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Why Is Being The “Chairman” A Matter Of Pride, “And Crying Like A Girl” A Matter Of Shame?

More from Amrita Roy

By Amrita Roy:

No, I am not talking about calling a woman a “slut,” “bitch” or a “whore.” I am referring to words that are pervasive in our everyday language and are accepted without a flinch. People refer to the entire universe of human beings as “mankind.” Words for persons occupying positions are known as postman, chairman, freshman. There is “manning” the tables and children learn that “all men are created equal.” In Hong Kong’s fight for democracy, universal suffrage is referred to as “One Man One Vote.” And all of us, including me, use supposedly benign phrases like “you guys” and “Man, where did I keep the keys?” These male-based generics reinforce a societal structure in which “man” in the abstract and in the flesh is more superior and more privileged than the woman. These male-based generics establish that “man” is the standard for all human beings, not “woman.”

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Photo Credit

“Man” is the anchor of our language which makes it a high status term. “Woman” is still a term that is considered to be lesser in our society. This manifests every time when a man is referred to as a woman. “He cries like a girl.” “Stop being such a girl.” I hear these phrases very frequently when I am surrounded by a group of my male friends and often these phrases upset the man who is at the receiving end of these phrases. I am sure none of them believe they are being sexist when they say this. But even unknowingly, they are promoting the concept that being a woman is lesser and thus these phrases are used to taunt. But women often take pride in being referred to with male generics as it elevates one’s status and after all women also want to be included in the “better” group! When Vidya Balan does an excellent film which earns a decent amount of money, people call her a “hero.” No one goes and calls Salman Khan a “heroine” when his films do well. “Hero” is the high status term here; it is good to be a “hero.” You may say that situations are improving because at least Vidya Balan is now recognized for her talent at par with other male actors, which was not true of the earlier times. She is included in the group! Sadly this is only a guise of inclusion, not the reality. If we as women were truly included, then we wouldn’t have to disappear into “you guys” or other male-based generics.

Many would argue that this is such a trivial matter. For those of you who believe this, next time do go to your workplace and call the (male) chairman of the company a chairwoman. (Disclaimer: I do not take any responsibility in case you are fired). Here’s another safer mental experiment. Replace all these male-based generics with race-based generics. Chairwhite. Postwhite. “All whites are created equal.” “You whites.” “White, where did I keep the keys?” Do you feel included in these phrases? Now repeat this again but replace the “white” with a nationality, say American. Many of us would probably cringe at the idea of these phrases becoming the standard in our language. As a non-white Indian person, I do not feel included in any of these phrases. And yet, women are supposed to feel included and flattered by male-based generics! Substituting “white” for “man” makes it much easier to see why this is wrong because we as a society as more sensitive to racism.

A good proportion of the world’s 7 billion people uttering these male-based generics many times a day reinforces the message all across the world that men are the standard of the society and that women are substandard. And thus, women are consumed by the male category. This effectively makes the entire category of women invisible in language. And by just turning a few pages of a history book you will realize that the invisibility of a group makes it easier for the powerful to do what they want with the members of that group. If we, as women, are not even considered to be worthy enough to have gender neutral, true generics like “first-year,” “chairperson” and “you all,” then how do we even expect to be paid an equal wage, or have reproductive rights, or any of the other things we strive for? If we aren’t even deserving of our own place in humanity in language, why on earth should we expect to be treated as decent, respected human beings?

Our language is reflective of our society; and it isn’t ideal. It isn’t fair and just to all. You and I can’t suddenly wake up tomorrow morning and stop domestic violence, sexual abuse, dowry harassment, child marriages and rape. They require the implementation of laws and long, bureaucratic processes along with changing the mentalities of people. But we all have language at the tip of our tongues. All of us can wake up tomorrow and alter the way we speak. And we need to speak this new language together; men and women. This isn’t just a struggle for women. As Emma Watson said in her speech at the UN Conference, it is a fight for humanity which includes both the sexes. Either we use our words to maintain the status quo or we can choose our words to think in new ways, which will in turn create the possibility of a new, freer and more equal society.

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  1. Babar

    From Wikipedia: “Womyn” is one of several alternative spellings of the English word “women” used by some feminists. There are many alternative spellings, including “womban” and “womon” (singular), and “wimmin” (plural).

  2. Babar

    This article is full of lies and deceit. Until the early 1960s, the terms related to work were male oriented because women stayed at home. However, after the Rockefellers felt that they could tax the other half of the population, women started being sent in the workforce, and the terms were changed. Fireman became firefighter, chairman became chairperson, and the suffix woman started being used, and now we have policewoman, headmistress, etc, while many job titles are gender neutral, such as doctors, engineers, teachers, etc.

    The irony is, it is women who have it their way and then they write articles like these. Why is the word ‘female’ substituted with ‘woman’ while the word ‘male’ is not substituted with the word ‘man’? Why is it always girl child but male child, woman politician but male politician, woman cricketer but male cricketer, etc. Have you ever seen man scientist, man doctor, etc? This is because using the word ‘female’ is degrading to feminists but using the word ‘male’ is perfectly acceptable. Double standards.

    Furthermore, while this entire article makes a mountain out of a molehill, the fact remains that feminists are men-haters, which is why many feminists will not even use the word woman, because it contains the word man in it.

    YKA’s esteemed bloggers use womyn.

    1. Fem

      And we are again back to the female/woman vs male/man and womyn; despite a loooong discussion on this just 2 days back where a couple of us patiently explained this to you and gave you response to your every word.

      You are not looking for answer right? Stop writing ‘why’ in your comments then. Just make blanket statements like you make most of the time.

      For our part, all the sane people have stopped reading your comments anyway.

    2. Babar

      My question was not answered. The only statement (read: excuse) was made that it is insignificant. Apparently only women are human beings, and only their issues carry importance. Anything that a man raises is ‘insignificant’, and men’s issues are sidelined, while women whine about how a job title containing the word ‘man’ is grave oppression. Women have so much to worry about.

      Poor women.

    3. Fem

      Actually your question ‘was’ answered. In detail. Multiple times by me and once by Panda. But as you couldn’t fight logic and sense there so you came to a fresh page so you could put the same dribble here.

      Here is the link http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2014/10/early-marriages-in-india-2/

      And its only you who have been crying that men’s issues are not given importance. Most of us believe that their issues are important too and have spoken the same time and again. But you choose to put a blinder and cry foul. Being pro women is not being anti men. But for you being pro men is being anti women with a capital A.

    4. Fem

      “You must be blessed with real powers, to be able to reply to my comments without reading them. Or you are insane.”

      Not blessed with any power. No sir. Didn’t read your comment. Don’t need to. you read one and you have read all. And I have read a few of your comments in the past. Now I can just write your comments myself. In fact I am so good at it that you can outsource your comment writing to me.

      I just have to look at them and certain words jump – lies and deceit, husband ATM, Transient sexual Relations, short skirts, backless dress, tight pants, mothers-in-law biggest perpetrators of violence, daughters-in-law poison their husbands minds, draconian law, fake cases against men, Jury against men etc….and not womyn everywhere.

      Nope. Reading not required.

    5. Fem

      *now womyn everywhere*

  3. Babar

    People refer to the entire universe of human beings as “mankind.”

    It is humankind.

    “He cries like a girl.” “Stop being such a girl.”

    That is because girls are more emotional, and cry more often. In case you haven’t noticed, girls and boys are different physically, psychologically, emotionally, biologically, and anatomically.

    As Emma Watson said in her speech at the UN Conference, it is a fight for humanity which includes both the sexes.

    Your entire article is in favour of women, and then you mention the above, rather shamelessly. You have stated nothing that shows you favouring both sexes, instead, you mention the above to get the support of men, a gender you hate and victimize, and as an icing on the cake, you are trying to make men believe, somehow, that if they stand up for women’s rights, they will benefit. Nice try. The very fact that women cry for reservation in politics and the corporate world shows that women cannot compete fairly with men.

    You and I can’t suddenly wake up tomorrow morning and stop domestic violence, sexual abuse, dowry harassment, child marriages and rape.

    If you really concerned about women’s rights, then you should be raising your voice against mothers-in-law, who are the biggest perpetrators of violence against women, not to mention daughters-in-law, who poison their husbands minds against family members, and sisters-in-law, who have mastered the art of family politics. Furthermore, there is more violence against men than there is against women. Men, generally, do not report violence by women because it is embarrassing and considered unmanly to do so. People sympathize with women’s causes because of the hype in the media about violence against women, and the media selectively chooses to represent issues of one gender only due to the element of attention associated with it – It is almost as though violence against men does not exist (Please search ‘domestic violence against men’, ‘sexism against men’, and ‘misandry in the media’ in YouTube and Google).

