Comments on: An Alphabet of Feminism #23: W is for Widow /2011/03/28/an-alphabet-of-feminism-23-w-is-for-widow/ A feminist pop culture adventure Mon, 04 Apr 2011 19:00:08 +0000 hourly 1 By: Pet Jeffery /2011/03/28/an-alphabet-of-feminism-23-w-is-for-widow/#comment-1030 Mon, 04 Apr 2011 19:00:08 +0000 On the fate of widows, I’ve been dwelling a bit on suttee:

and wondering, on a global basis, how widows have fared.

By: Pet Jeffery /2011/03/28/an-alphabet-of-feminism-23-w-is-for-widow/#comment-1029 Fri, 01 Apr 2011 18:05:28 +0000 In reply to Russell.

This source:

traces “any more than a cow needs a bicycle” back to 1898.

According to this source:

“A man needs God like a fish needs a bicycle” was a:

Men’s-room graffito in a Berkeley, California bar during the late 1960s, quoted by Robert Anton Wilson in Cosmic Trigger. This was later bastardized by feminists to read: “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” or something along those lines.

Even were we to accept this at face value, neither “bastardised” nor “parody” seem to me the right words.

What is more, the first of the three “Cosmic Trigger” novels dates to 1977, at least according to Wikipedia:

By 1977, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” had certainly already been coined. So, unless someone can find an earlier citation, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” seems to antedate “A man needs God like a fish needs a bicycle”. It certainly does not, however, antedate “[a place] didn’t need an American consul any more than a cow needs a bicycle”.

At least, I’m not prepared to accept an alleged piece of graffiti as dating to the late 1960s — unless someone can cite an earlier published source. Neither, I’m sure, would the OED.

By: Russell /2011/03/28/an-alphabet-of-feminism-23-w-is-for-widow/#comment-1028 Thu, 31 Mar 2011 15:44:13 +0000 In reply to Pet Jeffery.

You know, that quote was actually a parody of someone else’s comments about religion (and fish, and bicycles, and the relative utility of these things).

By: Pet Jeffery /2011/03/28/an-alphabet-of-feminism-23-w-is-for-widow/#comment-1027 Thu, 31 Mar 2011 00:16:40 +0000 In reply to Hodge.

Men don’t need wives…? Perhaps bicycles don’t need fish any more than fish need bicycles. :)

By: Hodge /2011/03/28/an-alphabet-of-feminism-23-w-is-for-widow/#comment-1026 Wed, 30 Mar 2011 21:52:57 +0000 In reply to Pet Jeffery.

Yes, that’s an interesting point. The dictionary cites ‘widow-man’ as an alternative to ‘widower’, which backs it up somewhat.

I suppose it’s because men don’t need wives in the way women are seen to need husbands. What you get from a (dead) husband demonstrates that pretty well…

By: Pet Jeffery /2011/03/28/an-alphabet-of-feminism-23-w-is-for-widow/#comment-1025 Tue, 29 Mar 2011 07:58:28 +0000 Having thought about “widow” overnight, it occurs to me that the word is interesting in that it’s feminine, but can take a masculine suffix (widower).

There many feminine words created by adding -ess to a masculine word, amongst them: goddess, lioness, princess and shepherdess.

There are also sexually neutral verbs that give rise to a female or male agent by adding either a feminine (-ess/-trix) or a masculine (-or) suffix. “Act” gives us actress and actor, “aviate” gives us aviatrix or aviator. A neutral verb plus -or is more likely to be used of a woman (these days) than is a masculine word without its -ess. Women are sometimes called “actors”, but the most recent case (of which I can think) of a woman referring to herself as a “prince” is Elizabeth I. (I stand to be corrected on that.)

But, if there is a feminine word other than “widow” that takes a masculine suffix, I’m unable to think of it.

By: Pet Jeffery /2011/03/28/an-alphabet-of-feminism-23-w-is-for-widow/#comment-1024 Mon, 28 Mar 2011 23:32:30 +0000 A typographic widow is a single (last) line of a paragraph at the top of a column or page. There is also a typographic orphan — a single first line of a paragraph at the bottom of a column or page. Microsoft Word automatically eliminates widows and orphans. One of the differences between Word documents (.doc) and rich text format (.rtf) is that the latter permits these bereft lines.

I was struck by this:
A common mnemonic is “An orphan has no past; a widow has no future”.

Hodge’s remarks throw doubt on whether a widow has no future.

By: Hodge /2011/03/28/an-alphabet-of-feminism-23-w-is-for-widow/#comment-1023 Mon, 28 Mar 2011 20:10:36 +0000 In reply to Russell.

It means a widow who has significant property ( deriving, I suppose, from ‘dower’. But it usually appears in monarchical contexts, as in ‘the Dowager Queen’ = the queen whose husband was king, who is no longer queen. Like Catherine de Medici, or the Queen Mother.

(But in the case of our Queen Mother, she eschewed the title (one of many she was entitled to after the death of George V) because she preferred one which forced people to say ‘Queen’ twice. Thus she is ‘Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’ instead.)

By: Russell /2011/03/28/an-alphabet-of-feminism-23-w-is-for-widow/#comment-1022 Mon, 28 Mar 2011 11:40:17 +0000 I really liked this one as it seemed pretty comprehensive. Naturally, I also love the idea of “X is for X” though I expect it won’t cover quite the ground I’m hoping for. :-P

One thing, can someone explain to me what the word “dowager” is/means? I’ve never quite managed to grasp it.