Watching Your Language


  • Printer Friendly Printer Friendly
  • Comments Comments (0)

I belong to the largest minority in the world. We even get our own "special" day to comfort us about that fact. Women. In the U.S. alone, we're 51 percent of the damn population.

Icon, object, idol, equal - gender relations have never been stable or internally consistent for long. This particular column is the result of thoughts that have been simmering in my head for a long while, but were brought to a boil this weekend after reading a newsletter that allegedly leaked from one of USC's fraternities. A few highlights are below:

"A Cocksman is taught to live by the two most applicable principles I know: The Pie and the Gullet. You may already be lost in trying to comprehend this logic. Do not worry this is completely understandable ..."

"Non-consent and rape are two different things. There is a fine line, so make sure not to cross it."

"The gullet report will strengthen brotherhood and help pin-point sorostitiutes more inclined to put-out."

If you don't get the references, here is a hint - don't try too hard. Should I have been surprised by the contents that leaked from a frat house? No. Was I? Hardly. The virulent e-mail did move me, however, as few pieces of writing have. Rarely has any written material given me the visceral urge to vomit, preferably all over its creator.

There were a number of things that infuriated me about the e-mail, the blatant sexism (and racism) aside. The first was that I knew it would be passed off as "humor." The e-mail is fascinating in a sick kind of way. The author uses some nice turns of phrase, and it is almost absurd enough to qualify as a satire. But it isn't.

Reading comments on the Internet (my mistake, I know), it was incredibly dispiriting to find people who would defend the letter for its "funny factor."

I'm sorry, I just can't get behind that. Hateful invective isn't funny. It doesn't "push the envelope," it isn't edgy, or radical or any of the adjectives that attempt to justify hostile behavior.

Real satire has a purpose: to catch society with its pants down. To expose our follies and vices and make us aware of the hypocrisy we accept. Whether or not that e-mail actually originated from the fraternity in question is irrelevant, and whether the author intended it as a satire is beside the point. It isn't funny because it is too damn easy to believe.

Though, in one way the e-mail did succeed. It made me aware of my own hypocrisy, in the things I say and what I let pass without comment.

Ironically perhaps, being a girl with guy friends involves embodying one of the key attributes of a "gentleman" - being a "Good Sport." Being a good sport can involve anything from giving guys tips on how to approach girls to laughing at sandwich jokes. Yes, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Yes, I admit, I find some of them funny.

Beyond anything, being a good sport involves the ability to not take things personally. Sure, all ex-girlfriends are bitches, and most girls are vindictive, but that doesn't apply to you. Because even though, in some other room, with some other group of people, you would be the butt of the joke - this time you're on the inside laughing out. On the other hand, I once had someone tell me, point blank, "you're very intelligent. You think well for a girl." It maddens me that that possibility comes as a surprise.

Like most people who grow up in liberal environments, I was taught that all human beings are inherently equal. Birth, not skin color, economic status or design of genitalia was the pre-requisite for admission to the human race. In fact, given that I attended a "shoes optional" elementary school, there was a particular emphasis given to equality.

Of course you can have the blue blanket. Nobody is saying you can't have the blue blanket. Nobody is hyper-aware of respecting your color preference at all. Not at all.

Of course, you can play sports, ride a bike, climb a tree, roll around in the mud. Anything you like. You want to be a soldier? Sure honey, you can be anything you damn well please (except a fighter pilot).

I remember being five and at a dinner party, wearing (upon my insistence) anything that wasn't a dress. The adults cooed a little, talking over my head. "You're so lucky," one of the adults sighed, "can you think of anything you can't do?" she asked, rhetorically.

Being the little smart-ass I was, I pondered this question briefly and then replied, "I can't pee standing up."

Out of the mouths of babes. I was deliberately being pedantic, but there is a truth to be found there. I can't pee standing up, and no Equal Rights Amendment is going to change that.

I used to think that a lot of the language of gender equality was silly. Of course, the average man is physically stronger than the average woman, of course the average man is taller than the average woman, and it seems silly to deny the law of averages. However, the danger lies in taking these averages and making them our expectation for the individual.

Language matters. The assumptions we make and the jokes we tell shape our reality. What we choose to say is important. How we choose to say it is, perhaps, even more so. We're all equally damned for inheriting this flawed world. The ability to equivocate cleverly about the meaning of a stupid joke or an offhand comment doesn't change that. What you speak, write and say defines who you are. Choose wisely.


Share your thoughts with Meghna at [email protected]

Comments (0) »

Comment Policy
The Daily Cal encourages readers to voice their opinions respectfully in regards to both the readers and writers of The Daily Californian. Comments are not pre-moderated, but may be removed if deemed to be in violation of this policy. Comments should remain on topic, concerning the article or blog post to which they are connected. Brevity is encouraged. Posting under a pseudonym is discouraged, but permitted. Click here to read the full comment policy.
White space
Left Arrow
Image OFF THE BEAT: Bookshelves and puzzle pieces
Someone once remarked there is absolutely nothing that compares with the...Read More»
Image Sobering reflections of a grad
I got defriended this week on Facebook, by someone whose cyber-allegiance I...Read More»
Image I'll write the title later ...
Were Procrasti-Nation a country, I would be its queen. Supreme ruler over e...Read More»
Image Off the Beat: Editor's note: Thank you!
I had no intention of joining The Daily Californian four years ago. I had n...Read More»
Image Off the beat: Food rules for college life
Michael Pollan seems like a cool guy. He's been one of the faces of the sl...Read More»
Image Food for Thought: When food feeds the soul
For most of my childhood, all I liked to do was sleep. I would come home ...Read More»
Right Arrow

Job Postings

White Space