    The draconian laws in India have done nothing to further the cause of men, as a woman only needs to point a finger at a man to land him in jail over false allegations of rape, dowry, assault, domestic abuse, molestation, etc. Women do this without a care in the world about a man’s life, future, career, family, reputation, life, etc.

    Men are always at the receiving end, men are victimized, tormented, and traumatized, and it is not surprising that suicide by men is escalating in India – A man in India commits suicide every 6 minutes. Twice as many men commit suicide as compared to women in India.

    As many as 1,35,445 people committed suicide in the country last year. Statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show that excluding West Bengal, 79,773 men and 40,715 women had taken the extreme step (The Hindu).

    Furthermore, we never talk about the biases that men face on a daily basis, how women usurp half of men’s properties during divorces, how courts give men stricter sentences for the same crimes that women commit, how juries give verdicts against men in domestic disputes, how men give alimony to women, misandry in the media, sexism against men, domestic violence against men, how men are locked up in false cases of rape, dowry, and domestic abuse, etc.

    There is more violence against men than there is against women.

  4. Babar

    Humankind or more preferably humanity, which is more popular in usage.

  5. Babar

    …which will in turn create the possibility of a new, freer and more equal society.

    The only freedom that feminists want people to buy is freedom from responsibility. For a woman today, husbands are ATM and children are meant to be dumped with in-laws, in day care centres, with domestic help, and babysitters. Today, the propaganda of feminism is funded by governments of various countries, pro-feminist groups and various activists – The agenda is to break families apart, and separate women from the beasts called men. That is the freedom that feminists strive for.

    Feminism was funded by the Rockefellers in the early 1960s to send women in the workforce, so that the other half of the population could be taxed; it was a gimmick to control society and prey on wage earners. The entire base of feminism was founded on the basis of creating an imaginary world of unequality and patriarchy, where the bosses in control pitted men and women against each other, or more precisely, women against men, sat back, relaxed, and watched as their heinous game unfolded. The net result with women in the workforce was a generation of neglected children, havoc in families, and an increase in divorce rates – all the while mockery was made of the sacred institution of marriage those in control collected their dollars.

    It was necessary that a negative image of men was created by the media, as it furthered the agenda of feminists, because men-hating was a necessary part of the entire scheme of feminism to control and dominate. In a short span of 50 years, families have been destroyed, children have grown up with single parents, women have been targeted with an intense hatred of men, as love means marriage with a man, and that is detrimental for what feminism stands for. The idea of an arranged marriage is cringed upon, love marriages take the limelight, and with that come the need for multiple transient sexual relationships – all the while the goal of feminists is propelled towards destruction of family life. The mass indoctrination has come with a huge cost, in which both men and women have suffered. While feminism talks about the liberation of women, it does the exact opposite.

    Below are some quotes from feminists highlighting my point:

    “In order to raise children with equality, we must take them away from families and communally raise them.” – Dr. Mary Jo Bane, feminist and assistant professor of education at Wellesley College and associate director of the school’s Center for Research on Woman.

    “Women, like men, should not have to bear children… The destruction of the biological family, never envisioned by Freud, will allow the emergence of new women and men, different from any people who have previously existed.” — Alison Jagger – Political Philosophies of Women’s Liberation: Feminism and Philosophy (Totowa, NJ: Littlefield, Adams & Co. 1977).

    “No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.” — Simone de Beauvoir, “Sex, Society, and the Female Dilemma” Saturday Review, June 14, 1975, p.18

    “Marriage has existed for the benefit of men; and has been a legally sanctioned method of control over women… We must work to destroy it. The end of the institution of marriage is a necessary condition for the liberation of women. Therefore it is important for us to encourage women to leave their husbands and not to live individually with men.” -The Declaration of Feminism, November 1971.

    “The nuclear family must be destroyed, and people must find better ways of living together.” – Linda Gordon, Function of the Family, Women: A Journal of Liberation, Fall, 1969.

    “We can’t destroy the inequities between men and women until we destroy marriage.” – Robin Morgan, Sisterhood is Powerful, 1970, p.537.

  6. Templetwins

    People refer to the entire universe of human beings as “mankind”.

