I have been fascinated all my life by people's language usage and pronunciation. I suppose most people are. I have seen discussions of language comparisons between British people and Americans last for hours. ("What? Men wear jumpers where you come from? That's weird.") Same kind of thing among Americans when Yankees and southerners get together.
Sometimes passions can run high. My father used to throw a mini-tantrum if I ever said "for-est" or "or-ange" like my mother did, even though that's um, how the words are spelled. Not acceptable in his book. As a result, to this day I have switched to his New Yorker's preference: "far-est" and "ar-ange." I drew the line, however, at saying "dunk-ey" instead of "donk-ey."
I don't know why people feel so strongly about matters of pronunciation. As long as we can all understand each other, what's the diff? I do think it's nice if one's voice and accent and intonation are pleasing to the ear, but there's no one right or wrong way to say things and there's no reason to assume that it is better to say "flat" rather than "apartment" or vice-versa. Of course, sometimes we don't understand each other. I was utterly bewildered when I visited New England for the first time and was asked whether I wanted "jimmies" on my ice cream cone. I have also met people from South Carolina and Scotland whose speech I simply have not been able to make heads or tails of -- much to my embarrassment and mortification.
Fortunately, I don't think that accents are as strong a marker of social class in the U.S. as in Britain. Social class can be hard to detect unless a person has a very working-class accent a la Archie Bunker or some such, or the rather rare hoity-toity accent, like the Mahattan private school accents sported by people like Gwyneth Paltrow and Ivanka Trump. The rest of us, for the most part, occupy a vast undifferentiated middle ground. And even a working class accent doesn't carry quite the stigma that it does abroad. Most people find my husband's occasional switch to the working class New England accent of his youth rather charming and, at times, amusing. When he spent some time out west, his friends there forced him to say "quarter pounder" repeatedly. Southerners who come north probably face the worst prejudices pertaining to accent in this country.
I have been told on many occasions that I have "no accent." Of course, that's impossible because everyone has an accent, but I guess I speak standard American English. While I am not quite ready to do an audio-cast for you all yet, I will share my "linguistic profile" as generated by this test:
|Your Linguistic Profile:|
|50% General American English|
|5% Upper Midwestern|
It warmed my heart to see the 5% Upper Midwestern, the stubbornly surviving influence of my Milkwaukee-bred mother. I think it was the word "kitty corner" that did it -- although in reality, I probably say "diagonal" more frequently now. If you feel like procrastinating, PBS has a fun section on American English.
My basic reaction to the development of drugs that suppress menstruation is: "WHOO-HOO! Where can I get some?" As I mentioned in my last post, I don't quite understand the notion of a woman wanting to continue to menstruate 12 times a year when she doesn't have to. With perfect timing, Rachel at Alas, A Blog posted an excellent, well thought out piece outlining her reasons for "want[ing] her period," focusing primarily on her concern that menstruation will be (more than ever) framed as abnormal, bad, or gross. In part she is worried that encouragement of this view will reinforce the phenomenon of women feeling shame about their bodies and that women will be pressured/encouraged into taking menstruation suppressents in order to reach some ideal of sexual attractiveness regardless of the potential consequences for their health (given that the long term health effects of menstruation suppressents are not well known).
I think these are valid concerns. But no matter how you slice it, menstruation, while nothing to be ashamed of, is inconvenient. It is something that must be addressed several times a day, and in the middle of the night, for approximately one week every month. If I don't have to do it, I don't wanna. For many women, it is accompanied by discomfort or pain. Here is what I said in the comments section at Alas:
I think you are absolutely right to be leery of how this thing is going be marketed and treated in our culture. I can absolutely see it being treated like something women should do to make themselves more sexually appealing to men, regardless of the consequences for the women. And I can see that kind of reinforcing all sorts of damaging notions. I can also imagine a class divide by which menstruation will become associated with poorer women who can’t afford this medication.
But unlike many other things that women are encouraged to do for the sake of sex appeal (such as undergoing plastic surgery or wearing spike heels), this one has the potential to make our lives much easier (assuming that this drug is safe over the long term).
To me, this medication has always been linked to the idea of my convenience and my control. I am not ashamed of my period or grossed out by my period. But I do find it inconvenient. And that’s a good enough reason for me to hope that the Pharma folks get cracking on studying the potential health effects. My body exists for my pleasure and convenience and anything that can enhance those two things safely is a net positive in my book!
If there is one thing I find annoying in our culture, it is all the jokiness surrounding PMS. Women joke about it constantly and so do men. The thrust of the jokes is that it is to be expected that women will turn into raving lunatics once a month.
Of course, if you look around you, in your office, your church, or any groups to which you belong, you will find that there is no particular percentage of women behaving like lunatics at any given time.
I have tried to do a little bit of research on PMS in order to write this post but the information I have found on the web is diverse and confusing. PMS doesn’t seem to be an especially well-defined or well-understood condition. Thus, PMS is susceptible to all sorts of prejudices. As with any area in which women differ from men, people are inclined to leap to all sorts of generalizations based on what they think they know about the matter. These generalizations and prejudices generally inure to the detriment of women, natch. So when considering PMS, it is best to proceed with caution (and never ever ever ever ever for the love of God say to a woman, “You’re just saying that because it’s your time of the month.”) Here is what I think I know:
First of all, PMS is not universal. I did not experience PMS until I hit 30. Some women never experience it at all.
