Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sexism and the English language

I love writing alien romance in part because it allows me to comment on our society and our ingrained beliefs without being offensive... I hope.

This weekend, I've been going over the copy-edits of my most recent romance, Knight's Fork, which is due for release in October 2008.

It's been a delightful and instructive experience. I've inferred that my copy-editor is an erudite, scholarly, English professorial type of the male persuasion.

Possibly, I've enjoyed a similar mixture of glee and embarrassment to that reported by RomVet Cindy Dees.

Cindy Dees recounted that a lieutenant colonel in the lowest regions of The White House had to read her slightly steamy Romance novels to make sure that no Cindy Dees fictional action adventures accidentally betrayed the sitting President's secrets.

Cindy Dees, Lise Fuller, Lynn Hardy, Larissa Ione, and Ashley Ladd were my guests last night on a special radio program in honor of Armed Forces Day and Lynn Hardy's organization which sends books to members of the armed forces who are desperately bored during their down-time while deployed overseas.

Back to my copy-editing.

In this scene from KNIGHT'S FORK, the hero, 'Rhett has just shared the contents of a letter from his grandmother. The letter summarizes family history.

One name she had heard recently. “The toddler who was a terror, Djetthro-Jason. Is that my sister’s new Mate? He spoke to me at your fortune-telling.”

’Rhett nodded, unsmiling. “He’s my half brother. His mother, Djavena, was my mother, too. My father married—on Earth, they call Mating “marrying”—three times. My mother, Djavena, also was Mated three times. Three brothers had her, one after the other. She got passed around.”

His mother had three Mates.

Electra noted his casually brutal tone, and also the doing word-choice for his father’s sex life, and the done to wording for his mother, as if Djavena hadn’t had a choice. Possibly ’Rhett’s view of females had been affected…and also his attitude toward sex.

Au: means this is a question for the author. The comments pertain to the last paragraph.

Au: this doesn’t seem to refer to anything above; delete?
Au: ‘the had her wording for his mother’ ? [is ‘done to’ from an early draft?]

Did you notice the difference between the Active and Passive constructions? Did you notice the Subjects and the Objects of the phrases and sentences?

I did it deliberately, of course.
Surely, it doesn't take an alien, or an immigrant, or a feminist to notice the subtle sexism in our language, does it?

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry


  1. Thanks again, Rowena, for a wonderful radio show! I'm still blushing with embarassment over the one weather question that I totally misunderstood! So much going on around me with the Coast Guard dinner, but at least Cindy Dees came in for the rescue to get me on track! LOL

    Anyway, thanks again. It was fun, and such a great cause!

  2. I'm wondering if this is fighting an old war that's long since forgotten and fighting it with an antique weapon.

    Yes, we're seeing "sexism" bandied about in the Presidential contests at the moment, but it sounds lame and distracting, which is why I wanted to insert this comment here.

    I think we need a new battlefield and new weapons to carry this revolution to the next level.

    And frankly, I think Alien Romance on TELEVISION will define that battlefield and its weapons for the general public.

    Anyone seen MOONLIGHT recently? They're broadcasting new shows.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg