I had a few concerned messages concerning last Thursday’s post, and I just wanted to clarify that my Munch-ian post was a tongue in cheek attempt to capture our general zeitgeist, not some horrible news on my part! Also, fun fact: the original Norwegian title was “Skrik”, or shriek. Also, does anyone else get a Macauley Culkin from “Home Alone” vibe whenever they see that painting?
Also, it brings to mind the exhortation of Japanese amusement park management that roller coaster riders not scream aloud, but rather “scream in (their) hearts“.
OK, on to the main part of today’s discussion.
Words are important to me as a writer. They are even more important now as they offer my major creative outlet during this forced pause in music-making. I try to be very careful about my use of words, because I understand the weight they carry, and and I am sensitive to the way others use them.
As I’ve been spending more time curating my presence on various social media platforms, I’ve received, via comments, DMs, messages from my website etc., more communication from a wider variety of people on a more consistent basis than I ever have before. And there are a lot of words being used that make me unhappy, and I have a feeling that they might make others unhappy too, and thus are worth discussing here.
So, let me dissect one of my least favorite phrases.
It is never appropriate to call someone, especially me, a “young lady”. Well, OK, you could call me “young lady” if I were 16 and you were my grandfather, or if I were 16 and you were my mother admonishing me for some teenage transgression. Since none of these scenarios are true, it’s best not to call me a “young lady”.
“Young lady” is patronizing at best, demeaning at worst. If it is being used as a supposed term of endearment, I would suggest a long, hard look at the meaning behind the phrase, given the nuance of implied authority.
First, “lady” is a British title, or something girlfriends lightheartedly call each other.
Second, “young”. I know I look “young”. I know that “young” is a relative term. However, why are we putting age into consideration? What is being implied?
That because I’m “young” I have “so much ahead of me” (written by more than one well-meaning social media follower)? Well, first off it’s untrue. I am middle aged. At very best I might have as many years ahead of me as behind me, but that’s being a bit optimistic. Second, this comment implies that I’m in some sort of nascent stage of my life/career, when in truth I’ve been in the music for 20 some-odd years, and at this point I am mentoring, not being mentored. By defining me by “youth”, assumptions are then being made about my skills or experiences based on an extremely superficial assessment. And I’m immediately infantilized.
That being called “young” is somehow a compliment? I know I appear much younger than my biological age (by the way, does anyone else feel like they’re permanently 29, or is it just me?), and I suppose that this is beneficial given our society’s obsessive focus on youth. But I don’t need to be reminded of this. There are some marvelous aspects to getting older (as well as the creaks and pains), and being denied the respect of experience and accomplishment and sense of self because of this obsession with youth is painful to witness.
And how is age germane to any conversation that doesn’t involve voting, drinking, or AARP?
As women, we are constantly scrutinized. What we wear, how we wear it, the shape and weight of our bodies, the lines on our faces. We are expected to inhabit some strange world of permanent youth, an impossible suspension of time. We are judged by our appearances – as if toned biceps (but not too muscular, please) and wrinkle-free eyes (thank you Botox) were some indication of competence or character.
As all women, I’m on the receiving end of constant commentary that belies this scrutiny, no matter how well-meaning. It is belittling. It is exhausting. It is infuriating. And there are so many ways, and on a daily basis, that we live with these indignities, big and small.
Which is all to say, please, please, never call me a young lady.