Western civilization should be feminized.
- Octavio Paz
Before Mothers Day and the notorious visit to Augusta by the protestin Martha Burk fade completely from view, Id like to revisit an old topic I thought had faded from the public trough.
Even if membership in the Augusta National Golf Club stays male-only as long as their greens-covered earth remains, some things we once considered totally one gender or another have changed.
Remember when hurricanes all had feminine names? When anyone named Marion was a girl and only boys were named Michael? When all plumbers were men, and only women stayed home with the kids? Remember, too, when something called Womens Lib questioned that old gender establishment and demanded the lines of separation be obliterated or changed?
Though I dont consider myself a feminist, I, too, wonder why certain non-human words are classified as female, and others as male. There she is! sounds fine for a Miss America pageant, but for the christening of a ship? Its hard to tell which it is a he and which is a she, though acts of nature and large possessions - would you say of a new car, My isnt he a beauty? - are designated female, and words with strong or powerful meanings - man-hours, manpower, mankind, etc. - are considered male.
Its only a coincidence that my gender curiosity peaked when I caught a broadcast of the program, My Word, in which Mensa-level contestants match wits to define unusual words. That days rarity was girlcott, which one panelist suggested was a back lash against male designated words like boycott. You know what I mean, he said, like Old Lady River.
So I got to thinking. When I look at the Savannah River, or consider Jerome Kerns Showboat Mississippi, I dont see anything genderish or even human about those bodies of water. But Id a whole lot rather hear the late William Warfields bass voice resounding to Old Man River, than even remotely consider a Tiny Tim-tenor tip-toeing through the riverbank tulips singing, But Old Lady River, she keeps on rollin along.
Ah me, weve taken the man out of the chair, the waitress off the menu, and the stewardess from sole responsibility for demonstrating our oxygen mask in flight. We are now chairpersoned, servered, and flight-attended as our needs require. However, before the politically correct gender sleuths get carried completely away, may I suggest a few words and phrases I hope will be left the way they are?
Though Im sure there are male ladybugs for procreation of the species, lets not alter the spotted beetles delicate image by calling them man, boy, or even gentleman-crawler bugs.
In time of war on those newly christened ships and subs, lets let the guys - and girls - still say, Man the torpedoes!
Though Ive never understood why ladies go the beauty shop for a manicure, manikins in a clothing store do display garments for both genders, and ladykin just doesnt cut it.
And when I make a trip to New York, though folks of both genders inhabit the citys inner borough, it would be hard for Ladyhatten to roll off the tongue in a true, New York brogue.
Im all for change, variety, and a willingness to give in now and then to someone elses point of view, and we women have won a few battles along the co-ed, male-hurricaned way. But lets not go too far.
Old Lady River? I doubt even Martha Burk is ready for that.
Oh, dear readers, please indulge your grieving columnist one last, gender-biased illustration. After visiting New Hampshires exquisite Franconia Notch more times than I can count in my pre-Southern life, I cant bear that the famed, Old Man of the Mountain, immortalized in Nathanial Hawthornes story, The Great Stone Face, has fallen from its 1,200-foot perch and lies in rubble at the foot of a mountain he once ruled.
Maybe if it had been a womans face.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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