Saturday, October 28, 2006

Women in debt and passive language

Women in the UK are burdened with more than twice as much (139%) debt than men, according to the results of a new survey.

When you read or listen to sex issues reports in the media always be aware of how they are using language to imply responsibility or lack of for the actions of the people they are talking about.

For example, lets say that there is a woman called Susan, and she spent her youth partying and not studying or working hard towards anything in particular, and found herself in a low paying job as a toilet cleaner in her 30s. Now, who is responsible for Susan's situation. Susan herself, of course! But the way that modern thinking runs, we must HIDE this fact, or even imply that the situation has be thrust upon Susan against her own will by outside forces.

Now, look at the way the link at the top of this post is worded. "Women are burdened with more than twice as much debt."

Does saying someone is "burdened" acknowledge that they created the situation, or does it aim to hide the fact or imply that outside forces are responsible for pushing this debt on her against her will?

I would say the latter.

Later on in the article, a spokesman even says that women are being 'clobbered'. This is most definitely passive language. The woman as victim of outside forces.

Its not online yet, but there was a very good example of this passive use of language in the Daily Mail's report on this research. In it the spokesman said that women are more likely to go into debt because of the wage gap, and because of the fact that despite earning less money, they live in the same 'cost environment' as men.

Putting asside the myth of the wage gap for the moment, just think about what hes saying about women living in the same 'cost environment' as men. What this weird phrase is actually trying to do is say that women are SPENDING as much as men (in many cases) yet not earning as much to pay for it. Whilst there are a certain number of fixed costs that we all have to pay, the level of how much we spend on things varies dramatically. We don't all have to buy 100 pairs of shoes, dine out twice a week, have expensive holidays, have the latest expensive decor in our homes etc. So this phrase of women having to live within the same 'cost environment' has to be the most laughably bizarre example yet of translating the active into the passive in order to hide or deny women's responsibility for their own situation.

Ironically, its this flight from personal responsibility that is most likely the cause of women having more debt.

No comments: