Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Heroes are not required to respect half of the population

This morning, I was in a coffee shop looking at a catalogue of English-inspired and English-made goods. There was an entire page devoted to Winston Churchill--books, cds, DVDs, ties, a bust, etc. The promotional piece for one of the books mentioned, in addition to the obvious things about Churchill, his love of sailing, dining and painting. And it also mentioned his weaknesses--hardheadedness, arrogance, etc.

But no one ever mentions Churchill's great big weakness: He held women in total contempt. His was not your everyday, take-it-for-granted sexism, but a verbal testament that women were bothersome and inferior. Yet Churchill is the great 20th Century hero (along with super-racist Ronald Reagan). No one seems to find anything wrong with this, nor does it detract from his godlike status.

The tea room in my town used to have a Churchill room, which was pretty disgusting, and I refused to sit in it. Now, most of the Churchill memorabilia has been taken down, for whatever reason, and I no longer have to look at his hating face.

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I gave my annual lecture about sexist speech in my History of the English Language class last week, and one of my feminist students brought this point up, asking why it is still all right to use sexist insults -- bitch and worse -- when racist are (usually) seen as very bad manners at least. I blamed the patriarchy, at length, and misogyny, and so on, but then someone brought up the whole Imus deal, and the white guys in the back row went all offended. Not Fair! they claimed. Poor fella! He Lost His Job! And What, Really, Had He Done That Was So Wrong?

Just hated on some chicks, after all.

Nothing that mattered.

Grr. delagar.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:13 PM  

When I taught public speaking, which can involve a very personal kind of class interaction, I used to do a survey at the beginning of class. How many non-white students were in the room? How many women? How many disabled (I reminded the of the many disabilities that exist)? How many LGBT? How many Jewish? A couple of the categories were sensitive, so for those, I told students they didn't have to raise their hands if they didn't want to--I could just use known percentages.

We tallied them up, and the result, of course, was that just about every person in the room was disliked by some people just just for being who there were. I got good results, but...I also didn't have the type of students that you have at your college.

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