Wow. I consider myself a feminist, and I’m proud of that. But clearly I have a shocking amount to learn. Recently, a friend showed me this article from Middlebury Magazine, entitled “The Language of Gender Violence”, and it blew me away. I strongly encourage you to read it.
It was discussing women’s issues such as sexual violence and harassment and domestic violence. Cue the record scratch sound effect. Back up. Read that sentence again. It doesn’t seem particularly controversial, does it? But now look at the phrase “women’s issues”. Why are these women’s issues? Because they happen to women? Shouldn’t they be society’s issues? Why do men get a “get out of jail free” card when it comes to this, particularly when they are generally the perpetrators of this violence?
I never thought of that. It never even crossed my mind. By using the language we use, we are perpetuating societal attitudes.
The article went on to discuss the passive voice. It said, “We talk about how many women were raped last year, not about how many men raped women. We talk about how many girls in a school district were harassed last year, not about how many boys harassed girls. We talk about how many teenage girls in the state of Vermont got pregnant last year, rather than how many men and boys impregnated teenage girls.”
By using the passive voice, we take men and boys out of the equation entirely. These issues become a problem for women, and men aren’t even the focus anymore. Pretty sneaky. Pretty insidious.
I have no doubt fallen into this verbal trap at least a million times in my life, and I didn’t even realize what I was doing. It never dawned on me that I was playing along. I’m horrified. And it is making me look at the world from a completely different angle.
Food for thought.
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