The sort of language used to assert men’s dominance over women has a pretty recognizable pattern across the cultural landscape. Men, we are told, are in charge of things because they have something women (supposedly) lack: physical strength, honor, higher cognitive facilities, or the mystique of the male organ itself. Women, sadly “lacking” these qualities, need to be “protected” from the all-consuming lusts of strange men.

This can be spun as noble chivalry, brutal domination, or a playful battle of the sexes, but at the root it’s the same: women are denied the freedoms that men take as a God-given right, assigned subordinate status, and coerced into performative gender roles.

In this dialectic, men’s protective abilities and ravaging urges come from the same place and are both aimed squarely at women. Language, of course, did not create the patriarchy, but language is a powerful method of inscribing the possible, shaping…

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