Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

Kickin’ Ass & Takin’ Names

In Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, Juliet Capulet says, “What’s in a name? / That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet”. But is it really true? I disagree. What you name something or someone definitely matters. Just ask Apple. No, not the fruit or the computer company. Apple’s the daughter of the boring, harmless-as-flies celeb couple Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow. Yawn.

Grenade. Seriously? Yeah. We were friends at summer camp, and we made quite the hilarious pair. She was this macho, big-boned girl who was nice enough but who also didn’t tolerate any crap. Everyone just knew not to mess with her. And there I was, this small, bony, happy-go-lucky girl who was always making gimp bracelets and friendship bracelets. We actually had nothing in common except total respect for each other. But an angel, I was not. I’d often make cracks about how her mom probably picked Grenade’s name because of the crude way she was delivered.

Sticks & Stones May Break My Bones, But Names Will Never Hurt Me

Names also play an important role in the cosmetics industry. Lots of women (including myself) are suckers when it comes to buying products with punny names. Allow this nail-polish addict to provide examples: OPI: Eiffel for This Color and China Glaze: Kaleidoscope Him Out. Gotta give props to the creative teams who come up with the names.

Normally mascaras have standard, boring names like Blackest Black and some cheaper brands even just use numbers to differentiate between colours. Then you get companies who try to blow the lid off the compost bin. Yes, it’s all in fun (and I did get a laugh when I heard about most), but if you look deeper than the surface level, you’ve gotta wonder if these names are a bad influence or not.

When does being sassy begin to colour outside the lines and paint its way into anti-feminist territory? I’m definitely not a prude, but sometimes I ask myself if some shocking colour names are really necessary. Aren’t there other (and better) ways to get attention from consumers?

Sex sells:

We Don’t See Eye to Eye on Being Cheek to Cheek

I own China Glaze Tickle My Triangle. And I was thinking about buying Cheeky Monkey Brazen Hussy, but the more I think about, the more I feel like I shouldn’t be supporting a company that sexualizes women. It goes against my feminist ideals that I’m trying to uphold (even though I am, of course, still human and hypocritical at times).

Cheeky Monkey is a cosmetics brand that I didn’t know much about until last week, so I did some research. According to their website, the Cheeky Monkey philosophy is all about empowering women:

“Cheeky Monkey is not conventional.

Neither are the women who wear it.

We believe all women should feel free to express their personal edginess. You work hard, make responsible choices and embrace life to the fullest. Engage the cheeky side of things – you get the joke. You know that to be good, you have to be a little naughty. Cheeky Monkey cosmetics are environmentally safe and 3 Free healthy. They are edgy and fun, but above all, high quality. Just like the women who wear them.”

Sounds great, right? It makes women sound like the world is their oyster and that they have the freedom to change it. I don’t have any issue with that. My problem is that they’re saying one thing, but then doing another. We’re all hypocrites, and I’m certainly not one to stand on a pedestal to proclaim how morally superior I am, but c’mon…with a mission statement like that, how can they possibly justify nail-polish names like Cheap Whore and Back Alley Sally? Yes, they make us giggle, but what the hell is empowering about being a slut and being used for your body?

Cosmetic politics.

What do you think?

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Floss a Backbone, Gargle with Feminist Mouthwash & Don’t Just Brush off Gender Inequality

Of the many university courses I took years ago, my psychology of women class is one of the handful that really stood out. It wasn’t just about memorizing facts and studying to get good marks on exams. After hearing what the professor had to say in lectures and after reading my textbook, I found myself getting worked up over things I once blindly accepted.

Like much of the general public, I had thought that feminism was a bad word. The stereotype of a butch man-hating woman who was hairy, pushy, and obnoxious had sadly been held by me, my friends, parents, and co-workers. We had succumb to the media’s depiction of feminism.

Being a feminist didn’t seem positive at all. Who were these women? What kind of chip did they have on their shoulder that they felt the need to fight all the time? And anyone who called herself a feminist was bound to be ridiculed and challenged (much like labeling yourself a vegetarian, as I discussed in a previous blog post). Why stigmatize yourself?

Then I learned that feminism wasn’t always about putting women ahead for the sake of being women – it was about making a positive difference in the world for women, yes, but also for men. It was about taking women seriously as intellectual individuals and not just as sex symbols. It was about standing up for women to earn equal pay in the workforce. It was about smashing the glass ceiling so society could enjoy some fresh air.

The English author, literary critic, journalist, and travel writer, Cicely Isabel Fairfield (aka Rebecca West) was quoted as saying, “I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.”

Yet somehow feminism’s name got tainted in black tar. It became the butt of many sitcom jokes. In fact, feminism got such a bad rap that even women came to associate it with all things negative.