Secondly, PMS is not necessarily severe. In fact, I would submit that the vast majority of cases are not at all severe. The symptoms I have experienced over the last five years are some achiness in the legs for a couple of hours before my period begins.
Thirdly, PMS symptoms are diverse. They include depressed mood, bloating, headaches, cramps, and many, many other possible symptoms. Individuals experience very different combinations of symptoms. PMS does not necessarily affect mood. I have never perceived any alteration of my mood connected to my menstrual cycle. What one woman means when she says she has PMS may be very different from what another woman means.
Fourthly, some women do experience very severe and debilitating symptoms. Women who report such symptoms should be taken seriously. Being in so much pain once a month that you are throwing up is a medical condition.
Fifthly, PMS does not involve the suspension of rationality. Just because a particular woman might be teary during this time does not mean she is unable to function, make intelligent decisions, and remain responsible for her actions.
Sixthly, women have done all sorts of things while menstruating. We have run marathons, ruled nations, tried cases, flourished in higher education, fought in combat, continued with primary caretaking responsibility for our children, and pretty much engaged in every other human endeavor under the sun.
Seventh, despite the unpleasantness associated with PMS, a lot of women are glad that they menstruate. A lot of women have expressed discomfort with the notion of reducing the frequency of their periods by medication that is now available. (Of course, I find this attitude a bit tough to understand. I intend to get my grubby little paws on those pills as soon as possible. Less muss and less fuss! Besides, reducing the frequency of menstruation reduces the risk of ovarian cancer-- though there are surely other potential risks and side effects of this medication.)
“When I think of the word slut,” wrote Don Reisinger, a student doing accounting and law work in Albany, in an e-mail message, “I think of a woman who has been around the block more times than my dad’s Chevy. I might date a slut, but I certainly wouldn’t marry one.”
Yawn. "I might date a slut, but I certainly wouldn’t marry one.” If I only had a nickel for every time over the years that I have heard a young man smugly make this statement when the issue of the sexual double standard is raised. It never fails to amaze me how oblivious these guys are to how ridiculous they sound. And I never fail to get a kick out of their tone of lordly magnanimity. Gee, Don, we sluts are ever so grateful for your broadmindedness even if you draw the line at marrying us.
Or as Amanda noted:
The NY Times article has a solid display of the double standard as expressed by this slut who’s confident of his future chance at getting a non-slut to lavish her love and selfless sex hatred on his slutty self.
And, by the way, I am not quite as generous as you, Don. I would never date or marry someone who would judge my worth based on how many sexual partners I have had or how soon into a relationship I have sex.
I am past due to update my blogroll. Some of the blogs in my blogroll have moved and I have some cool new ones to add -- but I am not only a happy feminist, but a lazy one too, and I just haven't gotten around to fixing things.
But meanwhile, do head over to visit Moi at Sidebar. She is changing the focus of her blog from just life as an associate in a law firm to a feminist blog regarding issues faced by professional women. She is an engaging writer so do pop over and welcome her to the feminist blogosphere!
I love Salon's Broadsheet. I have noticed, however, that the vast majority of the reader comments seem hostile to the ideas expressed at Broadsheet and to feminism in general. As another commenter over there today observed, a lot of the letters have a somewhat misogynist tone.
Salon has an enormous readership (at least judging from the huge number of hits I got when they linked me once!) so I think it's not a bad idea for us feminists who comment a lot on blogs to counter some of the anti-feminist sentiments in the Broadsheet comments section.
Hugo had a good post up last week or so about the value of tenure. While tenure may be a shield for lazy or irresponsible professors, it also provides freedom for the motivated ones to take intellectual risks, develop innovative courses, and take bold stands on institutional issues affecting their university. Presumably, this is why universities do not grant tenure lightly but vet professors fairly closely before granting it.
I agree wholeheartedly. I think this principle also applies to judges. I am a strong supporter of lifetime appointments for judges at every level of the court system. People grouse a lot about the judges’ “lack of accountability,” as though it’s a bad thing. But I don’t want the judges who decide my fate (when I am sued or accused of a crime) to be controlled by the mob outside the courthouse door. I want a truly disinterested decision by a neutral judge who has no stake in the matter. If my case has a potential bearing on his election results, then the judge is no longer neutral. He is quite likely to decide my case based on his best interests rather than his honest conclusion about what justice and the law require.
Also, a lifetime appointment is not a license for a judge to do whatever he pleases. The judge is still governed by the Canon of Judicial Ethics and can be sanctioned or even impeached for violations. A judge cannot, for example, nap through her trials, decide cases in which she has a financial interest, or disobey orders from higher courts (as in the case of Judge Roy Moore of Ten Commandments fame). A judge, however, cannot be disciplined or removed from office merely because we dislike her interpretation of the law.
I have been before judges whose rulings have been, in my opinion, absolutely wrongheaded. But at least, the judges are able to act with integrity without being tempted by their own self-interest. Lifetime appointments are the best way to protect criminal defendants, crime victims, and litigants from the passions and prejudices of the public at large.
TypePad had some major problems yesterday. It appears that at least three comments have disappeared (apologies to Dolmena, Ronnie, and Barbara P), possibly more.
Also some of my old posts seem to have gone into draft status. I'll have to look into republishing them some other time.
UPDATE: It appears as though some comments are STILL disappearing as of today, July 13. Not sure what's going on.