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  1. #15
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Mar 2003
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    Okay, let's try this again. Fairer sex means women. Women were the fairer sex because they were supposed to be (should be) pretty, nicer and gentler than men -- weaker, to be protected, etc. This was not a compliment. It was meant in past society to denote the woman's social role and to constrict her behavior. As in, "women are the fairer sex. They aren't cut out to be doctors." It was a paternalistic designation of women as different from men -- nicer, daintier, delicate and fragile (weaker,) beautiful for men to look at and care for -- unable to do things men could do, child-like. Fair in this context meant "not rough or coarse" as in fair fabric, because women were assumed to be automatically more genteel (i.e. softer, kinder, less inclined to protest,) than men. And if a woman wasn't polite, nice, fragile, dedicated only to childrearing, etc., then she wasn't being a proper member of the fairer sex, she was being coarse and man-like, not being a lady and obeying all the positive pretty attributes of womenhood attached to her role as the "fairer sex." Like say, demanding the right to vote or a living wage. The description of women as super terrific, beautiful, morally superior and to be worshiped on a pedestal may sound positive but that's not how it was used in past (and many current) societies. It was used to try to keep women in a social role that was secondary to males and used along with many other ways of talking about women to deny her rights and opportunities in the society. It's part of paternalistic speech with a historical context, such as calling women little lady, missy, etc.

    So if you have an old timey character in a historical context saying "the fairer sex" it isn't a particular issue. They did use it, it was thought to be poetic. (Also paternalistic.) But glutton was in the modern day and talking about a work of fiction, not using fairer sex in a work of fiction. And glutton was using it ironically -- a hardcore female warrior is not refined, gentle, nice, delicate, beautiful, etc., but instead rough, coarse and violent -- attributes traditionally associated with being male. So the irony of the use was that the warriors were the opposite of the meaning of the fairer sex, being manlike and coarse, but as women were called the fairer sex as if they had those qualities, since it is a term meaning women. It was supposed to be funny. But because the stereotype of the sexy kick-ass female fighter is also a paternalistic, women cooler for being like men but with boobs, worshiping for men to look at fantasy, putting it in contrast to fairer sex was not necessarily that ironic or funny for some. If a female fighter character referred to herself ironically as the fairer sex, that would be funny, as she would be turning the woman's role designated for her as a woman, to which she does not fit, back on itself. But glutton's use just may have been seen as clueless on historical context and reinforcing stereotypes of women that are paternalistic. Paternalism isn't always about saying negative things to women, but in setting up structures, including language, meant to constrict and control women's behavior and roles in society to secondary, child-like status, and make those the norm, not to be challenged.

    Another use of the word "fair" is of course pale skin. But "fairer sex" refers to all women, not just white women. So if the criticism glutton encountered was along racial lines, there may have been some confusion or other context of which we are not aware.
    Last edited by KatG; November 12th, 2012 at 04:42 PM.

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