Do you know the poem?
"Little drops of water, little grains of sand, make a mighty ocean and a pleasant land."
Well, we heard a woman complaining about those awful F-word-ists who were making a fuss because the Mars vehicle, the rover, was referred to as "she."
"After all," the woman continued, full of virtue and self-right-us-ness that characterize many of the Repugnant Party, "this was a great, historic event and calling the rover a 'she' doesn't hurt anyone."
Oh, yeah? Our culture's language has, and continues to hurt women in many ways, and its habitual referring to inanimate possessions as female is just one of them.
So, why make an issue of this?
How many insults against our personhood are women supposed to take until it becomes SERIOUS enough for us to protest?
Every time a ship, a car or a rover is referred to as a female that is created, possessed and controlled by man, it serves to further imprint this abominable attitude on our children and reinforce this erroneous impression in every adult, male or female. Since it is so pervasive in our society, and apparently benign, we have become accustomed to this degradation. Then we become oblivious of one of the many reasons why we feel badly about ourselves. Women have been letting such "little" insults go by the board for ages and have suffered and been unfairly criticized for it.
Two glaringly prevalent examples are society's attitude toward women who complain of battering or sexual harassment. "Well, if it was so bad, why did she stay with him?" or "Why did she or Anita Hill wait for years before complaining about being sexually harassed?"
So, we ask, when IS enough, enough? When he slaps her across the face? When he breaks a tooth with his fist? When he throws her down a flight of stairs? When he carves her up with a knife?
Or, when he makes a lewd remark? When he fondles or pinches a part of her body? When he demands that she perform sexually or lose her job? When he traps her in the office and rapes her?
Where our culture supports and encourages the health and welfare of both women and men, we must maintain it, and when it does not, we must notice and call these actions into account. A recent example of this follows.
Many alert women and men responded to Mars Projects director, Donna Shirley, and the lead project scientist, Peter Smith, concerning their designation of still another inanimate object, the rover, as a "she." The reaction was almost immediate. The Mars Project spin doctors went into orbit.
It had previously been announced that the "lander" was to be named Carl Sagan, i.e. in his honor, and that the "rover" was called Sojourner (from the dictionary, meaning a stranger temporarily staying in a place.)
Following public response to the use of the possessive female pronoun, several interviews with ernest young scientists were conducted to tell us that the "rover" was really named for a "f-word-ist" hero -- ya got it, Sojourner Truth!!!" That is why we called it SHE. To honor this great black woman. And to make sure that we understood their good intentions, Donna Shirley was trotted out before the cameras to smile her really great smile and tell us all that SHE, A WOMAN, had insisted that the rover be a GIRL! Well, yes, she did it, she said, even over the dissent of the mostly male scientist who wanted it (sic) to be a MAN! (Note the usual harmful labeling: male as man and female as girl.)
"So," we answered to both explanations, "why have you not referred to the "lander" as "he/him/his?" And, why did you name the lander with both first and last names of the man you honor but the rover, only by one name, the first name?"
Wonder what they'll spin out next. At least for awhile, the smart little machine on Mars is being called an IT. Just in time, actually, since the last time we heard this objectionable usage, was from Peter Smith telling us that "she" had just backed up to, and kissed Barnacle Bill. Can you imagine what they would have had that "hussy-slut" doing with those Mars rocks next?
Thanks for listening N.A.S.A.
Copyright 1997 Renee T. Louise and Ruth M. Sprague, Ph.D. These articles may be republished for noncommercial use only, provided that they are copied intact, and that this copyright notice is attached. Address all queries to: TWANDA@ConnRiver.net.
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