Continuing with this very interesting topic, and interview with Russian Linguist/Philologist Maxim Kronhaus. Where we left off, reporter Denis Nizhegorodtsev was discussing with Kronhaus, how “some feminists” want to create feminizing suffixes for every profession. Kronhaus replies, quite sensibly, that this goes against the interests of women themselves. Like, if they want equality with men, why would they want to single themselves out with special suffixes? For example, those who have been following my posts on the Ufa rape case, know that the victim involved, a young (female) investigator (detective?) has been saddled in the Russian press with the rubric дознавательница instead of the normal (masculine gender) word дознаватель. This is like calling her an “investiga-trix” instead of an “investiga-tor”. How could anybody take somebody seriously in any profession, with such ludicrous suffixes attached to their job?
Using the word дознавательница was obviously an editorial decision in the Russian press. Editors have to make such decisions, how to apply rubrics to people, e.g., “Swift-footed Achilles” or “Club-Footed Achilles”. Should Achilles be described as a terrorist or a militant? (Or possibly a freedom-fighter against Trojan invaders?) Is a young policewoman an “investigator” or an “investigatrix” ? And so on… Probably no harm was meant here, but the suffix does truly create a certain image in peoples minds, possibly an unconscious bias, like this girl cop was in way over her head… On the other hand, maybe these newspapers thought they were doing the right thing, if indeed Russian feminists are demanding this. [Personally, I never met any woman in the workplace who didn’t prefer to just be considered “one of the boys”, but then I always worked in the I.T. profession, just sayin’…]
Denis: Not to mention, that we have examples where women themselves were opposed to the formation of feminizers [feminizing suffixes].
Maxim: The best-known debate on this issue was when Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva both reacted negatively to the word “poetesse”. They stated that they are “poets” and that their gender was not important to (their work). In a word, there are various opinions on this issue. The real issue in society is what to do about the existing feminizers, hence the feminist agenda of creating new feminizers has not caught on. Currently the debate swirls around such (existing) words as “avtor-ka” (“authoress”), “rezhisser-ka” (female movie director), etc.
Denis: It’s not possible to create a word for “director” that sounds something better than “rezhisser-ka”?
Maxim: That’s the problem. I mean, what difference does it make, which suffix you use? But indeed, many of the existing feminizers in the Russian language have a colloquial character, not to say, patois. For example, the pairs “doktor” – “doktorsha“, and especially (the other word for doctor) “vrach” – “vrachikha“. These words have a specific tone to them, they are not used in official speech, although it would not be correct to call them coarse. I cannot imagine any woman medical professional who would find it pleasant to be called a “vrachikha“, she will more likely prefer “vrach“.
[yalensis sidebar: The reconstructed Proto-Slavic word vračь or “healer” is said to have been an ancient word (possibly borrowed from some aboriginal people) meaning “medicine man” or “shaman”. The word “doktor” comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *deḱ- (as in Latin docēre, “to teach”, “instruct”. Russian did not inherit this word directly from the proto-language, it goes without saying. It was borrowed much much later from a cousin language, probably from German Doktor.]
Denis: In other words, feminizers must be created in such a way, as to not offend anyone.
[to be continued]