“It’s like women and girls don’t exist”
This is what my daughter said to me after reading the song they were going to do for the christmas concert.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1864)
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Well I hear some say derisively men means humans, it means all people. Perhaps that is how we are taught to accept it, but why then do you never see women used as inclusive to all?
Language is created to help us express our intentions, our feelings, to describe things, to create a lasting history.
It is interesting that through this medium there has managed to arise so many words for the female genitalia; cunt, pussy, slit, slash…so many words to describe women; bitch, slut, whore, ho,strident, shrill, nag, weak… so many phrases, throw like a girl, cry like a little girl, there are so few words and phrases to describe the various nuances of love, of pain, of emotion, of spirit.
Spirituality has been co-opted by the organized religions. All of course run by men, all of course worship men and all of course place women as secondary.
Pain is something that is to be sucked up, ignored, stuffed down till it comes out as aggressive anger, which is of course ok…well unless you are a woman.
Emotion again something to be avoided. A man doesn’t cry, unless he just lost game 7 in the Stanley Cup.
And religion is a tool to beat people with, keep them in line and encourage followers to see those who don’t believe your particular dogma as sheep who must be herded to the right path. Enemies to be feared and conquered. People not to be considered quite like you and therefore expendable.
A few years ago a nanny allegedly killed a baby. Both parents worked ( I believe they were both physicians) The mother of the child received letters condemning her, threatening her saying that she was as responsible for the death because she should have been home with the child.
While watching this on the news my 8 year old son turned to me and said Mom weren’t both parents at work? Yes I said. Well then how come no one is mad at the dad? He wasn’t there either.
Why is the word mother loaded with the implication of someone who sacrifices all? Who is constantly available, who is ultimately responsible?
Why does father connote ownership yet not responsibility.
Even in the most egalitarian of families it is still generally the mothers who know the likes and dislikes, the friends, schedules the appointments, knows sizes and soothes heartaches.
Where are the words the describe how you feel looking at the face of a child lost in the glee of running across a field just to feel the air on their face.
Where are the words to describe the feelings you have after many hours of labour? Relief doesn’t quite cut it, joy at holding the tiny precious new life? Joy isn’t anywhere near enough.
Where are the words to describe how you feel when you don’t have words to describe how you feel yet your friends get it?
Where are the words to describe how you feel when you have met someone you never have to fear?
Where are the words to describe how you feel when you lose someone and the whole of your very existence is shaken to the core? Grief, loss….mere wisps of meaning.
Where are the words to describe the soul crushing pain of an abused child? A rape victim?
It is perhaps easy to play fast and lose with words when they have never touched your being. When they have never been used against you in a way that would negate who you are and what you could be and where you have been.
It may be tempting to use those words whenever possible just to see the reaction you spark. Rather like a thoughtless teen cranking the volume when asked to turn it down.
It may be tempting to see others concerns as peripheral when you have never and likely will never experience their concerns.
However, as language affects us all, it is important that anyone who considers themselves a person of substance, a person of worth, a progressive, a democrat, consider how language affects the type of society we live in.
Consider the effect the words you use may have on a young girl and her view of herself in the world, on a young boy and his ability to grow up with a well rounded personality.
Consider that many do not have the words to express their feelings.
Consider that everyone deserves to feel that they exist.