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Putting the 'Y' in Man

April 6, 2010

Jesse Blumenthal
Putting the 'Y' in Man

Last week was the beginning of silly season here at the Claremont Colleges. Strewn throughout 5C dining halls, fliers can be found the promotion of “Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.” I didn’t know about it, though perhaps I am simply aloof. For those of you who are similarly situated, a quick Google search will inform you that April is also Amateur Radio Month, Financial Literacy Month, Fair Housing Month, Alcohol Awareness Month, and Mathematics Awareness Month! Yay, Math! Now I’m as much in favor of silly pretend holidays (see Chavez, Caesar) as the next person, but I think this flier pushed the envelope.

You see, dear reader, in an apparent homage to 1970s liberation tomfoolery— yes, tomfoolery— in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, on April 30, Pomona College will play host to “Write on Right On & Womyn of the World workshop.”  Now, I am not so dense as to not understand why the placer of this advertisement (a certain[1] would intentionally misspell the word ‘woman.’ I just think it’s stupid.

Misspelling the term ‘woman’ is an effort by she-who-cannot-be-named (because of her indecipherable e-mail address) to take back the term from males who have plighted her people throughout history. The success of such a tactic is dubious. It may make Ms. Ptn02006 feel like flowers and rainbows inside to stick it to the man with her offending Y, but little other than my personal wasting of time seems to have been accomplished. Why is that? It is because great social change, throughout history, has come through concerted efforts by engaged individuals—not by frustrating your Microsoft Word spellchecker.

If you’ve made it this far into my ramble, I’d also like to call your attention to the doodles which grace the bottom of the flier. Pomona looks somewhat brownnose-y, but otherwise normal. The Scrippsie looks just as peppy as one could hope to be. Mr. CMC, however, seems oddly out of place—how prescient. The CMC logo seems strewn across the ground, rather disrespectfully. Mr. Mudd glares on in obvious glee at our misfortune. Such an affront to our collective honor cannot stand. Don’t worry about Lady Pitzer, who seems near tears (I’m not sure why, but I bet whatever the cause is will be soon delivered to me via Biasrelatedincident-mail). Why are the cartoons relevant? Because even the cartoonist realizes that any good CMCer would find this whole charade inane.

My point is this: there is no reasonable person who seriously believes that intentionally misspelling a word advances a cause. These kinds of statements serve only give the appearance of progress at the expense of common courtesy. Prior to the formalization of language, several centuries ago, spellings varied from region to region and from person to person. Man has formalized most spellings (though the Brits do love their 'u’s) largely out of convenience, but also out of respect for one’s reader. Ms. Ptn02006 has ignored this convention, and has even flouted it, out of some entitled sense of having been wronged by the virtue of her gender. Admittedly, the issue of a table flier in a dining hall is trivial— but it is the broader affront to convention, for the sake of petty politics only relevant to a college campus in a time warp, that is worth considering.

I await your angry comments.


[1]Also, on an unrelated point, Pomona has incomprehensible email addresses and should really do something about them.

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