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  1. #1
    Author of Iron Bloom glutton's Avatar
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    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?

  2. #2
    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.


    Randy M.

  3. #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.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Icarus View Post
    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.
    This (I have to have at least 10 characters to post?)

  5. #5
    Analyze That
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    Quote Originally Posted by Icarus View Post
    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.
    Actually, by definition, if someone is offended by something that makes that something offensive by necessity. But yeah, sensitivity has run a little too rampant lately and probably needs to pipe down a little for conversations to remain rational.

  6. #6
    Registered User JunkMonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by glutton View Post
    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?
    I would like to know how the hell can it be a 'racial slur'?

  7. #7
    Ataraxic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    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.

  8. #8
    it could be worse Moderator N. E. White's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    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.
    This!

    Don't have much else to add, but the whole 10 character thing...

  9. #9
    Greymane Wilson Geiger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    The term "fairer sex" is usually meant to refer to women being pretty, gentler and weaker.
    I'm not sure where you got that last part, because that's not true at all, as far as I'm aware.

    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.

  10. #10
    known as Noumenon no more Andrew Leon Hudson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    The term "fairer sex" is usually meant to refer to women being pretty, gentler and weaker.
    I've never known the term to explicitly include "weaker", although the implication is obviously there. I take it as a prioritising of (the ascribed) positive feminine characteristics - beauty, delicacy, caring, etc.* - over (the ascribed) negatives, such as the lack of we manly men's physical strength, etc. and blah. Clearly patronising, but "positively" patronising rather than dismissive.

    * which all you lovely ladies have, of course, now run along.

    Quote Originally Posted by molybdenum View Post
    ...sensitivity has run a little too rampant lately and probably needs to pipe down a little for conversations to remain rational.
    That...

    Actually, by definition, if someone is offended by something that makes that something offensive by necessity.
    ...but not this. There are things which are considered offensive by social consensus and things which are only subjectively offensive, and which other (perhaps even a majority of) people would not consider problematic at all. For example, the episode of P&T's Bullsh!t on Breast Hysteria included a New York mother of two who found the notion of public breast-feeding aggressively offensive, an act almost literally bordering on assault to potential bystanders; that just seems crazy to me, but there you have it.

    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 04:08 AM.

  11. #11
    G.L. Lathian G.L. Lathian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noumenon View Post
    I've never known the term to explicitly include "weaker", although the implication is obviously there. I take it as a prioritising of (the ascribed) positive feminine characteristics - beauty, delicacy, caring, etc.* - over (the ascribed) negatives, such as the lack of we manly men's physical strength, etc. and blah. Clearly patronising, but "positively" patronising rather than dismissive.
    This is what I've always assumed "fair" meant. I would never consider the term to be patronizing, especially when writing in an old-world context. I wouldn't use the word to describe anyone in a modern story, that's for sure. Well, maybe if it was to do with the English royal family...

  12. #12
    known as Noumenon no more Andrew Leon Hudson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cononomous View Post
    I would never consider the term to be patronizing, especially when writing in an old-world context. I wouldn't use the word to describe anyone in a modern story, that's for sure.
    But, surely it is because referring to women as the fairer sex WAS patronising that the phrase is rarely used now.
    Last edited by Andrew Leon Hudson; November 12th, 2012 at 09:04 AM.

  13. #13
    G.L. Lathian G.L. Lathian's Avatar
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    We have thousands of archaic words we don't use very often. I'm certain it wasn't derogatory, almost the opposite. I can't see how being called more caring, beautiful and just - when compared to men - as a bad thing. I'd say it's more patronizing to men of the time, because it was them blatantly admitting that they were not as 'fair' as women.

  14. #14
    Greymane Wilson Geiger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cononomous View Post
    We have thousands of archaic words we don't use very often. I'm certain it wasn't derogatory, almost the opposite. I can't see how being called more caring, beautiful and just - when compared to men - as a bad thing. I'd say it's more patronizing to men of the time, because it was them blatantly admitting that they were not as 'fair' as women.
    Exactly. Sounds more to me like some people trying to change the definition so that it sounds worse than it was intended.

  15. #15
    known as Noumenon no more Andrew Leon Hudson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cononomous View Post
    I'd say it's more patronizing to men of the time, because it was them blatantly admitting that they were not as 'fair' as women.
    I know what you're saying (and in this case Wulfen's point may well be right), but I think it could be considered patronising in the sense that it credits women with only those qualities that were considered good in a woman. Fair might not have umbrella'd "feminine" negatives like weakness, but it would never have included a positive characteristic like bravery - something considered inherently masculine.
    Last edited by Andrew Leon Hudson; November 12th, 2012 at 11:35 AM.

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