To my mom, my sister, my grandmothers, my aunts, my cousins, my nieces, my friends, my teachers, my students, and mentors from all over- Happy International Women’s Day! Plus a special greeting to you, yes you!, my female-of-the-species blog visitor, on this your special day.
True to form, I woke up with a text message from one of our professors who is the concurrent director of our university’s Center for Gender and Women’s Studies and my inbox contained an email from another professor who is our Reproductive Health go-to resource person. In essence, their messages contained timely, timeless reminders about the importance of recognizing women’s role in society AND their continuing struggle to get their fair share of the world’s resources and opportunities.
I’ve read two interesting insights on the International Women’s Day celebration, quoted by our professor in her email: from the Gabriela Network and Lucinda Marshall in CommonDreams.org. These articles underscore two facts: that throughout history women have been subjected and are still being subjected to horrific circumstances secondary to their sex, and; throughout history, women have displayed and are displaying inspiring, incredible resolve to rise above the inequity. But more than celebrating the “triumphs,” these two articles are calling for continued collective action so that the gains of the past will be sustained and the rights and privileges still not being enjoyed by women will be in their hands soon.
In short, let’s make everyday Women’s Day.
To learn more about how March 8th came to be The Day for Women, read this rather succinct but substantial discussion from the United Nations.
So how do we make everyday women’s day? One way is by making it a very deliberate effort to use gender-fair language. It is the use of language which devalues members of one sex, almost invariably women, and thus fosters gender inequity. It discriminates against women by rendering them invisible or trivializing them at the same time that it perpetuates male supremacy. Since language, to a big extent, articulates consciousness, we can help change the mindset perpetuating inequity and inequality by more careful word choices.
Here are some examples I’ve taken from the Gender and Development courses given to med students in our university.
Instead of ____, say _____... Repeat after me, altogether now:
Mankind … Human beings, society, men and women
Working men … Workers
Man in the street … Average person, ordinary person
Forefather … Ancestor
Layman … Layperson
Manning … Staffing, working, running
Manpower … Human resources, personnel
Chairman … Chair
Cameraman … Camera operator
Congressman … representative, member of congress, legislator
Fisherman … fisherfolk
Sportsman … sports enthusiast
Statesmen … diplomats, political leaders
Watchmen … guards
Policeman … police officer, law enforcement officer
Man and wife … husband and wife
Dr Juan and Mrs Cruz … Dr Juan Cruz and Dr Maria Cruz or Ms Maria Cruz and Dr Cruz or Dr Maria Cruz and Dr Juan Cruz
Let’s all help fight inequity and inequality and promote a more free world, one word at a time.