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March 30 2017

New Rule of Politically Correct Grammar: Never Call a Woman a "Female"

by Charlotte Allen

New rule of politically correct grammar: It's OK to refer to men as "males"--but it's never OK  to refer to women as "females."

Really? Yes!

So says Emily Toth, professor of English and--most significantly--women's studies--at Louisiana State University-Baton Rouge, who writes a "Miss Manners"-style etiquette-advice column aimed at academics  for the Chronicle of Higher Education under the "Manners"-derived monicker "Ms. Mentor."

So here's the burning-question headline of  today's column: "He Keeps Calling Us 'Females,'" mourns an advice-seeking female--oops, I meant "lady," oops again, I meant "woman"--professor who calls herself "Elsie." She writes:

I am on a high-level university commission to study the status of ("X"). One commission member, "Bob," persists in referring to me and the other two women on the commission as "females."...Should I say something, Ms. Mentor? Or are you OK with being called "a female"?

And Ms. Mentor's response is: Definitely say something! Deliver a pointed little comment that will humiliate "Bob" in front ot his colleagues and make you and your fellow-women on the commission feel especially smug and self-congratulatory. Among academics, this is called "etiquette."

Here's one of the ways in which Ms. Mentor advises "Elsie" to respond:

She can send a note to the meeting chair. "Would you remind the committee that we are ‘women,’ not females? It’s awkward to be described as a mammal."

Well, I certainly hope that "high-level university commission" isn't a biology-department commission. When I last looked it up, the species homo sapiens fell into the class Mammalia, after those "mammary glands" that we females--oops, women!--of the human species have on our chests.

As authority for her pronunciamento, Ms. Mentor cites that etiquette bible, Buzzfeed:

When you refer to a woman as a female, you're ignoring the fact that she is a female human. It reduces a woman to her reproductive parts and abilities.

Also, not all women are biologically female, and the conflation of "female" to "woman" erases gender-nonconforming people and members of the trans community.

Another of Ms. Mentor's mentors on the "female" quesion is blogger Grammar Girl. Except that Grammar Girl says this:

Jane Austen used the phrase "the females of the family" in Pride and Prejudice, for example, and Emily Brontë wrote "It opened into the house, where the females were already astir" in Wuthering Heights.

In other words, it was OK for Jane Austen and Emily Bronte to use the word "females"--but not OK for you, "Bob."

The reason? You, Bob, are a "male." And, it seems, it's perfectly fine, indeed obligatory under some circumstances, to refer to men as "males," especially when that noun is preceded by the adjective "white."

Hence this CNN headline of Jan. 19: "White Males Dominate Trump's Top Cabinet Posts."

Or this Nov. 18, 2016 story in the Huffington Post about the creation of a "National Registry of White Males."

Or this article in Alternet:

But climate change is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to white male denial. Indeed, the phenomenon has a name, the white male effect, which explains this demographic cohort’s perceptions of everything from financial markets to gun control. Sociologists attribute the effect to a very specific subset of conservative, “risk-skeptical” white men who hold hierarchical and individualistic world views.

In 2005, Yale Law School professor Dan Kahan, who introduced the perspective of “cultural cognition” to the theory, explained, “the reason white males are less fearful of various risks is that they are more afraid of something else: namely, the loss of status they experience when activities symbolic of their cultural worldviews are stigmatized as socially undesirable.”

But don't you dare call a woman a "female"--or you will receive a severe dressing-down.

 

 

 

 

 

 



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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