Leave it to The Gray Lady to publish a story about a very current case involving New York cheerleaders that uses archaic, offensive, and misogynistic language. 

The cheerleaders' woes began some three months ago when a group of girls from a high school outside Buffalo, NY, began to exhibit uncontrollable tics. Last week it was widely reported that the cause was "conversion disorder." The Today Show also flashed around the words "mass hysteria," but the doctor and even the anchors who described the very real symptoms were much more circumspect. 

Caitlin Flannagan, writing about it for The New York Times, was not. Surely she did not write the headline, "Hysteria and the Teenage Girl." But that doesn't get her off the hook for writing that "(i)n all of these cases, the ultimate diagnosis -- unpalatable in our post-Freudian age -- was good old-fashioned hysteria." 

It's not just images like the one above that color our perception, but also the etymology of the word itself. The root word "hyster" refers to the womb and implies that the uterus causes uncontrollable emotional behavior. This fails to explain the boy from the same high school who came down with the symptoms. It's not useful to continue using this word, and for the writer to make snarky, back-handed comments about it is insulting to all women, including herself. She writes "(i)t's not supposed to happen anymore (we have Title IX!), but it won't seem to go away."  

Who said basic human rights had anything to do with human illnesses? Yes, it's a rare phenomenon that affects mostly women. It has nothing to do with Title IX. Before our rights are eroded further, how about we stop using damaging language? I'd like to keep my progress, thank you very much.

Tagged in: New York Times, misogyny, language, hysteria, cheerleaders   

The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.




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