Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Of female nurses and male drivers

It does cause one to wonder what circumstances would have to obtain for our friends at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network to write a hed saying "male zookeeper," doesn't it?

We have cliches like "man bites dog," after all, because news is about the unusual, and to have an unusual, you have to have a usual -- a natural state of things in which women don't tend large animals or operate heavy machinery and men don't do girly stuff like teach primary school. Hence the persistence of double-marked ledes like this one, in which the pronoun makes the modifying "male" unnecessary:
A male nurse who exposed himself and a fondled a female colleague at an old folks home faces being struck off.

Or this:
Prosecutors are reviewing a case against a 17-year-old suspected female drunken driver who crashed in September, killing her passenger.

Those are more extreme than the case at hand, but they're still reminders that how we portray the world says a lot about how we view the world. Readers can't tell what you meant from your choice of modifiers, but they're likely to have a pretty clear idea of what you said.


Anonymous raYb said...

So, what was the elephant's sex? I really want to know because it could be pertinent to the elephant's motivation. And why was the driver in the second lede a suspected of being female?

7:35 PM, April 25, 2012  
Blogger fev said...

We wouldn't be having this trouble if we hadn't given elephants the dern vote in the first place.

8:55 PM, April 25, 2012  

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