Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Attention: sex

I clarified the following Telegraph article to highlight what it’s really saying:

The first major public engagement of Liz Truss, the new Environment Secretary, at the Game Fair today could be overshadowed by her predecessor Owen Paterson.

Married Female Truss is due to visit the show at Blenheim Palace for breakfast before heading to a meeting of the Cabinet at Chequers, the official home of the Prime Minister.

But hours later, Male Paterson, who was sacked by Male Cameron in this week’s reshuffle, will visit the Countryside Alliance’s stand at the show, which is organised by the Country Landowners' Association. 

A friend of Male Paterson said the former Cabinet minister wanted to attend to show his solidarity with rural voters.

He said: “He is attending the Game Fair to show his personal support and solidarity with the countryside. His presence will be welcomed by many people there. He will do what he can from the backbenches to represent them.”

The friend said that it was likely to be “embarrassing” for Unmarried Female Truss that Male Paterson was appearing at the same show.

He said: “It is a little bit awkward – the new secretary of state is going up early so they don’t bump into the outgoing secretary of state.”

Tim Bonner, a spokesman from the Countryside Alliance, said: “There will be huge numbers of people at the Game Fair – more people go than go to Glastonbury.

“There will be hundreds of people in or around the stand and they will be keen to welcome him and offer their commiserations.”

He added that it was a “disappointment” that Male Paterson had been sacked: “We have to accept that the Prime Minister has the right to change his team.”

A spokesman at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that George Eustice, the farming minister, will be attending all morning.

Male Eustice will be touring the stands at the show and meeting with stakeholders in the rural economy.

Unmarried Female Truss said: “I am delighted to be appointed as Environment Secretary. I look forward to tackling the important issues facing our rural communities including championing British food, protecting people from flooding and improving the environment."

Earlier Unmarried Female Truss vowed to use “every tool in our toolbox” to eradicate bovine tuberculosis in cattle as Labour pressured for the “discredited” badger cull to end.

Unmarried Female Truss told MPs: “We are asking Natural England - a proper expert body - to assess the way that the culls are going and to look at what we can do in the future. [...]


A first question might be: why does the author switch titles when referring to Liz Truss? A second: so is she married or not? And a third: why does it even matter?

‘Mrs’ and ‘Miss’, or ‘married’ and ‘unmarried’ indicate women’s availability in a way that ‘Mr’ never has and never will. But in the context of politics (or any other context for that matter), why is marital availability of any importance?

Beyond this obvious disparity titles also indicate the sex of their bearer, i.e. ‘female’ or ‘male’. Again, why do we need to know whether a person is female or male?

Titles are often argued to be a respectful form of address, but what they are really addressing is a particular feature of the human body – a feature which, judging from the many euphemisms and swearwords in circulation, does not often evoke ‘respectability’.

Imagine replacing ‘female’ and ‘male’ with their definitions: addressing MPs with either ‘sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs’ and ‘sex that produces gametes, especially spermatozoa’ (OD) has a bit of a weird ring to it to say the least.

And taking it further, ‘married sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs’ and ‘unmarried sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs’ sounds even weirder.

In short: why would anyone need to know the reproductive availability of an MP? Why would anyone need to know their/our sex?

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