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Ladies & Men
This is a genuine sign - the grammatical error isn't mine
Imagine yourself in an alternative universe. It looks very much like this one, except planet Earth's human population took a different path. Instead of a patriarchical system in which men dominated and subjugated women, it was a matriarchy - with men the subjugated and women the subjugatees.
A century ago, the steady influence of liberal women and outspoken men saw the vote finally given to the men. A slow progression from submissiveness to equality was given a boost and, since then, men have (gradually) been given a more equal place in society.
With an unusual exception.
The females are routinely called "women"; the males are routinely called "gentlemen". The idea of equality (in an unequal world) is being hampered by some very unequal language. What makes this exception unusual is that this word usage is adopted by many of the males who are most outspoken about equality.
I used the alternative universe concept in order to highlight a problem that isn't (to many) seen as a problem. Now let's return to the known world, where we face the issue of "Ladies & Men" rather than "Women & Gentlemen".
A few years ago, a feminist acquaintance and I were discussing this very subject. She said that she hated people using the word "lady" as a default term. Why? Because it was condescending and patronising to refer to an entire gender in such a way. I heartily agreed. More recently, I saw her do the very same thing - using the word "lady" as an unambiguous reference to all women. Feminists... you have to love their consistent reasoning, eh?
Let's establish something very clearly; just as all men are not gentlemen, all women are not ladies. Unless we're referring to public toilets, the words "lady" and "gentleman" are more properly applied in formal situations. Outside of such occassions, the words can only be applied following a certain degree of circumspection.
A woman, not a lady
A man, not a gentleman
I had considered offering some examples of this misuse of language, but it is so plentiful that examples really aren't needed. It appears (with great abundance) in every medium (at least it certainly does, in the UK) from magazines, newspapers, websites and television. If you need convincing, keep an eye out for articles regarding men and women or (as you will easily discover) ladies and men.
It is an anachronism that belongs in an era when equality was far more removed than it is in modernity. Much as I would resent being called a gentleman (in the alternative universe) I would resent being called a lady in this one, if I were female. At least I would if equality was something I valued.
People who use the word "lady" as a blanket-term for all women... not so much into equality.
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Philosophy ยป Ladies & Men
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