I’ve been thinking a lot about my language around gender, and how much of those ingrained throw away phrases are dependent on a very binary, very uneven understanding of what gender is.
We could start with the idea that seems to permeate at least American culture that you can use the words “girl” and “woman” almost synonymously, but try that with “boy” and “man” and at the very least you’ll get shouted at (unless it’s a playful “one of the boys” type thing), because the somehow that’s insulting. Of course, more and more women are correcting people when they say “girl” and aren’t speaking about someone under eighteen. Of course, it works the other way too, especially when we’re implying that the person is complicit in some illegal or unsavory situation, like when reporting on sexual assaults, a girl of sixteen will be called a woman because that way the crime is less heinous (insert Law & Order SVU opening monologue here).
Even in my own self speak I find myself calling myself “girl” especially when I’m talking negatively about myself. I’m fifty-one years old, I left girldom behind a fair few years ago. I don’t let anyone else call me girl, but I do it to myself all the time.
Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and having a niece who is transgender, I find myself becoming more and more aware of this language we have as a set default, this binary man & woman thing that is so much a part of how we talk, how we think that it’s in our idioms, in our daily language with each other. We throw the words around without thinking about what we are saying.
Just yesterday on Facebook, I posted some…let’s call them reminders about who I am and what I believe, and one of the points was in reference to pregnancy and abortion. A friend called me out on my gendered language, because, as they pointed out, transmen and non-binary folks can get pregnant as well as cis women. But in the moment of writing most passionately about abortion being a health decision made by the pregnant person and their doctor, I let that old programming flow.
I know a lot of people have trouble with pronouns and gender now that those among us who are transgender or non-binary no longer feel the need to hide themselves inside the cis paradigm, and even someone like me, who fully supports an expansive idea of what gender is, can get it wrong like I did yesterday.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying though, and keep working at the de-internalization of those ideas, keep correcting yourself when you slip up, and take the correction from others when it comes.
Respect is Kindness, and Kindness Matters.
That ended up being a bit deeper than I first expected, but it is an important conversation to have. Happy Saturday, Readers! I am off to write and drink more coffee!