What’s in a Name? A Rose By Any Other Name…

Words are just noises we use to communicate with each other. To the extent that we agree on the meanings of the words we use, we are able to communicate well.

Words have denotative and connotative meanings. Denotative meanings are the ones found in dictionaries. Connotative meanings are all the other baggage a word carries, and are often not in the dictionary.

As we have all experienced to some extent, words can bring joy or sorrow, help or hurt, uplift or oppress. And some of the worst oppression, we bring upon ourselves with the words we use.

One of the most common ways we oppress ourselves is by using diminishing words to describe ourselves. The most common example I know of is the use of the word “girl” in referring to adult females. Women are adults. Girls are children. Yet we commonly hear “The girls at the office.” “We girls.” “What’s a girl to do?”

Isn’t it interesting that when we refer to men as children, it is when they are doing trivial or irresponsible stuff? “The boys went bowling.” “The boys got drunk.” “Boys will be boys.”

“The boys” don’t hold board meetings or make war decisions or even simply do day-to-day work. “Men” do all that. Or, if we want to be informal, perhaps “The guys.”

But “The girls” do the office work. “The girls” raise the children. “The girls” run the household. Is it any wonder that work, any work, done by women is undervalued?

Perhaps if we recognized that adults are doing the work, the adults would be appreciated, and respected, and paid, as adults. Yet, even when women cheer on excellence or assertiveness in other women, a phrase commonly heard is, “You go, girl!”

The most effective oppression is done by those oppressed. And women lead the way in referring to themselves as “the girls”. Isn’t it time we ALL stopped doing this?

After all, we learned to stop using the “n” word.

What do you think?

The Competent, the Incompetent, and Us

Years ago, Susan Clark shared with me “The curse of the competent.” It is encapsulated in the phrase “That’s not hard, I did it.” People have a blind spot for their competency: they don’t realize that some things that are easy for them are not easy for others.

Sue is also the source of “The curse of the incompetent.” People do not know when they are incompetent.

They key, of course, is that we are all competent at some things and incompetent at others. Some of us glory in our competencies and don’t realize our incompetencies. Others are weighted down by our incompetencies and don’t give ourselves credit for our competencies.

After some years thinking about this (not full time – I am not that incompetent!) I came to the understanding of our essential need for diversity: Life is challenge, filled with change. For any one person, the challenge may be in their area of competence or not. If it is, a positive response to the challenge is probable. If the challenge is in a area of incompetency, a positive response is unlikely.

The importance of diversity is that if we value everyone’s contributions, we will, as a group, be able to cover our incompetencies with others’ competencies, vastly increasing the chances of a positive response to challenge.

It doesn’t take a high level of competence to see that we should be glorying in diversity, and celebrating ourselves and others.

Particularly now, in this time of multiple serious challenges.

What do you think?