Re: Scorned Feminists

Subject: Re: Scorned Feminists
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Sat, 16 Mar 1996 07:50:00 EST

At 09:57 AM 3/15/96 PST, you wrote:
>John Russell writes:

>>I recently obtained a book for my 2-year old called "The Little Train
>>that Could." I hadn't read this book in many years. As I read it, I
>>noticed (for christ sake, I was knocked over the head with it) that all the
>>friendly and helpful trains were female and all the unfriendly, rude, and
>>unhelpful trains were male.
>>I am so angered and offended by this portrayal that I can only read this
>>book satirically to my son, pointing out at every opportunity that the
>>female trains are "scorned feminists" who are "trying to make a point."

>Yes, except that suggesting that "scorned feminists" had anything to do with
>that particular fable is hilarious. What sex was the Little Train? If
>memory serves, LT was unquestionably "male." The protagonist, the one who
>absorbs the message that determination is everything, who accomplishes--not
>a girl train, for sure!

>And whom, if not feminists, shall we thank for the kind of analysis that you
>did (noticing the stereotypes being taught in a kids' book)? 30 years ago
>your analysis would have been considered bizarre and you along with it.
>Today, in general, literate people are much more sensitive to the hidden
>curriculum in storybooks (teaching children their sex roles). Anti-feminists
>aren't interested in that sort of analysis.

Quite true, John, and regrettable, although in all societies the sexes are
conditioned from birth to accept social roles. Ours is startlingly unusual
its recognition of the fact, and outstandingly unusual in its unwillingness
to accept it. In fact, it's going go happen, but can be countered.

One of my enduring points in this thread has been that committed,
hard-working, grass-roots feminists aren't grousing endlessly about "he" and
"his." They're getting hard-science degrees, working with young women,
sponsoring single-sex classrooms, working for day care, and fighting their
ways through a harsh, male-dominant world. My hat's off to these people. I
once worked for a woman in charge of a doc department who ran a fabulously
taut ship and I'd work for her again in a heartbeat. Doubtless her path has
been strewn with broken glass, but she has little time to complain about
masculine pronouns. She's far too busy proving herself to the next
generation. I'm sure that there are hundreds of strong and self-confident
female colleagues reading these posts and shaking their heads at the
essential silliness of it. Their contributions to the industry will
eventually change attitudes and pay scales, and perhaps, in time, the
language. Unknown and unrecorded, their accumulation of merit is, even now,
altering the face of the business world.

But intentional changes to a language never work out. It has to grow, like a
plant. Look at Esperanto, the world's most logical language. When was the
last time you heard it spoken at a party? English is the most flexible
language in the world, and we've yet to embrace a non-gender indefinite
pronoun. The speakers don't cotton to it yet. Wait. Language changes over
centuries, not decades.

Tim Altom
Vice President
Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice)
317.899.5987 (fax)

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