Posted by John Borst on Mar 15, 2019
If women are equal to men in Rotary, why is it then that we frequently see the term “Lady Rotarian” but never the term Gentleman Rotarian?

 

 
there is no need for the term Lady
 
as  the term 'rotarian' is gender neutral 
 
Is it because the noun lady can be both plural and singular while Gentleman is plural?
 
I suspect few of us have any difficulty with the phrase “Ladies and Gentleman” even in this day and age.
 
I do, however, find it grating when I see a woman referred to as the “Lady Rotarian, ”even more so when capitalised.
 
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “a lady with a capital letter refers to someone of high standing probably married to a lord or baron” while Dictionary.com describes it to mean “refined, polite woman” and “woman of high social position.”
 
If we compare that to the gentleman, we find the term means a chivalrous, courteous, or honourable man and a man of good social position, especially one of wealth and leisure.
 
I think language matters and there is a disparity at work here.  Although not overtly perceivable, it is none-the-less present in very subtle ways. For example, Gentleman is now perceived as outdated while lady is not. As a result, it is seen more often. As Clár McWeeney, has written at Cue, “ This is a problem — it adds to damaging notions of femininity, where women are still meant to be, or are inherently, demure and gentle. When female adults are referred to as “ladies,” there’s typically a patronizing attitude present.”
 
Terms such as the “lunch lady” or the “cleaning lady” trivialise not only the work women do but women too. In contrast, saying something is “men’s work” gives it power and might and creates status. Hence attaching gender stereotypes to work roles reaffirms gender divisions in vocational areas something we should not do in Rotary. Whereas it is common to see lady associated with more demeaning jobs, it is most uncommon to see high-status jobs such as doctor described as the “lady doctor” or “doctor lady”. We recognise it as patronising. Instead, we use the term “woman doctor.”
 
Anne Freidman at The New Yorker has decried how the feminist linguist Lakoff, has “pointed out that no such dichotomy existed for men: “Garbage man or salesman is the only possibility, never garbage gentleman.” Likewise, feminists argued, “woman” should be the neutral default. The same should hold true for female Rotarians.
 
In this the Thirtieth Year of Women in Rotary let’s make a commitment to ending the term “Lady Rotarian”. 
Sponsors