Josepha Madigan has her work cut out for her with linguistic crusade

Josepha Madigan is on a linguistic crusade. Gendered language is the heresy that needs to be taken down. Where better to begin than with a newspaper with a ‘backward’ title from a part of the country liberal Dublin loves to sneer at?  I would suspect The Kerryman newspaper’s readers won’t appreciate the crusading zeal of political correctness sweeping into their heartlands and are likely to resist her call to virtue and the end of verbal oppression. They may well ask what it is to her if they have no ideological issues with their local paper’s title or why she feels she needs to speak for them from the leafy fringes of political enlightenment.

However, it might be worth considering how capitulation from The Kerryman, should it come, would only be a dint on the shield of political incorrectness for Josepha. She still has much bigger redouts of backwardness to combat.

She will eventually have to take her campaign way beyond the Kingdom of Kerry as far as the Moon indeed, and challenge the gender assignment of the human person every child believes resides there. But maybe best to start local. I am sure Josepha passes many pedestrian lights on her lockdown strolls and it is indeed surprising that she has not picked up on the male gendered figures that signal whether she can cross the road or not. Strange she is not offended by the green, amber and red men who control her crossings every day of the week while taking offence at the title of a newspaper she probably never actually reads.  Not a skirt in sight in any part of our road signage. She has been a public representative for many years and might have had some say in reforming sexist pedestrian signs, had she been observant.  She didn’t notice apparently anymore than the Kerryman readers ever noticed there was a sexist meme in their paper’s title.

What about all the other sexist titles that sailed beneath her notice? Most ships or boats I see in Irish waters are called by a woman’s name. Is that not because captains and vessel owners were almost invariably male and so they personified the crafts they controlled, cajoled in good weather and bad, as virtual women? A bit patronising if not worse for a highly aware feminist like Josepha, surely? The fact of course is that people don’t go looking for sexist windmills except quixotic crusaders who want to prove their progressive credentials.

To be consistent, Josepha should consider the sexist affront to women whose surnames end in ‘man’. What of the female Portmans, Freemans, Chapmans, Bowmans and goodness knows how many other names that carry the offensive suffix. Has she not even noticed? Then there is Tillerman which is not only a surname but also features in a song by Cat Stevens, ‘Tea with the Tillerman’.  Speaking of the arts, how would Josepha tackle the male fertility god, ‘the green man’, who is not only a great character of English folklore but also gives his name to numerous pubs the length and breadth of the country.  Changing all those names and titles would be a doddle in comparison to tackling arcane examples of sexism in children’s stories. Regendering Fireman Sam, Postman Pat, Bob the Builder, Tractor Tom and other sundry heros would go down like lead Kerryman with the under fives.

All that is before she meets the challenge of binmen, coalmen, conmen, bogeymen, hitmen, strawmen, ball boys and bell boys. She might be happy to leave some of these alone for reasons of reverse or inverted sexism but this leaves her open to charges of inconsistency and unfairness. She also needs to deal with terms like housemaid and charwoman which still haunt our vocabularies.  And address Michael Healy-Rae’s question of how she would handle the sensitive issue of manholes. After that she might well feel she needs to take a look at the over representation of males on pedestals in public places and on street plagues. She could capitalise on the current trend in iconoclasm so would be off to a good enough start here.

Her work cut out indeed. Or at least it would be if this was not all about just one ‘man’ in the first place, a  strawman to be precise. Just  one.  To my thinking, the Kerryman newspaper title is not the issue at all.  It is a strawman argument. My, not uninformed, guess is that the Kerryman’s title is not the problem for Josepha; it is its content.  Perhaps it accepts advertising and comment from sources not politically or socially palatable to Josepha and her FG pals? Perhaps, it is just too unwoke?



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