    How about ‘Mother Earth’. How about calling every country as ‘she’ and also besides ‘Brahamaputra’ the rest of the Indian rivers have a female name. How about the term ‘man flu’, or ‘Man up’, Mansplain( my favorite) which has negative connotations/impact etc. How about the term ‘gender issues’ is always synonyms with ‘womens issues’. Why being a female is seen as a ‘default’ gender?

    But even unknowingly, they are promoting the concept that being a woman is lesser and thus these phrases are used to taunt.

    He cries like a girl is only an insult to a man but not a woman. For women are allowed to show weakness and sensitivity. Whereas are a man has to ‘man up’ and do what it is needful. It is similar to how it can be insulting to a girl to say, ‘You look like a man’. For women are expected to be feminine and curvy and beautiful etc. Does it mean men are inferior in looks?

    The term hero is used for actresses when they perform well than being just an eye candy. It is often related to that of performance than that of the gender, of course when SRK is being an eye candy and danced for just one song, it was called as an ‘item song’. So there is no superiority like you claim it to be.

    next time do go to your workplace and call the (male) chairman of the company a chairwoman.

    Why should anyone call a man as a woman and see the reaction? What if I call you a ‘Gollum’ (lord of the rings). Would you take that as a compliment?

    “All whites are created equal.” “You whites.” “White, where did I keep the keys?” Do you feel included in these phrases?

    Oh man! you take it a little too far don’t you? Let me quote George Carlin, ‘They(feminists) want me to call that thing in the street a personhole cover. What would you call a lady’s man, a person’s person? That would make a He-man an It-person. Little kids would be afraid of the boogieperson. They’d look up in the sky and see the person in the moon. Guys would say come back here and fight like a person. And we’d all sing “for it’s a jolly good person.” That’s the kind of thing you would hear on late-night with David Letterperson. You know what I mean?’

    then how do we even expect to be paid an equal wage, or have reproductive rights

    Equal wage is only for equal work. Lets take an example, In Men’s Tennis, the match would be best of 5 sets and in Woman’s Tennis the match would be of 3 sets. Yet the prize money would be the same. It is about equal pay without equal effort. I call that a female privilege. The reproductive rights part, how come your oppressors have no reproductive rights whatsoever, they are literally non-existent.

    PS:- ‘Smash Sexism’. Sexism by definition is said be some kinda prejudice/stereotype typically against women. I find that definition sexist.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERwzqvs7vvU

    1. Fem

      While I agree with some and do not agree with a few of your points, I want to ask you something which hit my eyes.

      “Why should anyone call a man as a woman and see the reaction? What if I call you a ‘Gollum’ (lord of the rings). Would you take that as a compliment?”

      What exactly were you insinuating here? That calling a man as a woman is same level of insult as calling a woman as Gollum? So you mean to say that being called a woman is taking down a man to the lowest of low depths the same way a women (who is anyway inferior in your opinion if I go by your this comment alone) would be pulled down by called Gollum, who was one of the most despised and slimy creature in the literary history?

      So the order of superiority here is Man ——————- Woman ——————Gollum?

      Please let me know if I missed your point somewhere.

    2. Templetwins

      You are just being sexist towards Gollums by calling them inferior. I find Gollums very adorable and less slimy than many homosapiens. So no, your understanding about my comparison is misguided. I just find the whole thing unnecessary and unwarranted. Like calling a chairman as chairwoman or calling Amrita as a Gollum.

      So, it is something like this,

      Chairman != Chairwoman
      Amrita != Gollum

      But if you believe that chairman and chairwoman can be interchangeable, then by the same standards Amrita and Gollum can be interchangeable too. Who is inferior and who is superior? What is the hierarchy? I have none, no prejudice here but looks like you do. I think it is one of the perks of being a feminist or studing womens course is, if you don’t find sexism in something, then look hard enough to find sexism or make something up.

    3. Fem

      Ha ha. I find Gollum adorable too. My favourite LOTR character. One reason why I didn’t like Hobbit much. Its didn’t have much of Gollum.

      I don’t believe that chairman and chairwoman can be interchangeable.

      “no prejudice here but looks like you do”

      What gave you that idea? I just asked you a question. Didn’t state any opinion which would show prejudice. Assume much?

      “studying women’s course”

      I studied science. Then commerce. Then management. Which of these are ‘women’s’ courses? I am unaware of any curriculum like that.
      And aren’t you being sexist by calling a certain set of courses as ‘women’s courses’? Why the differentiation. Why looking down on any set of knowledge?

