This may come as a shock, but I am not a “Lady Geologist.” I do not examine women visually and use lab tests in order to understand their physical properties, provenance, and environment of deposition. I have never gone up to a female stranger, hammered a chunk off of her, and sent it to the lab so I could determine the abundance of her constituent minerals. That kind of thing would, I assume, land me in jail.
I’m a Sedimentary Geologist. I commit those sorts of friendly acts on sedimentary rocks, which are mineralogically more interesting and also don’t mind if you take a hammer to them. (Okay maybe they do mind, but they have no legal standing under current US law.)
I would likewise think that “Lady Lawyers” don’t limit themselves to female clients. And “Lady Engineers” don’t spend their time designing more durable women in AutoCAD. And “Lady Writers” (this I can speak to personally) don’t just write women or about women. And “Lady Editors” don’t leave trails of women in their wake, panting and covered with marks made in track changes.
Oh, right. The “Lady” is supposed to indicate that we’re a professional of some sort that happens to be a lady. And what’s wrong with that?
It’s simple. By feeling the need to point out that holy shit, that engineer is a woman, you are paying lip service to the idea that it’s only normal for men to be engineers. That women are the exception instead of just a normal part of the professional landscape. When you append or job titles with the unnecessary flag of gender, it effectively removes us from the work ecosystem and marks us as an invasive species, abnormal and not belonging.
Maybe I could have understood that more back when women were just starting to claw our way as a group out of the role of housewife, but our presence in the workforce hasn’t been a surprise in decades or far longer. (At my ripe old age of 32, I literally do not remember a time when women were not doctors, lawyers, and engineers, though admittedly not without struggle.) It isn’t shocking–SHOCKING!–that women write scifi. You have heard about this little book called Frankenstein, right?
And using the word Lady instead of Woman? Just makes it sound more cutesy and condescending because it’s a callback to all that chivalry bullshit. I’m not a lady, guys. I’m a woman. I’ve yet to hear someone referred to as a Lady Anything when her accomplishments or her gender weren’t then subsequently (if subtly) belittled. Wow, look what she did, and she’s a lady! Look what that lady did, unlike all those other women! Pretending to be amazed over and over again that we are here and working and doing just fine effectively erases our presence in the past.
Do you get what I’m saying? Do you get why I (and many of my fellow women, though please don’t think I am in any way claiming to speak for all women) are getting a little tired of that shit? Do you get why, even if it wasn’t meant to be patronizing or paternalistic, it might sound that way?
Good. Now kindly knock it off.
When I’m at work, I’m a goddamn Sedimentary Geologist. I’m a Writer. The presence or absence of tits does not change either of these facts.