July 13, 2014
A Dabble In Misogyny
Having written a recent piece apologizing for observing the subject of Japanese people living long lives from the point of view of my own demographic, a reasonably young, male one, I wonder if I might be allowed to comment on an article from the Huffington Post making the rounds this week, entitled “Let’s Stop Neutralizing Men,” from a point of view that will almost certainly appear male biased. That said, just as women making a “feminist” point (for want of a less complicated and lazy word) cannot be dismissed as invalid because it must be biased, hopefully I am entitled to a range of opinions, some of which may appear male-biased, but which are based on genuine opinion, rather than self preservation.
The author, Valerie Alexander, talks about how, although she loves soccer, she is annoyed by the American commentators for the USA matches who refer to USA forward Landon Donovan as the “all time US leading goal scorer.” Wait, Valerie tells us, “He is not. With 57 international goals, he’s not even in the Top Five. The all-time US leading goal scorer is Abby Wambach, with 167 goals, followed by Mia Hamm (158), Kristine Lilly (130), Michelle Akers (105) and Tiffeny Milbrett (100). In fact, Abby Wambach is the all-time leading goal scorer in the world, among all soccer players, male or female.”
This point is set in the broader context of men’s positions being assumed to be the default, for example when the media feels the need to refer to somebody as “The female CEO of….” whereas a man is referred to simple as “The CEO.” I am in broad agreement that language is a quiet, one might even say surreptitious, way of continuing the unfairly dominant position of men in all areas of society. I have even, much to the scoffing derision of some male friends, pointed out in the bar that sexist jokes, amusing though they can occasionally be to both men and women, are a tool which men unwittingly use to prop up the position of their own demographic. I am also of the view that although changing the language we use would be helpful, ultimately such fundamental changes need to occur that language will naturally become equalized, as the things it refers to are – there will be so many female CEOs that it will be unnecessary to make the distinction, and women’s soccer teams will be as prominent as men’s.
However, and this is my point about the current World Cup commentary, there is a difference between equalizing language when male default is unnecessary, and shoehorning equality into every sentence we speak. Because unfortunately if any cause, any agenda, is shoved down people’s throats excessively, they begin to rebel against it. It’s just human nature. There is no separate men’s and women’s World CEO Championships, so why distinguish between the two? I agree, let’s just refer to any of them as CEOs. But I don’t think it is the job of World Cup commentators to give fair reference to all sections of society when what they are commentating on is specifically the men’s soccer World Cup. It is simply a matter of context. When Landon Donovan is described as the “all time US leading goal scorer,” it is on the understanding that the pictures we are watching are of the men’s soccer World Cup. We, as adults, are aware that there are other forms of the game, but do not need to be told that Donovan is the “leading goal scorer in this, the men’s soccer World Cup, but he is not however the leading goal scorer when women’s soccer is included, when junior soccer is included, when blind soccer is included, when amateur soccer is included, and, just to clarify, we mean leading scorer of soccer goals. Maybe you were mislead by the word goals, and we shouldn’t assume you think we mean soccer goals just because we are watching soccer. There are scorers of hockey goals and lacrosse goals who have a better record than Landon.”
I would argue that when we are watching the men’s soccer World Cup it is so obvious that we would be referring to the leading goalscorer in that particular context that to bring other contexts into it would only lead to the sort of hollow nod to correctness that gets more people’s backs up than changes their opinion for the better. Then, hopefully, with more of the public onside (no pun intended), we can do more about real injustices, such as the shamefully low numbers of female CEOs.
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