Have you ever seen those dictionaries in the humor section of the book store titled “Woman-English, English-Woman” (or sometimes Man-Woman, Woman-Man)? On the escalator in the train station several days ago I saw a cardboard cutout advertising one of them from the window of the first-floor bookstore.
A pudgy, middle-aged cardboard man in a Cosby sweater stood holding a copy of Langenscheidt’s “Deutsch-Frau, Frau-Deutsch” dictionary. He was smiling, as if he’d finally been given the key to a lost civilization he’d always wanted to contact, but now knew how to conquer.
Maybe I would find these books mildly amusing—and I do assume that they are meant to be humorous—except for the fact that there is always an entry in them that goes something like this: “no means yes, and yes means no.” You’re supposed to laugh and think things like: “How true! Those crazy women! So passive aggressive! Never saying what they really mean!”
I doubt I need to actually point out to you why this is incredibly fucked up, but I will anyway. 1. It furthers the stereotype that woman aren’t capable of communicating what they want, thus leading to a tendency to not take them seriously, and 2. it furthers the fucked up mindsets of the kind of people who rape and/or abuse other people, because of course that “no” meant “yes!” I mean it must have, that’s what humorous books and television shows have been communicating to me my whole life, and we all know there is some truth to every stereotype!
Blech. Barf. Yack. And the dictionaries about men? They translate almost everything a man could possibly say into “I want to have sex.” Sigh. There is still so far to go, and I think we lost the map.