Monday, December 20, 2010

Problematic Phrases in Lifestyle Journalism: Part One in a Forty Bajillion Part Series

Today's Phrase: "when the babies come"

There are certain phrases that, when I come across them in a book or article, make me pitch over face-forward, passed out in a puddle of my own sadness-vomit. These are phrases that live on the printed/ electronic page only--phrases no one ever says out loud, because if you did, their awkwardness and psychological nails-on-chalkboard qualities would be too overwhelming and obvious. But on the printed page, they only make you look like a hack who is writing for the New York Times for some reason (“some reason”).

Some of these phrases ruin my day because they are crafted with all the grace and artistry of a raccoon going through the dumpster at Arby’s. Some of these phrases gross me out politically. Lucky you, this phrase has both going for it!

There are a few different variations on this, like “until the babies come” or “when the babies start coming,” but for my purposes here, they’re all pretty much the same thing. My issues with this phrase:

1. Any article with this phrase in it in never empowering to women/ mothers. In fact, I am going to go out on a limb here and say this phrase has never even appeared in an article that is neutral to women/ mothers, because ha ha, neutral articles about women/ mothers don’t exist--JUST KIDDING! But really, the phrase is just so fucking weird and passive, and that is what drives me bananas about it. I find it most often in articles talking about heterosexual female life phases (and those articles are always total GOLD that you can really relate to and do not feel like they were written by a alien space robot who has seen the sixth season of “Sex and the City,” right, ladies?), describing the period in women’s lives when they often feel compelled to begin procreating.

And yet, it would be too simple, perhaps, to say, “ Many women reach the period in their life when they begin to desire a family with children in it, and start procreating”? Why, that would sound like women are, I don’t know, active agents in the decision whether or not to bear children! What poppycock/ balderdash/ et al! It is not “when women/ you/ whoever start getting pregnant and delivering babies”! It is “when the babies come,” because you (women) have no more agency in this whole thing than a Cabbage Patch doll. I mean, it’s cute that you think you can make decisions and stuff. But when your infant overlords decide that it is time for them to come, ye shall not stand them down! Pregnancy is not a process that actually happens to women or anything! The Babies just show up one day, knocking on your front door, demanding a lifetime of love, care, and unlimited Funyons.

2. The weird passivity of the sentence makes “the babies” sound like a tribute band that does a regional touring circuit every year (“Babies! The ultimate tribute to Sublime! Coming to Toad’s Place, one night only!”)

I googled this skin-crawling phrase to try to come up with some examples of how it never leads to anything good, and immediately found this old favorite; and so as they say, there’s your answer, fishbulb. Also, fun bonus--this, from the intro a Yahoo article that also contained the hated phrase: “Girls night out? Not anymore. Guys nights? Fughettaboutit! Once a couple enters the realm of marriage, independence and freedom quickly dwindle. ” So there you have it, people: “When the babies come” is a phrase that is the enemy of happiness, freedom, democracy, the consumption of a reasonable and responsible amount of Funyons, etc.

1 comment:

  1. Women: they sure are dumb!

    There's your answer fishbulb indeed.