So what’s in a name? A lot.
We hope Nashua has started something.
Recently, our sister newspaper, the daily Telegraph of Nashua, reported that “some new terminology” was being used at meetings of the city’s official governing body: When Pamela Brown was sworn in to represent Ward 4, she “received the go-ahead from her colleagues … to use the title ‘alderwoman’.”
To which we say: Excellent.
We could ask: What took so long?
But we won’t. Nashua is Nashua and free to do as it wishes with little comment from us except in cases such as this when we can ask this question of our Cabinet towns: So? What’s keeping you?
Of course at the moment, only one of the five towns we cover has a woman on its governing body. That would be Milford, where “Selectman” Kathy Bauer has served for several years. Milford has had women board members in the past, notably “Selectman” Marilyn Kenison and, quite a few years ago, “Selectman” May Gaffney.
Everybody was, and still is, a selectman.
You might ask: Is it a big deal?
Well, yes. One could certainly argue that the designation is not meant to be derogatory, and we would agree, but neither does “selectman” or “alderman” or “councilman” lend any support to the idea that women have an equal place in local government. Flip the dynamic and ask yourself how men would feel if, nearly 100 years after women finally gave them the vote in some, say, Amazonian society, officials were still referred to as, oh, “councilwomen.” Would men not want to have their own designation, one that clearly afforded them equal status?
We are not even hinting, not even suggesting, that Milford would do or does anything to diminish the status of women. Quite the contrary. It was only a few years ago that the chairmen (uh oh) of the five official town boards were all women. And, yes, they were called chairmen unless someone opted to use the really insipid term “chair,” as in selectmen’s Chair Joan Smith. Really? Chair?
Actually, that’s quite an insult, a “chair” being an inanimate object. Why not sofa? Melissa McGruder, School Board sofa, said today … Doesn’t really work, does it? Neither does “chair.” It’s a weasly way to get around actually doing something.
Anyway, the probability is that Milford hasn’t done anything about it because no one’s brought it up. Knowing Kathy Bauer, she would consider such an issue really low on her priorities list.
We, on the other hand, don’t have a town to run, as Ms. Bauer does (with, of course, some manly help), so we can push it around on our priorities list to any place we choose.
Right now, we push it right to the top of our editorial page if for no other reason the loathing in which we hold the word “chair.”
And we know it will take people a bit of time to get used to the term “selectwoman,” but when Gloria Steinem first proposed using Ms. instead of Miss or Mrs. (for which there is no masculine equivalent), people scoffed, people balked and then people got used to it and now it is in general use, even in the august pages of The New York Times.
So, let’s do it.