As seen in Life as a D & C blogger and For you, Talker buys the D & C digital archives, only a few years ago, the Democrat and Chronicle had a robust Opinion Page with daily editorials, Guest Essays, syndicated columns, blogetorials and cyberquotes. We’ve bemoaned the ever shrinking Speaking Out section that only now appears on the weekend.
Whether because the D & C is printing fewer letters or because the editor found the critique to be trivial, the paper declined to use my letter sent on Saturday January 12th, 2019 written in reference to “St. John Fisher suspends cheerleading activities.”
As I read the article on discriminatory language, I noticed — ironically — the female college cheerleaders were called “girls” and not “women.” The term surprised me as the D & C is — as far as I’ve seen — careful to refer to college athletes as always men and women not boys and girls. The article prompted me to respond:
At the same time, I wondered if my complaint was nitpicking or playing “gotcha” journalism. Based on my observations of college students, the cheerleaders may well refer to themselves as girls and — if they noticed — took no offense.
When asking around, most people said the letter was entirely valid and at least deserved a correction comment by the D & C.
Tom Proietti, a Resident Media Scholar at SJF and a recent Talker subscriber, said the issue is not whether the cheerleaders might or might not call themselves girls. Calling women girls — especially in a public forum like the D & C — is one form of condescending sexism. As Tom said, changing language is part of how we change society — in the case of non-sexist language, a change Tom sees as positive progress.
One of our media commenters, Michael Nighan added:
To me the issue is not whether the distinction between “girls” and “women” is nitpicking or even “PC” (although I do think that “young women” would be a better fit…or is that ageism?), it’s whether the D&C is being consistent in their use of language and whether their male reporters are properly schooled in how to write without a gender bias. If they’re going to report on the alleged misuse of words by others then their own linguistic house better be in order.