Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Language arts

I just heard from my sister and my Dad in Toronto. My sister just had surgery on her foot. She said she'd taken a big risk: She failed to take a big black marker and write, "Not this foot! The OTHER ONE!" on the good foot before going to the hospital. But all is well, if broken and painful. The little pills should help.

My Aunt Nan, meanwhile, is suddenly due for a triple bypass. I'm thinking there're going to be a lot more little pills in the family.

In honor of the wounded and crippled of my clan, then, I give you... another rant among so, so many. This time, it's about language.

Today when I got home from workschool (the division blurs), Luther greeted me on my arrival with an observation about the poker game on TV, and the names by which the players were identified. "Jessica" was the female player at the table. The other players, all male, were referred to by their surnames.

Okay, so this is not a shocker. I could go off on a tangent, but I'll abstain this time. Instead, let me just provide my reasoning:

Women don't have their own names.

A woman has her father's name until she marries, when she takes her husband's name.

Understand, I don't think the woman at the poker table was the epitome of tradition. But it's a long tradition, and where once I would have blamed an issue of respect, or perhaps an issue of objectification (sexual, that is), I find today that the use of names at a poker table is in its own way accurate. A given name is just a convenient label; a surname is a property, and women don't own property, at least not if there is a man in the family.

Call Jessica "Smith," and one might be confused and look about the room for Smith, for surely this breasted person is not he.

Later, Luther and I talked again about the recent brawl in college football, Florida-style. Luther remarked on the fact that the reports refer to the "players" and the fair or unfair disciplines to "the players" for fighting. Rarely if ever does someone refer to these "players" as... "Students."

Oh, that's right! They're supposedly college students, yes? And every college has a code of conduct for its students, usually published in a fairly concrete form. I went to the University of Miami to look at their Student Code of Conduct but alas, the link seemed to be broken. I wonder why?

Language is everything. There is no equality for women until they own their own names. There is no point in pretending that football players are students until we refer to them as students and hold them to the same standards as the rest of the student body.

I think, until we start to consistently refer to the athletes as students, they will consistently fail to be so. And in the South, mecca of college football, they'll continue to just be poor, black gladiators for the rather limited white populace. How nice.

Meanwhile, I can't do anything about the women thing. I know that I chose to change my name because I wanted to show in a public way that I was making a family with Luther. I would have been happier if we could have had a name all our own, but he's the fourth of FIVE of his name. Hard to just break the mold mid-stream.

But I hate that anybody would ever think I wasn't a Slocombe.

I miss you both. Eat the pills. Love you.

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