The D & C does not publish our letter on its sexist use of language

The D & C does not publish our letter on its sexist use of language
David Kramer holding the ever vanishing Speaking Out section of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 1.5.19

David Kramer holding the ever vanishing Speaking Out section of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 1/5/19. From Democrat & Chronicle 2018: We Welcome Your Opinion (as long as we have room for it and it doesn’t target us)

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.”


Democrat and Chronicle, Saturday, January 12th, 2019

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:

Letter-to-the-editor sent to the Democrat and Chronicle, 1/12/19

Letter-to-the-editor sent to the Democrat and Chronicle, 1/12/19

To double check, I contacted two D & C staff members who both confirmed that the standard protocol is to refer to females 18 and older as women. One encouraged me to submit the letter.Tom P.

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.

Although the addition was sans my letter, my delivery man

Although the edition was sans my letter, our delivery person provided stellar service despite the snowstorm. This morning, the D & C made it through, while The New York Times was AWOL. 1/20/19

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.

Fair enough.


A look inside the “readers’ page” from NYTimes Letter-to-the-Editor editor Tom Feyer

For you, Talker buys the D & C digital archives. And Noam Chomsky

Life as a D & C blogger. The lost photos. And Common Wealth.

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


Like what you see on our site? We’d appreciate your support. Please donate today.

Featured Posts