Note: This post contains graphic language. Apologies in advance.
I spoke with an AP reporter last Friday about a subject from a few years ago working its way to completion – adapting state codes to use more gender neutral language. Former Councilmember Jan Drago and I came across the word “fireman” when looking at the 2006 City budget for fire pensions. That seemed like odd language given how many women serve now in the Seattle Fire Department. When we asked staff they said the wording came from state codes. State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles took notice and the state has been working little by little every year to modernize words in state code.
The reporter called me to ask if I had any reaction to the project winding up in this legislative session. You can see the resulting story here. I was taken by surprise to get the reporter’s call. To be honest, I had forgotten about this project.
I had also forgotten about the few, but aggressive, people who had strongly negative things to say about this endeavor back in 2007. Apparently, the antipathy runs strong in some still. From my email inbox today:
“Please tell me if this is politically correct ? I just saw a photo of you on Google and it’s pretty obvious to me that you are a very mad-frustrated and angry Lesbian that hates men. I truly hope that you contract extremely painful rectal cancer and slowly die while your family and two friends watch helplessly
ps, you can remove All refrences to the words Men or Man but you will Never be as good as one.”
The smiley face is a great touch on that one. Another:
“As a Woman I find it pathetic that women like you are so insecure that you feel the need to BAN words simply because the word “MEN” or “MAN” is part of the word. Really? Do you realize just how STUPID all of this nonsense is? What is it with you Liberal Feminists that you hate “MEN” so much that you feel the need to find insignificant reasons to be OFFENDED. YOU and others who think like you are OFFENSIVE. All of this POLITICALLY CORRECT CRAP is destroying our Constitutional Republic. Which is the GOAL of the Radical Left Wing Progressive Liberal Socialist Pinheads.
We have a lot of issues that are far more important then all of this PETTY Liberal Progressive BULL*** . As a woman who grew up on a DAIRY FARM the WORD DAIRYMAN or DAIRYMEN is the CORRECT word. I don’t find it offensive at all. Why? Because I am secure in my person of being a WOMAN. Oh why look at that. The word MAN is in the word WOMAN. What should we CHANGE that to? (((WOMEN)))<<<< Are you starting to open your mind up and realize just how stupid all of this is?”
“With the debt crisis as well as many other things that need tending to, I find it shameful that you people would waste time and money on something so trivial.
Folks like you and the other elected officials that wasted tax payer monies on this should be fired immediately!
Parents put there children in time out. That doesn’t work. People need to ‘get over it’ if their feelings are hurt.
Such a bad example you’re setting.”
To this last sender’s point about cost, staff in Olympia answered that concern by reminding enquiring lawmakers that much of the work is done by the find/replace commands in word processing software. In some cases they’ve left the original wording because there is yet no gender neutral substitute. So be it. My goal for this project was to have our government (the one that serves and is made up by all of us) better reflect all of us rather than just half of us. I think that’s important enough to give a little thought and effort.
I don’t get a lot of vitriolic email so these stand out. Even with all the high-profile, high-stakes issues we do deal with, it’s gender neutral code language that pushes these people to take the time to find my email address (admittedly not difficult), compose a high-octane message and hit send. These emails remind me our work is far from over.