A very interesting gaffe was made by President Obama this year, and I say gaffe, but it was obviously a pre-written (and practised) speech that had probably had several writers – and somebody should have picked up his offensive language.
Not hugely offensive…more subtly disturbing.
What exactly did Obama say? He gave a speech where he spoke about the importance of protecting “our wives, mothers and daughters”. Some bloggers are calling this “covert sexism”.
Ok, ok, you think I’m an over-reacting feminist, but it’s really hard to fathom how this sort of “reductive language” is still around in the year 2013.
Blogger Melissa McEwan spoke about this on her blog Shakesville. In fact, she even started a petition about this, calling for an end to language that “values women only by their relationships to other people”. She says, “Stop calling us wives and moms.” Sound fair enough?
What’s wrong with being referred to as a wife or mother? Personally, I’d like to be either or both, but am currently neither. So Obama’s lovely speech was still referring to me as my only other societal title that has any inherent meaning attached to it: Daughter.
Pfft! I am a very proud daughter but I am also many other things: consumer, marketer, writer, public transport user, tax payer, voter, former university student, current rent-payer soon to be homeowner. Why can’t I be all those things instead? I’m pretty sure my father would hope that other men (and women) see me in this light rather than as simply someone’s “daughter”.
Another quote I liked from Melissa was when she pointed out, “referring to ‘our’ wives et al, the President appears to be talking to The Men of America about Their Women, rather than talking to men AND women.”
Do you agree? Do you think I am overreacting to this innocuous speech – or do I have a point?
Melissa also says, “Defining women by their relationships to other people is reductive, misogynist, and alienating to women.” Interestingly here in Australia our first female Prime Minister recently accused the Leader of the Opposition of being a misogynist. The YouTube video of this speech became a worldwide hit – she seemed to touch on a nerve with people. Some say it was merely power politics and a diversion tactic.
Either way, I do believe that there are some very current examples of reductive language used to describe women, and some poor, old-fashioned opinions of women in general. Even the word ‘feminism’ is now a dirty F word. Even Beyonce recently stated that she did not think of herself as a feminist. She said, “Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have to label yourself anything?”
Wives, Mothers, Girlfriends… that’s why Beyonce. The labels are already being attributed and it’s time to claim some of the other labels back.