Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sexism Impedes Good Grammar

That? Right there? Is a Real Life headline. Granted, it's in the Winnipeg Free Press, but this is a headline that exists out in the world, and in a print version!

Now, reading that, you'd be excused if you thought the lightning had killed its girlfriend. And maybe wonder when it was that electric bolts could form interpersonal bonds - or you may be more open-minded than I am and have no problem with atmospheric forces-and-human relationships. Either way.

Except, as you'd probably figured out after a minute, lightning didn't kill its girlfriend. Lightning killed someone else's girlfriend.

And here's where sexism messes with grammar. It would have been just as easy to say, "Lightning Kills Hiker" or "Lightning Kills Woman". And both would be correct, and both would be immediately more accurate, because it wouldn't allow for the woman in question to be connected romantically to the weather event that caused her demise.

But there was a need to make the woman defined in relation to someone else. A male someone else. And the story told in blurb form takes shape mostly around this male someone else's story, and his plans to offer a ring of engagement. So, instead of being about the woman, and how she died before her boyfriend proposed, it becomes about the man, and how his girlfriend died before he could propose. Being that this was, I hope, supposed to be an article about the death of this particular woman, I would think it would make more sense for the writers to try to portray the former rather than the latter. I would think wrong.

That is sexism in action. And it leads to poor headline construction, which is a travesty in its own right.

H/T to superior olive at Shakesville.


John said...

Fun with punctuation marks!

The more reasonable "Lightning kills girl, friend"

or the sassy "Lightning kills, girlfriend!"

For a split second I thought it might've helped if they had done that typical newspaper thing and thrown "area" in, but referring to someone as "area girlfriend" makes her sound like she's sleeping with everybody in town, and that is also bad.

petpluto said...

I like the sassy one. It then sounds like a PSA announcement!

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