Friday, September 12, 2008

Hey Guys!

Although I hate to admit it I have not been a feminist my whole life, preferring an imagined life as a radical flower child. Not for any particular reason other than I was uneducated about the movement and did not take my first class until I was in college. *Quick side-note: this has made me passionate about bringing women’s issues education to K-12 institutions.* Before that life-changing course, feminism was something I knew about and although I always "wanted women’s rights," I never identified as a feminist. Needless to say, that has all changed.

When I think back on my non-feminist life, I see sexist instances that I ignored, or places I could have spoken out that will be forever out of my grasp to change – after all, they are in the past. Then I get e-mails like the one I received today from my college service fraternity and I am reminded that there are things I can fight to change now:

This e-newsletter is in addition to the communications you are already receiving from the Fraternity -- not a replacement. The brothers who receive this e-newsletter have an updated e-mail address on file with the National Office.” (emphasis mine)

Brother? Fraternity? How can I identify with something that completely ignores that my gender exists within the framework of the organization? I am not the only female within this organization; this e-mail comes from a community service group made up of both men and women. Attendance for women at universities is on the rise, and mine in particular had more women than men, but still we are labeled as FreshMEN during our first year.

Once you start looking into it these examples are all over the place: congressman, policeman, fireman, history, etc. A favorite of mine is the “you guys” statement that I have been known to get into arguments about, especially when it is said to a group of all women.

I understand why people tell me these are “just things we say,” but I truly believe that it is harmful to women’s issues to use sexist language. By using exclusionary language we undermine women’s power and significance in our daily lives and I would rather be seen as a complainer than stand by and let it happen.

*For more reading, please read the sexist language paper my Sociology Professor gave us on the first day: Why Sexist Language Matters


esk said...

So they still call it a fraternity even though it's males AND females? That in itself seems to be a problem.

I hear you on the: hey guys. I tend to use, "hey folks," when it's a mixed group and "hey galz," when it's all females. And for occupations: police officer, fire fighter, etc. History...and freshman, well, not sure what to do about those!

But the others -- it's a start...hopefully others will catch on to these terms!

Great post.

Anonymous said...

We have a service fraternity at my university, and I have been known to bring this topic up with them: "why is it called a fraternity when it has men and women? It's a society, not a brotherhood!" The women I speak to brush off the comment as though they don't mind being called brothers, and in fact, one recently made a comment about another guy, "he's such a little girl." She is a feminist, and her derogatory language like that towards herself as a woman really surprised me. As it turns out, she meant that he was annoying, clingy and immature, but it seems as though some women are taught subversively through language that they are the annoying, clingy, immature, etc. sex by nature.

esk said...

Ugh! Why the negative connotations when making references towards women?!

Kudos to you for asking questions; I think it helps to raise awareness and hopefully will start serious discussions on issues such as these

Randolph Finder said...

Note, I'm on Alpha Phi Omega's National History and Archives Committee.

In Alpha Phi Omega, all of the members are brothers large because those women who first joined the fraternity wanted to be brothers of the fraternity rather than being identified as Sisters, since several chapters had little Sister groups (which were definitely un-equal). Also, since the very first women were pledging sub rosa, the National Fraternity used the term brother for everything. The decision that women members of the fraternity would be brothers was *not* imposed on the women when the fraternity officially went co-ed...

If you would like further information, I can be contacted directly at naraht1/at/ or there is a history group for Alpha Phi Omega on facebook.