… as seen on the Edmonton bus system:
(c) 2016, Davd
On the way to church one recent morning, the bus was at least half full. Edmonton City Transit was making expenses, i’d say, maybe doing better than that, on that post rush hour run; and i was glad; because the more people ride the buses, the more likely they will be rescheduled to run more often. Nobody i have ever met likes waiting around for a bus in January in Canada’s Prairie Provinces.
I did find a seat facing the back door, with an empty seat between me and a young man. After a mile or two, he got off, and soon a young woman who had just got on, took the seat he had been using. There was one empty seat between her and me; and i was thinking mostly about the church service i was headed toward, but also about where the bus was along its route and how soon it might reach the stop where i should “get off and walk.”
She got out her mobile telephone and called someone. Her first remarks were about food; and then, as or shortly after the bus crossed the Yellowhead Highway, i began to hear “F[***]” and “S[***].*” I listened just enough to make sure that—as i expected—she was not referring to copulation, nor defecation. The rude words were used for some other reason, than to say what they mean.
For two or three miles she continued to use those words, never that i noticed to mean anything like their meaning in say, cattle or pig farming. She did not shout them, but they were the most prominent words she said; i’m more than 90% convinced that if she used any other words as often, those were common words like “and”, “he,” “if”, “she”, and “the”. Nobody tried to offer her any lessons in good manners; all of the 30-50 people on that bus ignored, or pretended to ignore, the “vulgarity”
I don’t mind hearing those words used accurately*. Indeed, i use them myself on those fairly rare occasions when i am talking about what they mean—and am not in the hearing of someone who i know considers them offensive, nor in a place full of strangers like (for instance) a city bus.
It occurred to me, as i was getting off the bus to walk to the church, that i haven’t heard any men, or boys, using those same words on a bus. If i or another man on the bus had used them equally often, methinks he very, very likely would have been shamed. If 50-60 years ago the F-word and the S-word were sometimes tolerated when spoken by working-class men and larger boys, but forbidden to decent women and girls; today the reverse is true.
One week later, on the same midweek “ride to church” a different woman, of a different race, was repeatedly “foul mouthed” on the bus; and again, no one intervened.
I don’t know the women’s names; i don’t want to know them. Neither is a personage to me, any more than the “foul mouthed” boys and occasional young men were, who used such language on street corners in the 1950s. What’s important about them, from my perspective anyway, is that they each used that kind of language, many times, without good reason, in a confined public bus full of strangers; and even more important, were tolerated, more tolerated than if they had been male.
This is not a statistical social survey; it’s a report of one incident involving the toleration of a hundred or more repetitions of the two standard “dirty words”, by a few dozen bus riders, It’s the kind of typification that anthropological field work often contains: A reaction or lack of one, is reported as typical because many people haphazardly assembled, do or do not react to behaviour. Its context includes the presence and absence of the behaviour in populations observed at other times, who represent the same society. In this case the context also includes past reactions to the same behaviour: 50-60 years ago, uses of the F- and S-words by women were far less tolerated than uses by men. In this decade, uses by men are less tolerated, as indicated by their rarity as well as by reactions. (cf. Nathanson and Young, 2006: ch 3, 39-40, 49-50).
I can’t recall hearing any men using such rude language—definitely not so much rude language—on the bus, in the four months i’ve been riding Edmonton Transit. Between 40% and 60% of the people riding with me have been men and boys, of all races—as the women have been of all races.
* I find this website’s “PG-13” policy vexing at times, and this is one of them, but it does remind me that if any reader wants to go into the erotica selling business, “The F-Word” would be a cute name for an erotic boutique.
Davd, 2012. “If The Genders Be Reversed: a Test for Equal Treatment. The Spearhead website [no longer accessible] Reprinted May 2015, on this everyman.ca site.
Nathanson, Paul, and Katherine K. Young, 2006. Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination against Men Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.