      And now don’t respond with why I looked down on Gollum. I didn’t. But there’s a difference between our favorite character and what he/she/it is portrayed as. When you put a comparison with a character, what that character stands for is taken, not what you feel. For e.g. one of my favorite character is Humbert Humbert from Lolita. But I wouldn’t compare you with him. He was a pedophile. So I can’t draw a parallel between you and him and say – ‘why are you getting offended? He is my favorite character so obviously equating someone with him should be good.

      “Studying Women’s Courses”

      Well I studied science, then commerce and then management. Not sure which one of these are women’s courses. And what are women’s courses by the way? Aren’t you being a little unjust in putting these differentiations? Anyone can and should be able to take any course. Why limit one set of course to one gender; or limit one gender to one type of course?

    4. Fem

      *Sorry. Lost my chain of thought so repeated ‘women’s courses’ point.

    5. Templetwins

      What gave you that idea?

      who is anyway inferior in your opinion if I go by your this comment alone<< what ever gave you this idea. Assume much?

      I studied science. Then commerce. Then management. Which of these are ‘women’s’ courses? I am unaware of any curriculum like that.

      Ahh good for you!! I mentioned 'perks of being a feminist or studying womens course'. The key word is 'or'. If you identify yourself as feminist then the rest of my statement is true about you too. By women's course I meant women's studies aka women's literature. Since it is about feminist perspective and called as women's studies, there is no sexism in calling it women's course. That doesn't mean only women can study the course either.

      And now don’t respond with why I looked down on Gollum.

      Your entire argument(hierarchy) was based on it, so I should assume you looked down on Gollum, but that aside, when I make a comparison between lets say a and b, should I make sure that all the attributes of a and b are the same and comparable? Is chairman and chairwoman is same in every sense, other than the fact that they are a chairperson to an org/firm. The only attribute of my comparison between Amrita and Gollum and to Chairman and Chairwomen is that they are unnecessary and unwarranted. They are not the same.

      one of my favorite character is Humbert Humbert from Lolita. But I wouldn’t compare you with him. He was a pedophile.

      I don't know if you are talking about the book or the movie. There are two versions of that movie and I liked the Stanley Kubrick version. She was 14 years old in the movie and I think in the book she was 12 and half years old. That still doesn't make Humbert as a pedophile. Lolita goes through puberty by 14 or 12 and half years and a pedophile is someone who is attracted to per-pubescent children. Yes, I'm nitpicking you 😛

      Well, you can compare me with him but in no way I can resonate with that character other than the possible chromosomes we may share. I thought I made my distinction clear in regards to my comparison but I hope this cleared it for you.

      *Sorry. Lost my chain of thought so repeated ‘women’s courses’ point.

      Ha ha okay!!

    6. Babar

      Women ask for the same pay in the army, as construction workers, and firefighters, but many do not pass the tests, many are inapt when it comes to physical endurance and are given positions accordingly, while in many places the requirement for physical standard is different for men and women, especially in the police force, which shows that women cannot compete with men. There are many tasks that require heavy lifting and physical strength, and it remains a fact that men do much better than women when it comes to such feats. Furthermore, many men have suffered in dangerous jobs requiring physical exertion, while the fact remains that the top ten dangerous jobs in the world are worked by men. There can be no comparision between men and women when it comes to the workforce. The very fact that women cry for reservation in the political arena is another proof that women cannot compete with men fairly. Not to mention that they work fewer hours, easier jobs, take leave more often, and take courses in college which pay less. Most primary school teachers are women, and they also take courses in humanities, and then they cry ‘wage gap’ competing with men in math and science streams (video above).

  7. Babar

    But women often take pride in being referred to with male generics as it elevates one’s status and after all women also want to be included in the “better” group!

    You are absolutely correct.

    http://youtu.be/vyFjPHwF6To

  8. Aditya Malpani

    A random article that specially wants to put fart….Analysing these things and them claiming to be victims…Grow up girl..there are things that are given feminine names also, and are very much respected, so should we stop calling them in that way…

    And talking about the campaign by emma watson #heforshe, now if you see oxford dictionary the word “for” means “In support of or in favour of”,”On behalf of or to the benefit of”, “In place of or in exchange of” which makes the campaign sexist. Considering how the campaign is mentioned, its considering women as subject and men as object(look up for anita sarkeesian) and that is sexist.

  9. themaverickwoman

    Fem …wid u gal…. 🙂

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Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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