing problems in the treatment of women are painted as shrill, bitchy harpies even by other women. Women denigrating feminists? Let’s not let misogyny be one of the traditionally male pastimes that “empowered” women claim as their own. Women’s rights, remember, are human rights, because women are people, not a “special interest group.” 

This brings me to my final point—feminism as a movement may have achieved its goals, but feminism as a way of life will never be “over.” As in any relationship between men and women, it takes attention, communication, and tireless work towards mutual understanding and compassion to maintain the respectful balance feminism symbolizes. More than that, it takes awareness and initiative to remain arbiters of our own best interests, and this means being socially and politically informed as well as being willing to stand up for ourselves. Despite the saying’s domestic overtones, it still rings true—a woman’s work (or that of any feminist) is never done.


Posted by Silent Five @ 8:31 PM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Trip Report Tuesday: Linguistics and Fear and More Linguistics

I have been shying away from assigning myself Tuesday projects on the grounds that my whole life is a project these days. I have a lot to get together: a move, a new job, a host of creative ideas that I would dearly love to see come to fruition. But I was reminded of the original purpose of Trip Report Tuesday: "there's usually something little and accessible that you can do right now to take yourself closer to any goal."

One of my dearest and most far-reaching goals is to get into a graduate linguistics program. To that end, the First Mate suggested that this week, I process two e-mails a day either from or to linguists to ask for their advice. Now, I usually hold professors and actual working linguists in the kind of reverence people reserve for film stars and rock gods and the like. I couldn't imagine myself actually talking to them; I'd feel too much like a fangirl, too uneducated. That, however, is actually bullshit, isn't it? I mean, I want to be one of these people. They're not academic demigods, they're future colleagues, and I shouldn't feel at all sheepish about approaching them.

So I start tomorrow. Eee, terror and anticipation!

Anyone else want to hop on the terror and anticipation train? Do one thing this week that scares and excites you, then write and tell me all about it.


Posted by Silent Five @ 8:45 PM :: (1) comments

Monday, March 15, 2010

Naked Came the Etymologist...

This week's Etymology Monday starts off with an absolutely wonderful word: gymnologize. This obsolete gem comes from the Greek {gamma}{upsilon}{mu}{nu}{goacu}-{fsigma} ("gymno"), meaning "naked" + {lambda}{goacu}{gamma}{omicron}{fsigma} ("logos"), meaning "speech." To gymnologize, then, is 'to dispute naked, like an Indian philosopher.’ I don't see why the Indian philosophers should have all the fun, though. Granted, the prevalence of dick jokes in everyday debate probably doesn't need any more catalyst, but surely some of the poncier liberal arts academies could be convinced to field a gymnology team as an underground adjunct to their forensics programs, couldn't they? (St. John's College, I'm looking at you.)

This gives rise to an entertaining exercise: Using the prefix gymno- and some elementary Latin and Greek, one can spawn a whole slate of interesting fields, of which it pleases me to provide a small taste:

-gymnobotany: A branch of plant science which of necessity focuses fairly strongly on identifying poison oak.
-gymnogogy: What happens when all your courses are taught online and your students never actually have to see you. Alternately, what got Mary Kay Letourneau put in jail all those times.
-gymnography: Drawing dirty pictures in your lecture notes.
-gymnochondria: The sickening feeling that you're actually naked all the time.

I am particularly championing one of these words, so much so that I'm making it the Word of the Week despite my having made it up: gymnosophy. From "gymno" + "sophia" ('wisdom'), it refers to all of those profound and bizarre thoughts that only seem to come to you, say, in the shower, or when you're ruminating lazily in bed with your partner as the hours slip on toward dawn. Things like "I wonder why you never seem to see a baby pigeon," or "Now that you think about it, are Gary Busey and Nick Nolte ever photographed together? Is there any proof that Nolte isn't the Jekyll to Busey's Hyde?" In the habit of English lexicographers replacing good sound Germanic compounds with frillier derivatives of the Classical languagues, I propose it as a slightly upscale alternative to "pillow talk."

If anyone's got any particularly insightful or ridiculous gymnosophy to share, please leave it in the comments. Also, if anyone's got proof that Nick Nolte and Gary Busey are separate people, please leave that in the comments too.


Posted by Silent Five @ 10:41 AM :: (0) comments

Word of the Week

gymnosophy [jim-NAH-so-fee]

n. Philosophical, amusing, or nonsensical insights realized when naked, as in the shower or in bed. (recent coinage: att. S. Galasso, 2010)

Victoria and Albert enjoyed a spot of postprandial concupiscence culminating in a night of gymnosophy and coffee and crumpets at dawn.

The Silent Top Five: Bacon-Flavored Desserts

1) Bacon cheesecake.
2) Bacon gumballs.
3) Bacon ice cream.
4) Bacon-orange bars.
5) Bacon apple pie.

Standard Disclaimer

This is all in no way meant to incur copyright-infringement-related wrath. I'm harmless. I promise. Oh, and if you're offended by anything I may post herein, I guarantee I didn't mean to do so (unless, of course, you are a humorless prig. In which case, go right on and be offended, with my blessings.)