The market, Salonica

The market, Salonica
The market, Salonica

Sunday, 14 December 2014

I nearly wrote the phrase ‘thick with sleep’

I nearly wrote the phrase thick with sleep, but it came into my head too easily.  It must have been used before.  I did a Google search, and this came up, by an author rated in the book clubs:
‘At night, the house thick with sleep, she would peer out her bedroom window at the trees and sky and feel the presence of a mystery.’
It’s going to be a thriller, you can feel it.  The tickle of mystery will turn into assault, but, for the moment, you’re safe and warm.  The style is reassuring – the clichés and the flat rhythm.  There’s a good read here, you won’t be too surprised, or too upset, and you’ll be home safe and warm at the end. 
She peered out.  A woman’s point of view, and they don’t like everything.  I was sitting in the staff room at the girls’ school.  Some teachers were discussing Fifty Shades of Grey.  A young lady said it was demeaning to women, and not well-written. I’ve read enough to know that men are in it, too.  You could just as well say it was demeaning to them, or to no one.  Whether it’s well-written, how many books are?
After lunch, an even younger lady opened the book in front of me.  Year 10 Science.  Fifty Shades of Grey.  I couldn’t say no.  She had finished her work.  She wasn’t a bad girl, like those who sit on the classroom floor, smoke e-cigarettes, and don’t read at all.  I took the book from her, quite casually, looked at the page she was reading, then gave it back.  I said it was Harry Potter for adults.  She disagreed.  I meant how the volume felt in my hand, plump and shiny.  Other girls had copies, too, or a different book in the series, on the desk beside them, or in their bags.  They were doing the classwork first. 
Good girls do what Sir says.  An academic recently complained that calling teachers Sir or Miss is “depressing, sexist and gives women in schools a lower status than their male counterparts.”  The BBC quoted: ‘Sir is a knight... but Miss is ridiculous - it doesn't match Sir at all.’
In the classroom it does.  A word can have more than one meaning, and context will determine which.  In the classroom, Sir is not a knight, and Miss is not ridiculous.  I have taught in schools where the children use Sir and Madam, like a formal letter.  It’s so equal it hurts.  Let Miss teach; let her run her school, and Madam run her brothel. 
We can’t say Headmistress, either.  It means ‘top lover,’ from the male point of view.  I still prefer Miss.  Your Mrs isn’t usually your lover.  We need to look at menopause, and the expression Oh boy!  But there’s one more problem.  We can’t fix everything.  There aren’t enough words to go round.  
For some of us, there are still too many pronouns.  She peered out.  Or he, or it.  In a book club interview, a writer explained why she used the pronoun she for both male and female characters.  She had tried using he for everybody, but ‘it reinforced the idea of a masculine default, and did nothing at all to make the world seem gender-neutral or uncaring about gender.’
So she replaced one gender pronoun with another.

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