Saturday, January 1, 2011

Banished words spell victory for postmodern feminism

Happy 2011, y'all

Let's start the year off with a small postmodern feminist victory.

Lake Superior State University has issued its 36th annual List of Banished Words for 2011.

Among them are:

"Man up" -- Nominated by Sherry Edwards of Clarkston, Mich. , the phrase was often used by former Alaska governor and republican vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin during 2010.

Other comments on the phrase:

"A stupid phrase when directed at men. Even more stupid when directed at a woman, as in 'Alexis, you need to man up and join that Pilates class!'" Sherry Edwards, Clarkston, Mich.

"Another case of 'verbing' a noun and ending with a preposition that goes nowhere. Not only that, the phrase is insulting, especially when voiced by a female, who'd never think to say, 'Woman up!'" Aunt Shecky, East Greenbush, NY.

"Can a woman 'man-up,' or would she be expected to 'woman-up?'" Jay Leslie, Portland, Maine.

"Not just overused (a 2010 top word according to the Global Language Monitor) but bullying and sexist." Christopher K. Philippo, Glenmont, NY.

"We had to put up with 'lawyer up.' Now 'man up,' too? A chest-thumping cultural regression fit for frat boys stacking beer glasses." Craig Chalquist Ph.D., Walnut Creek, Calif.

Another "Palinism," "Mamma Grizzlies" also made the list. It refers Palin's brand of conservative Alaskan feminism and has been adopted by her followers.

Mark Carlson, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. says, "Unless you are referring to a scientific study of Ursus arctos horribilis , this analogy of right-wing female politicians should rest in peace."

Indeed, language is powerful.

In her book "Feminist Thought," Rosemarie Tong says, "... language constructs reality -- a reality that depends on words for its existence."

In the case of "man up" and "Mamma Grizzlies," that reality would be the perpetuation of negative gender roles.

Postmodern feminists seek change through language. They aim to root out words that create oppression, dichotomies and stereotypes. They do this through deconstructing -- basically taking apart and analyzing -- language to reveal how such words and phrases that have become embedded in our speech and writing and are accepted as "natural."

Kudos to the LSSU team for its assist.

Read the complete "36th Annual List of Banished Words for 2011" here.

Cherie's nomination:

This one has most likely made it on to past lists:

"Beef-up." According to The Free Dictionary, this is a an informal phrasal verb that means "to make or become greater or stronger." Yet, in its usage, the phrase condones beef consumption, which is linked to the oppression of both animals and women -- not to mention all the cruelty and environmental destruction that comes with it. Inappropriate for use in the company of vegetarians.

1 comment:

  1. Not sure how I'd missed mentioning Ben Zimmer's article in my nomination of "man up": "The Meaning of 'Man Up.'" N.Y. Times. September 3, 2010. There's mention there of which puts the term to better use - though I still think "man up" is probably overall better off banished?