February 12, 2013

diction

Filed under:, , , — cwage @ 2:02 am

It took all my willpower not to title this post "DICKtion". GET IT?! Moving on:

So, Southern/Alpha is sponsoring an event called Spark Nashville, which will feature some startup pitches, general tech-ey networking, and some speakers -- Marcus Whitney and Nicholas Holland, who were referred to in the press release as "patriarchs" -- a truly unfortunate choice of words.

Why is this a problem?

First, the definition of patriarchy, courtesy of wikipedia:

Patriarchy (rule by fathers) is a social system in which the male is the primary authority figure central to social organization and the central roles of political leadership, moral authority, and control of property, and where fathers hold authority over women and children. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination. Many patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property and title are inherited by the male lineage.

Now, stay with me here, but some wacky feminists of late have suggested that female subordination is a total bummer and should be avoided. If you stretch your imagination a bit, you can prrrrrobably imagine how this particular word might be a little off-putting to any women that read it.

Given that, do I think it likely that the author of the press release intended to promote the subordination of females? Not likely. Both Hanlon's and Occam's razor apply here. It's more like that whoever chose the word was simply ignorant of its implications. There really is no common ungendered colloquial sense of "patriarch", especially when so many other words would have sufficed (start with "leader" and go from there), so it's a bit weird. There it is. Patriarchs. A truly unfortunate choice of words in a city trying desperately to get women involved in many traditionally male-dominated fields, technology foremost among them.

I won't get into the details of any actual patriarchy in the industry (which of course does exist), and how hegemonies tend to be promulgated despite the best conscious intentions of everyone involved. I can't speak for Nick or Marcus, but I know that if anyone ever described me as a "patriarch" of anything I'd be annoyed and politely but firmly ask them to choose another word.

Related: this older blog post.

November 15, 2008

thank god we fixed that sexism thing

Filed under:, , , , — cwage @ 2:04 pm

I love reading Reason -- both the magazine and their blog, Hit & Run. Both are usually chock full of well-reasoned (ha ha) and intelligent commentary. They have a few writers, though, that basically never fail to annoy me. Cathy Young is one of those. In a recently article, she contemplates whether Palin's candicacy was a Good Thing for feminism or not. Contained therein, we encounter this passage:

Palin's rise enraged many liberal and left-wing feminists. At HuffingtonPost.com, novelist Jane Smiley branded her "a woman who reinforces patriarchal power rather than challenges it." (The notion that "patriarchal power" exists in the United States in 2008 is only slightly less delusional than the belief, erroneously attributed to Palin, that God created the dinosaurs 5000 years ago.)

Uh.. What? Was there a big announcement that we finally fixed sexism? Maybe it was right after we also fixed racism, which, as Cathy Young will tell you, is entirely black people's fault these days too. Ugh. Incidentally, if Cathy Young believes patriarchal power no longer exists, what, exactly, is feminism, and what would constitute a "step forward" for it? Why is she even writing about it? It's like she has this knee-jerk inability to admit that any institutional forces exist, and that to admit they do would be admitting some sort of personal weakness or something. It's okay, Cathy! Institutions exist! It's not your fault!

That said, I mostly agree with her answer to the question of whether or not Palin's candicacy was a good thing for women's progress:

Unfortunately, Palin's feminist star was dimmed by a few things, especially the mounting evidence that she was less than qualified for the spot. (Her supporters derided such concerns as "elitism.") The shielding of Palin from the media, and the McCain campaign's request for a less challenging format for her debate with Joseph Biden, would have been embarrassing for any candidate - but especially for the first woman on the Republican ticket. Palin went from Xena, Warrior Princess to damsel in distress, and her candidacy began to smack a particularly pernicious form of faux feminism: gender-based promotion of the less competent.

It goes without saying that I think "less than qualified" is the understatement of the year. I suppose the fact that she was able to do as well as she did while being a woman in theory is some sort of vague victory, but it's vastly overshadowed by the fact that by all measures she was extremely ignorant and vastly unprepared for any position in office. Unfortunately this will probably do far more to reinforce existing stereotypes about women than the fact that she was on the stage at all could undo.

I think the much more interesting feminist issue unfolding on the national stage will be the first-lady-ification of Michelle Obama.