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Need Some Advice on a Language Question

Jun 30 2005 02:05 PM

Is it proper to say that someone is a "fellow member of..." when that person is a woman?

Doesn't the word "fellow" have masculine connotations? Would a feminist take offense?

Is there another, more PC, way to say it, or is it ok?

Edgy DC
Jun 30 2005 02:16 PM
Edited 1 time(s), most recently on Jun 30 2005 07:23 PM

Fellow has been a problem. My first professional job was with the American Nursing Association. Our members were called "Fellows of the American Nursing Association," despite 85% feminine membership.

Yes, it has masculine connatiations. But clearly some don't mind, as our association was otherwise highly PC.

Many of the synoyms at don't cut to your meaning and just don't work used as an adejctive like that "assistant, associate, brother, co-worker, cohort, colleague, companion, compeer, comrade, concomitant, confrere, consort, coordinate, counterpart, double, duplicate, equal, friend, instructor, lecturer, match, mate, member, partner, peer, professor, reciprocal, twin."

I'd restructure the sentence to say "She's a colleague of mine with..." if you're nervous.

Jun 30 2005 02:19 PM

Depends on how you end it, I think. If you call her your "fellow mailman," or "fellow congressman," then I think you're in trouble. If you're using a more gender-neutral term at the end, I think "fellow" is fine. I can call my female colleagues my "fellow counselors" without issue.

Jun 30 2005 02:34 PM

And that's why I say, "thanks, folks".


Jun 30 2005 03:54 PM

The things I learn here. To me, "fellow member" has absolutely zero
connotation of anything objectionable.

Freakin' broads..

Willets Point
Jun 30 2005 03:58 PM

A "fellow's member," however, would be objectionable if taken out in public.

Jun 30 2005 04:05 PM

I can only think of Presidents addressing the country as "My Fellow Americans."

I never realized until today that I should have found that insulting....

Jun 30 2005 04:51 PM

Only when you consider the source....

Willets Point
Jun 30 2005 05:02 PM

I'd just like to point out that while some posters appear to be annoyed that there are raging feminists out there who are offended by the term fellow, in MFS's initial post there wasn't any mention of actual people offended by the term, just MFS wondering if that may be the case. I think we all agree that no one is offended by the term fellow* and there's no reason to get angry at these strawmen, er, make that strawwomyn.

*In this century at least, in the eighteenth century, the term fellow referred simply to any man who worked in manual labor. If someone called an aristocrat a fellow it was indeed considered offensive, possibly even a dueling offense. Interestingly enough, the female equivalent of fellow was wench. Again, there was no slander in the word itself if just described a woman who worked with her hands (e.g. - a cleaning lady). I find it interesting that centuries later when the words have lost their original meanings that fellow has a generally good connotation (e.g. - "He's a Jolly Good Fellow," or earning a fellowship at a university) while wench is entirely negative meaning a woman who is malicious, sexually promiscous, or both.

Jun 30 2005 05:14 PM

Ok, let's see if I got this straight.
From now on, I;ll say "This wench is a fellow member of the group".

That seems to cover both bases.

Thanks again, all.


Johnny Dickshot
Jun 30 2005 05:20 PM

Depending on the precise context, the phrase "fellow member" can be redundant and replicated without losing any meaning by just saying "member" or if you're worried about sexism and need to convey her membership in your group, "also a member" or "another member" or whatever.

I never felt "fellow" meant "fella" by the way.

Jun 30 2005 05:31 PM

>>>some posters appear to be annoyed that there are raging feminists<<<

Well since I'm the only one in the thread that sounded remotely annoyed,
I assure you that I'm not. After all these years, one would think that some
posters would be more tuned in to the "KC is being a dick again factor".

I love women. I generally get along with women better than men. I run a
six woman accounting department. My immediate boss who I run it with
is a woman. I live with a woman. Some of my closest soul mates other than
the woman I live with are women.

Freakin' broads.

Willets Point
Jun 30 2005 05:48 PM

You arrogant prick, how dare you presume that I was singling you out?!?!

The "freakin' broads" comment is pretty funny context, actually.

Jun 30 2005 06:28 PM

Freakin' squids.

Willets Point
Jun 30 2005 06:29 PM

Good, just testing the "Willets is being a dick again" factor.