Friday, December 7, 2007

Remaining "Other"

"Woman suicide attacker," "woman president," "woman trucker" — what's wrong with these nouns?

What's wrong is this: to describe a woman doing some things, taking some actions, being in some roles, the speaker or writer has to identify the sex of the person. No one has trouble imagining a man as a soldier, a cab driver or a chef — or president of the United States of America — yet only "pink collar jobs" need no preface of "woman."

If you doubt this logic, check out the Reuters article in the Washington Post ("Woman suicide attacker and car bomb kill 26," December 7, 2007). The bomber's identity as a woman was as important as her act, and the headline and lead prove it. Headlines never read "Man suicide bomber."

It reminds me of that awful scene in the movie "A Time to Kill," when the white lawyer is describing the awful acts against the child. "Can you picture her? Can you?" he asks the white jurors, some of whom have tears running down their faces. "Now, imagine she's black."

Their eyes flew open. They didn't naturally imagine a black child.

Any more than some people can imagine a woman being a trucker, serial killer, president of a country, baseball team owner, stunt car driver....

When someone has to use the word "woman" before a title, it just means that we haven't come far enough, baby.

Until we vote for a presidential candidate because she is qualified, rather than because she will "make history," we still have a long, long way to go.

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