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Is Feminism Being Lost in Translation?


When I was young and reading Robert A. Heinlein,(as opposed to now that I’m older and reading Robert A. Heinlein), I was puzzled when I came across a sentence in which he, or at least his character, implied that men and women might be different species, not just symbionts.

Yes, I do know he was making a joke. In the same way I know the people who continuously say that men and women are exactly the same aren’t.

Neither statement is true, of course, not even at the utmost end of statistical oddity.

But I recently became aware that I speak something that’s not my native language, and no, I don’t mean English. English too, of course, but also… I do not speak female.

I became aware of this due to a commenter on my blog (who is a woman but also apparently doesn’t speak female too well) who told of a situation she’d run into that illuminated all my difficulties in female-dominated environments.

It also explains a lot of other things, such as why women think they’re discriminated against in work environments, that civilization is a tool of the patriarchy, and that everyone – including females who don’t speak fluent female – are out to get them.

The anecdote my commenter told, stripped of identifiers to protect the guilty, went as follows:

Commenter, engaged in some task for which she’d been given a newbie as a helper, got approached by one of her superiors. “If you could spare Newbie and don’t mind,” the superior said. “She’d be really helpful folding the shipments.”

Since Commenter couldn’t spare Newbie and still get her task accomplished, she said, “I can’t spare Newbie.”

Superior went away obviously fuming, much to Commenter’s confusion. For two days, tension prevailed, and then Commenter asked why Superior was being cold and distant. At which point she was treated to a rant about how Superior should have fired her or disciplined her for refusing to obey an order.

Deep breath.

I keep running into this.

Blame the fact that I was closest to my brother and his group, and that I read a lot of books designed for males. Oh, also that in my training, I was in a country where work (and academia) was still dominated by males. I instinctively learned to speak their language to the point I don’t notice I do it.

Sure, I’m still bashful and close to timid in public (more so now that my work is done in solitude and I am, therefore, all out of practice speaking to human beings). In social situations, I’ll still say “if you would please — if it’s not too much work — could you give me that cup from the upper shelf?” But then again, I also won’t be mad at you if you say it’s too much work. And if there’s an emergency, I’ll be the one to bellow “Move your buns out, now.”