Mixed messages

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?


2 thoughts on “Mixed messages

  1. Did you watch Emma Watson’s UN speech Ruth? Here’s a link if you haven’t seen it http://junkee.com/watch-emma-watsons-fantastic-speech-on-gender-equality-here/42055#YMHCTeVXEjtHDYbp.01

    The issue of speaking properly, by which I mean respectful of persons as persons, isn’t only about gendered language as you know. Race, religion, and various other social differentiates such as size, mental health, disability are equally relevant in the search for a language and disposition shaped by respect for persons, let alone what it means in the glorious diversity of human flourishing to learn always to see Christ in the other.

    As a small man, a size I am very comfortable with, I too have been called formidable, forceful, and other power related words. It isn’t an epithet I either want or particularly admire – it becomes a problem if the assumption is that smaller people are assertive to compensate lack of physical presence, or that it is somehow surprising that a smaller person should be forecful, strong minded, outspoken, articulate, yes even formidable on occasion.

    Which raises I think a deeper question for women in ministry, if I may – which is the failure in all failures of respectful language to see Christ in the other, and in that seeing to realise the worth and loveability of this other, as they are, who they are. I’m back to brian Wren’s hymn really, “When Christ was lifted from the earth’ – just some thoughts Ruth. Blessings from Derek and Lorna land 🙂

    1. Thanks Jim. I did see her speech – and have been horrified at much of the online reaction to it; classic “get back inside” reaction to a formidable woman speaking powerfully :). And so much of it casually sexualised. I loved what she said, and it matters so much. Oh to be that eloquent…
      And thank you for your thoughts about “the other” – that helps me take the whole thing forward.
      My greetings to my homeland!

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