June 2018

The United States has withdrawn from the United Nations Human Rights Council, the world's most important human rights body.

I know I've been raving on about words even more than usual lately, but that's because to abuse language is to abuse thought itself, and we are drowning in abuses of thinking. Rethinking refreshes the mind.

There's no way I could or would avoid addressing last week's flap over Samantha Bee’s use of "the C word" about Ivanka Trump. My favorite responses to the outrage over the comedian’s use of the word were both by actors, and both showed wit. Minnie Driver tweeted, "That was the wrong word for Samantha Bee to have used. But mostly because Ivanka has neither the warmth nor the depth." And my friend Sally Field tweeted, "I like Samantha Bee a lot, but she is flat wrong to call Ivanka a cunt. A cunt is powerful, beautiful, nurturing, and honest." Etymologically speaking, Sally is close to the mark. The word currently spelled in English c-u-n-t is actually one of the oldest words in the English language. Linguistic scholars believe it to be derived from Indo-European names for the Great Goddess, variously known as Cunti or Kunda, the Yoni (Door) to the Universe—the...

Recently I spoke with one of the gutsy professional cheerleaders who has registered a formal complaint with the EEOC regarding NFL sex discrimination. You probably have read about the horrendous treatment meted out to cheerleaders, by management and team owners, as well as by boozed-up, testosterone-poisoned fans at games. She said something that particularly struck me as familiar. In dismissing the notion that perhaps sexism was inherent in cheerleading itself, she repositioned it as "dancing." It actually is, of course, requiring dance training plus sometimes onerous gymnastics—but without the respect paid to the Rockettes as artists or to gymnasts as sportswomen. 
Yet cheerleading isn't simply dancing, and isn’t gymnastics. Cheerleading has been created, formalized, commercialized, and positioned by team owners and fans as sexist entertainment, and they treat it as such, despite the expertise of those performing the cheerleading. Strippers also call themselves dancers. But you...