I needed to check something, so in an email about something else to Rediscovered Friend, I just raised the question. He answered, and I thanked him, remarking “I just needed to check and it was easiest to ask you”.
He answered “happy to be easiest”
And immediately, I was in a welter of gendered language. As a man, to say that raises no resonances at all. But I realised that was a phrase I would not use, at least, not unless I was paying close attention to whom I was saying it, and how they were likely to hear it.
An “easy woman” – a very clear message – and not one I want to give.
Is there an equivalent about a man?
I have been taking part in writing an article about women in ministry among Baptists in this country (when I say taking part, somebody else has done the writing, I have added the occasional comment – that’s my kind of partnership) In the article, part of the discussion referred to some of the women being “strident” in their presence and participation in committees. We then reflected – was this a proper description. If they had spoken so as men, would they have been strident – or forceful? And is there an equivalent for men that works the other way.
And let’s not start on “formidable woman” – yes, I’ve been called that. No, I didn’t hear it as a compliment. And again, is there an equivalent for men that carries a similar emotional tone?
Complicated stuff, this communicating. As I try to speak well, to make sure that what I think I am saying is what people actually hear, paying attention to this matters.
An encouragement to speak less, perhaps – and more aware-ly?