Are we ready for Gender-Neutrality?

This column was in my local daily paper earlier this week:

Mona Charen

Essentially, columnist Mona Charen expressed discontent about Apple’s new word processor Pages because its spelling and grammar corrector suggested she make some of her terms more gender neutral.

Now, I can see her point on some counts–Pages tried to correct the “lady” in “first lady” to “individual,” for example, which doesn’t quite make sense. Furthermore, it preferred “speaker” or “advocate” to “spokesman” and Charen was concerned that her sentence would be confusing with either of those suggestions. In this case, if the person she was quoting was, indeed, a man, there really isn’t an issue anyhow.

But Charen doesn’t say that Pages was too picky or was offering the wrong suggestions. Her anger was directed, rather, at the political correctness of the spelling and grammar corrector. She concludes her column thus:

Apple’s language sentinel has been schooled in political correctness at the expense of English. In another column, I mentioned that the collapse of marriage was “aggravating” inequality in America. Consider “irritating” or “exasperating” instead, Proofreadress advised.

No, those are words I reserve for her.

Does political correctness actually significantly change the English language? If it does, is that a bad thing? This may be a better question for a linguist than for an activist for social change, but I think that political correctness mostly affects suffixes (-er/-ess, -man/-woman, etc.), so probably won’t change the form and function of the language to the point where it’s unrecognizable.                      
Perhaps a more pressing concern is that our society may not ready to unlearn political incorrectness. Are we so used to the current structure that we can’t see past it, that when change starts to affect all parts of society, people get irritated and exasperated?                                                                                                                                   .
I think that Charen was mostly overreacting (especially because Microsoft Word’s Spellcheck isn’t perfect either), and I don’t think that her column was much more than an outlet for frustration because she didn’t connect her anger to any broader problems besides pushing “political correctness at the expense of English.”                                                   .
Still, I think that it’s important that we recognize, as feminists and, more importantly, as activists, as people trying to change society and its discourses, that these are the arguments and sources of resistance that we will meet. People don’t really like change, especially when they feel personally confronted with it.                                                                     a
That said, do you think Apple was right to include these “politically correct” suggestions in Pages’ Proofreader? Do you think Charen has a right to be upset? And most importantly, do you think that this is just an isolated case of somebody being anal, or is it an indicator of widespread resistance to “political correctness” and why it exists?                                       aLet me know! For those of you traveling back to school after break today, be safe.                         aPeace,


We’re all getting busy with midterms, so we’ll keep it brief for you today. These are two letters to the editor of the New York Times lauding New York for trying to limit prostitution by focusing on charging the buyers and sellers of sex, rather than mostly on the prostitutes themselves. What are your thoughts on this? What are your thoughts on prostitution in general? Are prostitutes, as one of the writers says, victims without free choice?


War on Women

Still believe that the fight for the equal treatment of women is over?

Think again. Look at what’s going on in Virginia.—virginia-s-transvaginal-ultrasound-bill

Stay strong,


FemiLit: When I Was 14

This is an extremely moving spoken word poem by Dawn Saylor, called ‘When I Was 14,’ and was featured on Def Poetry.

Remember, never love anyone more than you love yourself.

One of the ways women can break out of their silence is through words-writing can be a powerful tool for expression.  I would like to dedicate this section (FemiLit) of the blog to all of the voices who need to be heard, and to inspire others to speak up (or write up!) and be heard.  If you would like to see a poem/story featured, or even your something of your own featured, please write to us at



Reason #264 why Rick Santorum shouldn’t be President

Earlier this week, Republican candidate Rick Santorum said that women shouldn’t serve in combat, because “that could be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved.”

What? Women are naturally more emotional and would jeopardize a combat mission because of it?Well, Santorum made another comment Friday saying, according to the New York Times, that “he was actually referring to the emotions of men, not women, saying that men might be distracted from their mission by their ‘natural instinct’ to protect women.”

Oh. Well that’s much better. After all, men are naturally domineering and inherently feel the need to protect women, right?

Wrong. Way, way wrong.

First, serving in combat is a huge factor for advancement in the military, so women being unable to serve in combat limits their opportunities for advancement.

Moreover, though, Santorum disrespected all the women who have served and are serving in our armed forces today. Aside from essentially telling women in the military that their emotions harm their ability to serve, and then telling them that their male comrades have no respect for them, he pretty much ignored the sacrifice of the more than 140 women who gave their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It shouldn’t come as a shock, of course, that Rick Santorum never served in the military. He served on the Senate Committee on Armed Services, which, according to their website, is responsible for “comprehensive study and review of matters relating to the common defense policy of the United States.” But did he ever experience combat or serve on the military at all? Nope. He didn’t.

He’s also never been a woman. Maybe his comments aren’t so shocking after all.

Now, disregarding Santorum’s plans for the economy, we’d hesitate to support him, because electing people with ideas like these about women can be a social step backwards, which is the last thing we need in a society that’s already very turned around when it comes to women.

What do you think?


(link to full article, courtesy of Katherine Q. Seelye here: