Neither of the terms midwife and doula have satisfactory gender-neutral counterparts or synonyms. The same is true of handyman, though one could argue that helper and jack-of-all-trades are gender-neutral. But the “jack” in jack-of-all-trades seems rather gender-specific (masculine) to me. Over time, American society has successfully extracted gender from various terms describing people who perform certain types of work, for example mailman or postman⇒postal carrier or mail carrier; headmaster (or headmistress)⇒head teacher; stewardess (or steward)⇒flight attendant; barmaid⇒bartender; etc. Expressing an obviously male-biased perspective, I wonder whether the energies we have put forth in acknowledging that vocations are not gender-specific is always worth the effort. We once called (and often still do) females who perform on stage and in film actresses. Their male counterparts were actors. Today, we try to avoid assigning gender stereotypes by calling those people, regardless of their gender, actors or performers. Back to the terms in the first sentence above: do we need gender-neutral terms for midwife or doula? And do we need terms for men who function in the same capacity? Would midhusband, for example, make any sense? I do not object in the least to using gender-neutral terms, provided they roll off the tongue with reasonable ease. But I wonder whether energies directed toward making ours a more egalitarian society might be put to better use in other ways. I have no specific suggestions; I just wonder. I am 110% and then some in favor of absolute equality, but I question whether replacing terms that may once have suggested a role performed by a male (or female) is especially important. It is easier for me to ask “who is the actress who starred in that film?” than to ask “who is the female actor who starred in that film?” My preference for ease may be sheer laziness; or it may be unintentional chauvinism. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being most important, this issue probably bounces between 2 and 4; at least in my mind.


The cover of the latest issue of Family Handyman magazine (that periodical could use an identity makeover, perhaps, to erase its overt preference for masculine helpers) includes a photograph of a dog crate. Inside the magazine, one can find plans for making it. I do not have a dog. Even if I did, I doubt I would need a dog crate. But the image of the crate and the plans inside the magazine tempt me to make one. Or, at least, to adapt the plans to make something else that features the same dark grey wood frame, set off by shiny copper tubing (which, in reality, is reminiscent of a jail cell). Fortunately, I do not have the tools to make such a product. If I did, though, I wonder whether I would try hard to justify in my mind creating something resembling the photograph on the magazine cover? In the past, covers of the magazine have featured lawn furniture, storage sheds, bathroom vanities, and various other projects. If I had the space and the tools, I might have built a storage shed or remodeled a bathroom; I would hot have built lawn furniture, though. I suppose certain images trigger the release of desires in my brain that are just waiting for something to set them off.


Ten, maybe twenty, years. That’s how long I give planet Earth before it rebels against humankind in earnest. And I may be too optimistic; March of 2024 could mark the beginning of the planetary revolution against its wannabe masters. Or even later this year. Perhaps the floods in the northeastern U.S. signal the beginning of the full-scale terrestrial rebellion. I realize I may be assigning unrealistic anthropomorphic characteristics to the planet, but that is only for effect. In fact, I think many of the planet’s systems are under so much human-caused stress that a natural reactive process is taking place that will, coincidentally (and not necessarily intentionally), address the infection. We humans are, indeed, part of the natural environment; but like viruses that run amok or cells that grow out of control in certain cancers, we are attacking our own host. If we do not stop, the host will either die or it will overwhelm and reject the deviant cells that have turned against it. The time to avoid the unavoidable may already have passed. But efforts to rob the viruses and aberrant cells of fuel are worth trying; that can do no more harm than we are doing now. I do wish I return to life one hundred years from now, just to see what we have done; and/or to see what a rebellious planet Earth accomplished after the tipping point was reached.


It is time for me to take out the trash, shave, take a shower, and ready myself for the day. I must still have hope. Otherwise, I would simply watch the world around me decay and ready itself for battle with its own cancerous invaders.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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