“I’m not a feminist, but I have a job.”

Via Pandagon, I learn of this awesome exchange between Cyndi Lauper and Deborah Soloman in the New York Times.

Deborah Soloman says:  I think of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" as the first feminist-backlash song. It came out in the 80’s and goes against the preachy and high-minded tone of 70’s feminism.

Deborah Soloman has apparently never heard the words to "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" as far as I can tell.  But this alludes to a larger pet peeve of mine.  Deborah Soloman has a job with the New York Times.  How does she think she got that job?  Does she think that the Good Fairy just bopped her on the head and turned her into a writer for the New York Times?  Who does she think paved the way for her to have her cushy job?  Those preachy and high-minded feminists.

Also, "80’s" and "70’s"?  In the fucking New York Times?  What?

My god, I bet some folks didn’t even make it to my third paragraph, so alarmed were they at the apostrophes in the second.  When the day comes that I, a girl who can’t spell to save her life is giving grammar lessons to the New York Times, you can bet that the world is on the verge of collapse.

Anyway, it’s not that hard.  The apostrophe is used only when indicating a contraction–"I was" becomes "I’s" for instance or "are not" becomes "ain’t."–or indicating possession of something, "That ain’t your meth; it’s Bill’s."

"80’s" is not a contraction.  You might have argued, and I might have bought it, that 70’s feminism is correct because it indicates the feminism belonging to the 1970s, not just occurring in the 1970s.  But you put the apostrophe in the 80’s as well, thus rendering that argument ridiculous.

And don’t even talk to me about "house style."  You can prefer something and it still be wrong.  I prefer that everyone email me when they are naked, perhaps that is the "house style" of Tiny Cat Pants.  But it is wrong for me to impose my immoral will on my readership.

It is wrong for you, Newspaper of Record, to impose your immoral grammar on the rest of us.

Whew.  Where were we?

Ah, yes, this idea that feminists are no fun and thus that "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" is somehow an anti-feminist anthem.

I’ll let Ms. Lauper set the record straight on that:  "That’s not true! It’s totally feminist. It’s a song about entitlement. Why can’t women have fun?"

Preach it, Sister Lauper.



On a mildly related note, did I ever tell you about the time that Dr. J. and I went to see Gillian Welch and David Rawlings did the cutest version of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" ever?  It was this kind of mischievously sad lament about how much he wanted to behave, but those girls, they just want to have fun, and who can tell them no?

14 thoughts on ““I’m not a feminist, but I have a job.”

  1. [on 70’s as possesive]Plus wouldn’t a possesive 70’s indicate that it belonged only to 1970? To give possession to the whole decade I suppose you would have to use 70s’?

  2. I have to disagree with your punctuation rant! I pulled out my "Grammar, Punctuation, and Style for the Legal Writer," and it tells me Rule 8 demands that you use " ‘s " to form the plural of numbers: e.g., 1970’s.It then says some authorities do it your way. But they’re way out of the mainstream authorities who aren’t invited to any parties. So I’m not inclined to follow them. Do you really want to be left out of grammar parties? I’m sticking with the Gray Lady on this one.

  3. Jack, I’ve got the 15th Edition of the Chicago Manual of Style sitting right here and it says "numerals used as nouns for the plural by adding s."If the Chicago Manual of Style is out of the mainstream and not invited to any parties, well, then, it can just sit home and make out with me.

  4. The Associated Press Stylebook, which I thought the NYT used as its bible, notes under its "years" entry:"Use an S without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries: the 1890s, the 1800s."But then this is the publication that kept Jayson Blair on when his editors were screaming for his head. And then hung Rick Bragg out to dry to following its own policy. So why should we be surprised when they just make it up as they go along, eh?I think we should ask this Solomon person what she thinks about "She Bop." And then watch her fall over.

  5. I say Yay! for the Chicago Manual of Style. Unfortunately, around here it is common usage to see ‘CD’s’ and ‘DVD’s’ and ‘carrot’s’ offered for sale. So even Chicago doesn’t even follow its own rules. And might I use your forum (which is infinitely more popular than mine) to point out that the singular possesive of ‘it’ is ‘its,’ and that ‘it’s’ is ONLY ever correct when using it as a contraction, and could be replaced by ‘it is’ or ‘it has.’Hummmph. Don’t get me started.(Sorry, this looks really awkward with no HTML allowed with all the apostrophes required here.)

  6. All of you that responded to this post and are grammar and punctuation sticklers like me and Aunt B. should read "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" by Lynne Truss. It is hilarious and well-punctuated grouchy-grammarian fun.Funny, I just read that interview in the magazine this morning too, and was wondering how that song could possibly be anti-feminist. I was with Cyndi Lauper all the way until she said she would get plastic surgery. She’s looking damn good for a fifty-something-year-old woman.

  7. <i>"Eats, Shoots and Leaves" by Lynne Truss … is hilarious and well-punctuated grouchy-grammarian fun.</i>You know, people will look at you funny when you’re reading that book on your lunch hour and yelling out "Yes! Damn straight!" and punching the air with your fist every few minutes.Truss’ most recent book, "Talk to the Hand," simply reinforces my pedantic hermitry. I love it, too.

  8. Eats, Shoots and Leaves is a good one. In her author pic Lynne Truss is correcting a movie poster. I love the idea of running around town with a giant Sharpie, correcting the grammos. I like to edit flyers people post in the break rooms around here. Journalism doesn’t always follow the Chicago Manual of Style and NYT doesn’t always follow AP Style. But they’re still wrong with 70s and 80s. Today’s grammar pet peeve is rampant ignorance of the proper use of over/under versus more than and fewer versus less. Is everyone stupid or just lazy?

  9. The Times doesn’t follow AP style but has its own stylebook. So yes, they are making up their own rules, but they are codified. The apostrophe thing is baffling and annoying but, I maintain, not nearly as baffling and annoying as those pretentious little umlauts The New Yorker will put over the second vowel in a pair (like the second o in co-opt).

  10. Perhaps the apostorphe in the plural of a numeral is meant to help distinguish an s from a 5. So nobody, quickly skimming along, winds up going, "Came out in the 805?! What th–?!!? Oh, wait. Eighties. Came out in the eighties. I’m an idiot." Just throwing it out there. Come on, you no tolerance grammar chumps, shout me down!

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