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November 10th, 2012, 08:41 AM #1
Being offended by the term 'fair'
Are there many readers out there who are offended by the use of this term with regard to women? I just ran across this for the first time and I was pretty surprised, especially in the context... I used the term in a summary of my writing style, which described how I favor 'hardcore warriors of the fairer gender' ie. girls who defeat dozens of large armored men at once and survive/keep fighting with multiple wounds that would each kill a normal man, and I was using 'fair' for 1) irony 2) to create an archaic feel that calls to mind the heroes and legends of old and 3) just to sound more interesting than saying 'hardcore female warriors'. What do you think, is the term 'fair' that offensive, basically to the point of being a racial slur, or have I just encountered overly PC zealotry as I'm inclined to believe?
November 10th, 2012, 10:49 AM #2
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1) I'm too far away from the time period to know if "the fairer sex" was originally intended to be derogatory, but in context it sure looks patronizing now. I expect you ran into posters who recognized that but did not recognize your intent.
2) Irony (and humor in general) doesn't always come across in forum postings. Sometimes that is because the other people don't know you that well and so don't recognize your humor at work; sometimes it's because one runs into posters who are touchy about a given subject; sometimes it's because the humor/irony was awkwardly put and came across as a serious statement. I've occasionally been the victim of my sense of humor misfiring and have found it best to apologize, explain briefly, tuck tail and back away with whatever dignity I can muster. If your other, later postings appear otherwise rational, reasonable and good-natured, this instance will fade away.
November 10th, 2012, 01:52 PM #3
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I think if whoever finds that offensive should really take a look at their sensitivities. Someone being offended is not a sign of something being offensive.
November 11th, 2012, 03:11 PM #4
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November 11th, 2012, 06:06 PM #5
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November 11th, 2012, 07:36 PM #6
It's not entirely clear whether you're talking about an objection to using the term fairer sex with regards to women or with regards to race (fair being white.) The term "fairer sex" is usually meant to refer to women being pretty, gentler and weaker. It's a term that was used paternalistically, a compliment that was more of a social restriction. You were using it to mean pretty, gentle and weaker when you used it in order to use it ironically with another more modern stereotype of women -- the hardcore female warrior. I.e. these women of the fairer sex aren't really weak and gentle since they are hardcore warriors.
But first off, women seldom just get called warriors, firefighters, athletes. Instead, we're the female warriors, female firefighters, female athletes, because otherwise people may assume you're talking about men because those are men's roles and so men are the default sex unless noted otherwise. And second, hardcore is the further paternalistic distinction that the women are super tough -- like men. The sexy, kick-ass female fighter is a paternalistic stereotype -- it's another way to oogle women as the fairer sex in heterosexual male fantasies.
So if it was a gender complaint, it wasn't necessarily that your use of irony wasn't noted. It's just that the entire phrase was paternalistic and may have annoyed someone, possibly a female, who gets tired of how language is used at women regularly and cluelessly because guys very seldom have to think outside of their own heads in our societies. And when they run into someone who is annoyed or upset about that, it doesn't mean that you necessarily have to agree with the view, but dismissing it as PC zealotry is again being paternalistic -- father knows best what language about women should and should not annoy you, especially you women. I think it's great that you're thinking about it, but just try considering it as a person who was upset because women get called versions of fairer sex, little lady and it's so cool that you're tough like a man all the time. So maybe it wasn't very ironic after all.
If the person was getting upset over racial aspects as in seeing fair as meaning white skinned and ignoring non-Anglo women? Then that might have been a misinterpretation of what you said. Or if your "hardcore female warrior" is not white, referring to that character as the "fairer sex" might have been annoying in that context. It's hard to know because we really don't know the discussion between you.
The best response when you encounter a reaction that surprises you is to say "Thank you for showing me a different way to understand it. I will think about what you have said." And then see if it is helpful or not to you personally. It doesn't require a war between world views. It requires accepting that you unintentionally upset someone and not making it be about you getting rid of unease and guilt by calling them hysterical.
November 11th, 2012, 07:45 PM #7
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November 11th, 2012, 11:45 PM #8
As a matter of fact, we aren't really sure where this phrase came from, although it's attributed to mean different things to many different people: attractiveness, fair sense of character, or fair-skinned. But I've never seen anyone really refer to the term as meaning 'weakness'.
Anyway, not to argue, but I don't really see the problem here, although like Kat said, it's tough to know without knowing how this was used and in what ways they considered it offensive. I have no problem, but that may be because I'm just an ugly man.
November 12th, 2012, 05:03 AM #9
* which all you lovely ladies have, of course, now run along.
Actually, by definition, if someone is offended by something that makes that something offensive by necessity.
It would be fai- let me start again. It would be reasonable for you to say "If someone is offended by something that makes that something offensive to them by necessity", but that would also be an obvious tautology. Just because I think it offensive doesn't make it so beyond the boundaries of my skull.
Last edited by Andrew Leon Hudson; November 12th, 2012 at 05:08 AM.
November 12th, 2012, 06:24 AM #10
November 11th, 2012, 07:25 PM #11