Say what you mean |

Say what you mean

Dear Editor:The headline began “Man kills wife” and suddenly my mind had questions.How can you tell marital status from looking at a body? Did the body have the letters W-I-F-E tattooed on the forehead? Was there a sign on her back?If marital status is important enough to put in a headline, why didn’t you give the killer’s marital status too? Why not “Husband kills wife”?An inaccurate headline gave readers the impression that the killer was not married to the victim. We should have read “Man kills woman” and then learned from the article what their relationship was.Relationship, like virginity, cannot be determined from merely looking.I’m not talking political correctness (which is a crock of baloney). I’m talking simple language equity. When two people marry, she remains a woman, he remains a man. Human identity is not changed by a wedding, only marital status is. The archaic phrase “man and wife” should have been junked eons ago. It comes from the Middle Ages when a woman who married did become a piece of baggage which a new husband was then responsible for in every way. She even lost her own name and was subsumed into “mistress his name.” (The abbreviation Mrs. stands for mistress.)In a free society where all persons are equal under the law and where every woman is as responsible for her own life as every man is for his, both human dignity and language equity require that the phrase be “…they are now husband and wife.”Language is important. It can demean as well as uplift. It can inform and it can mislead. Language inequity perpetuates enmities that have already gone on for way too long. It breeds hatred, discrimination and other negative values that we as a society say we don’t want. Do we mean what we say? Hardly.Another example: If a boy has a girlfriend, he is romantically involved with someone of the opposite gender. Similarly, if a girl has a boyfriend, she is romantically involved with a boy. When a man says girlfriend, he means female lover. (We can be fairly certain the so-called girl is actually a woman, because the law frowns on an adult male having sex with an underage female.) When a man mentions a boyfriend, he’s talking about a male lover.So what are we to think of a woman who has a girlfriend?Here’s what I’m thinking. “How courageous of you to announce in public that you’re a lesbian. Hurray for saying it so matter-of-factly.”It turns out she doesn’t mean a lover at all. She means a friend who is a woman. But that wasn’t what she said. (No wonder some men get confused about women.)For the record: A girlfriend is a lover. A friend is a friend, and who cares whether it’s female or male.It would be so much better for all of us if both women and men would simply say what they mean and mean what they say.LinelleAspen

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