“Women in general always make things an issue…”

You can feel it coming, can’t you? A student sentence that begins “Women…” never bodes well. This one begins “Women in general,” brightening that glimmer of dread into a definite yellow warning light: SWEEPING GENERALIZATION COMING! PROCEED WITH CAUTION! And the writer’s admission that he’s generalizing, possibly that what follows does not necessarily apply in every case, is then boldly swept aside by “always.” If only I could tell my student “RED LIGHT! STOP!” before he took the next step…but he was treading this path by night (read: the night before the paper was due, probably) in a dorm room far, far away, too far for me to sense the danger and too far for him to see the light even if I had flashed it.

He may feel confident in his generalization because it is, heaven knows, not new. He probably hears it, or something a lot like it, whenever he’s in the company of other males. It may be a lesson learned at his father’s knee: Women always make things an issue. *sigh*.

Talk about generalizations: “things”? “issue”?

But the sentence does nothing to explain, specify, or clarify. This generalization is not even, in fact, the point of the sentence. Wait for it:

“Women in general always make things an issue compared to men who simply brush problems off their shoulder.”

The recent thrilling discovery of the bones of Richard III tempts me almost irresistibly to riff on the idea of one-shouldered men, or men with one higher shoulder, perhaps, where problems land and from where said problems must therefore be brushed….

What my student envisions is hordes of obsessive, overreacting women, blowing small things out of proportion always, making a big deal always, and on the other side of the same road MEN (no need to say “in general” or “always,” “men” says it all)—nonchalant and debonair men, cavalier men perhaps, “simply” brushing everything off. My student has, presumably, never seen a man make “an issue” of anything, complicate anything, obsess over anything. Every man is Maurice Chevalier, strolling along, boater at a jaunty angle, one eyebrow raised, one corner of mouth ditto, Malacca cane tapping merrily alongside, and a song waiting to be crooned. Few problems would dare to alight on his well-tailored shoulder; those foolhardy enough to try are like dust under a valet’s brush.

Now you know the difference between men and women. Stay at home alone in your room without television, newspapers, telephone, or Internet if you don’t want to lose the brilliant clarity of the distinction.

Well, you see he was right. I could have brushed his sentence off; but, woman that I am, I made it an issue.

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

5 responses to ““Women in general always make things an issue…”

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