One day I wanted to do an informal experiment to see just how skewed people’s understanding of feminism really was. I asked a bunch of people in my classes (who weren’t in my psychology of women class), “Are you a feminist?” To my surprise (and disappointment), every single person I asked (female or male) had a strong, adverse reaction to the question. They all immediately exclaimed, “No!” A few made looks of disgust as though I had insulted them.

My next question: “Do you believe that women who have the same expertise, education, and experience as men should get paid less for doing the same job?” All of them said no and that they should earn the same amount because that’s what was fair.

When I told them that their answer was feminist, I think it threw them for a loop. They clearly didn’t want to be labeled as a feminist, but they held feminist beliefs. It was obvious now that the problem with feminism wasn’t that people didn’t believe in its tenets, rather its skewed definition.

My theory for why feminism got such a harsh reputation: people were intimidated by the thought of women challenging the status quo, asking for more (which actually was just what they deserved), becoming independent, and working their way up to attain positions of power.

The established patriarchy was under attack! How could they lessen the blow and discount the protests from this growing movement? Ridicule it – make cheap shots at it every chance you get. Turn it into a caricature. And it worked. Even women with university education were refusing to call themselves feminists!

Let’s spread the word – feminism isn’t a bad word. It’s empowering, hopeful, and our future. Get rid of ill-conceived stereotypes that prevent us (women and men) from moving forward.

Anyone can be a feminist. Even men. (Being a feminist doesn’t mean you’re feminine.) You can come from any walk of life. You can be feisty, introverted, pretty, ugly, young, or old. Feminism doesn’t discriminate. People against feminism discriminate.

But you have to remember that feminists are human, too. Some are hypocrites. They’re not perfect. Being a feminist doesn’t mean that you’ll always do or say the right thing when it comes down to the wire. Being a feminist doesn’t make you a good person. Being a feminist makes you want to strive to be a better person. Whether or not you reach your goal is another story.

Are you ready to hop on board?

The F Word Isn’t a Gordon Ramsay TV Show. It’s Feminism & It’s Real Food for Thought

FeminismForget water-filtration systems, energy-saving light bulbs, and Hybrid cars. The greatest invention is language. And because we use it all the time, of course we take it for granted (much like everything else that’s important in our lives).

Well, the glock stops here.

If we think that we’re so smart, then it’s time we start acting like it and choose our words wisely because as you know, they might be our last. Let’s go out with a big bang, okay? R.I.P, damn chauvinism!

The Male Norm Is Abnormal

Did you know that English-grammar rules were first written in the 16th and 17th centuries? During this time, very few women could read and write, as they didn’t have the same educational opportunities as men.

Some women who were the exception had to use male pen names in order to get their books published! And to be ‘taken seriously’ by publishers and readers, a number of women resorted to using gender-neutral pseudonyms.

The English-grammar books were written by men and they were intended as study aids for boys from upper-class families. That being said, it should come as no surprise that the language contains a heavy male-centered worldview. But don’t worry, we can KO gender inequality with what we say and write.

Blow the Whistle & Order Around Pronouns at Boot Camp

FeminismI want you to actively look for this one – it shouldn’t be hard to find because there are loads of guilty parties. Keep your eyes peeled like a banana for the order of personal pronouns. More often than not, you’ll notice that people usually use “he or she” and “his or hers”.

FeminismMany times when you change the order and put the woman first, readers mention that it “sounds weird”. Why is that? Why must the man be mentioned first always? And why is putting the woman first so wrong? These are all good questions.

To this day, no one has been able to justify the male-first order to my satisfaction. And to my dismay, I’ve caught many Psychology Today articles following that traditional format despite their claims of forward-thinking.

Let’s stop perpetuating the myth that women are (what Simone de Beauvoir coined) “the second sex”.

You could bring more attention to the matter by simply using “she or he” and “hers and his” on occasion.

Or you could go another route and use “(s)he” for true equality. Of course, eliminating your usage of gender-identifying personal pronouns is also an option, but I find it cumbersome and cold at times.

Man, I Feel like a Woman!

FeminismSometimes I can’t believe that in this day and age, people still use “he” to refer to both females and males. Case in point, here’s an example: “To avoid getting slapped with a speeding ticket, a driver should stick to the posted speed limit or he might have to pay the fine.” The driver could just as easily be a woman.

As of today (April 26, 2009), if you hit up Wikipedia and scroll down to the chart, this is what you’ll see:

“He: Third person singular, masculine / gender-neutral third person singular

She: Third person singular, feminine”

How is “he” gender-neutral, but “she” is distinctly feminine and separate? Sniff sniff…I smell something, and it reeks of chauvinism trying to segregate women in a category that’s deemed of lesser importance.

Well, glock that!

I challenge you all to change the way you use personal pronouns every day. It’s a simple change that makes a huge difference in how we treat and define women as equals.

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