Oh dear, just when you think it's safe to come out of the water.
Once there was a word called gay. It meant happy, merry, but carried with it an expressive feel . Hence gaiety. Then it was taken over, the meaning changed to mean homosexual, especially male homosexual. The old meaning started to drop away. A male who said that I feel gay tonight could well be misinterpreted or, perhaps, not. It depended.
Then there was the word misogynist meaning women hater or, at least, someone who disliked women. It was quite a useful word, appearing in popular fiction including children's fiction with phrases like "so and so was a crusty old misogynist." The Australian Macquarie dictionary has now announced that it is including a second string to the definition: an entrenched prejudice against women.
Some of the Australian media has interpreted this as an act of political correctness by the dictionary in response to the PM's speech. If that were the case, I would be very upset. But the meaning of the word has changed. We actually saw this in the responses to the PM's speech. But I checked around, simply asking younger ones for the meaning of misogynist. They came up with the new Macquarie definition. So the definition does reflect changing use of the language. Just the Macquarie timing, intentional or not, is unfortunate.
In the meantime, we have lost another word, for entrenched prejudice against women however defined certainly need not mean hatred of women. When I expressed sadness at the loss, I was asked what word I would use to describe the new definition of misogyny. I simply said sexist.
If all this wasn't enough, I happened to read this story in Sydney's Daily Telegraph: Being straight no longer normal, students taught. I am not normally a Telegraph reader, but the paper was there while I was waiting. This introduced me to a whole new term that I had yet to hear, heterosexism.
The story was about a pilot program in NSW schools. This appeared to define heterosexism, and I quote from the story,
....the practice of "positioning heterosexuality as the norm for human relationship," according to the Proud Schools Consultation Report.
"It involves ignoring, making invisible or discriminating against non-heterosexual people, their relationships and their interests. Heterosexism feeds homophobia."
The program should "focus on the dominance of heterosexism rather than on homophobia," according to the minutes from the Proud Schools steering committee on March 22, 2011.
Now given the Telegraph's usual market positioning, I would be far from certain about the accuracy of the reporting. Even so, heterosexism? It's really all becoming far too confusing!
While chatting, I did a little testing in terms of some of the views I expressed in Abbott, Gillard - time to stop!. Not a scientific sample, I accept, but there was great dislike for the personal venom on each side.
Yours from a confused Jim who feels obliged to report but really, really, doesn't like all this.
For other takes on all this, New England free lance radio reporter Kate Doak has yet another take on aspects of the Abbott/Gillard affair - The Tale of Two Tonys and a Julia...... It was Kate who released the tape of a young Tony Abbott talking on student radio at UNE during a visit.
Then in Misoneism?, Neil Whitfield took another direction, in so doing confirming that the Macquarie dictionary decision to redefine had been misogynist in the dictionary had been influenced by the PM's speech. I quote:
Sue Butler, Editor of the Macquarie Dictionary, regarded as the definitive authority on Australian meanings of words, said on Wednesday the political furore revealed to her fellow Editors that their dictionary’s definition was decades out of date.
The dictionary would broaden its definition from a hatred of women to include entrenched prejudice against women, she said.
“Since the 1980s, ‘misogyny’ has come to be used as a synonym for sexism, a synonym with bite, but nevertheless with the meaning of ‘entrenched prejudice against women’ rather than ‘pathological hatred’”, she said.
I think that's unfortunate. It also appears that the changing meaning of the word has been influenced by very specific feminist debate.
In a comment on the NSW position, Winton Bates wrote: Jim, it seems to me that people who argue that hetrosexuality is not the norm for human relationships are possibly guilty of misogyny and misandry, as well as misinformation.
Misandry, the hatred of men and boys, is the dictionary opposite to misogyny. If we are going to redefine misogyny, it would seem perfectly appropriate to redefine misandry in the same way as entrenched prejudice against men. Defined in this way it certainly exists. Indeed, I have given examples on this blog. What's more, I'm not sure that it's getting better, although some have argued that things have changed. Whatever the case, we have a fruitful new ground for verbal conflict.
In his comment, Winton also shared my reservations about the content of the report, something that Neil picked up when he quoted the original objectives of the NSW pilot. The problem here is that objectives and the way those objectives are implemented are two very different things. We just don't know, for example, whether the claim about heterosexism is correct. It may be. We have seen some funny things in NSW before.
In any event, words will be words whatever I or anyone else feels. Further, life is too short to attempt to follow up the detail of every claim and counter claim.
I am quite comfortable with the position I articulated some time ago, that I support equality of opportunity independent of gender or sexual orientation. This includes attacking the barriers that reduce men's choices.
I am not posting today. Please treat this update as my post.