I believe that it was the hospitality industry that introduced the madness and controversy around roles needing to be gender non-specific. I’m talking about ‘waitron’, the creation of which was Monty Pythonesque. Let’s start with a look at some generic history. Put your tongue in your cheek.
There are professions that have traditionally had two descriptive forms that indicated the skillset and gender of an individual professional or worker; ergo, manager, steward, actor, host and millionaire/billionaire (but not beggar or pauper) spring to mind. So – manageress, actress, etcetera.
Gender specific jobs
However, some jobs were always gender-specific with no alternative. (see below). An air hostess was always a female. Now, thank goodness, everyone is titled Cabin Crew. The Boss on an aircraft is and has always been, the Pilot or the Captain, and the ‘man’ on whom passengers depended to navigate through a crisis. No gender was ever assigned to this implied ‘male’ job but more recent evidence suggests that female pilots score better on their ability to handle a crisis and stay calm under pressure.
‘Host’ again brings to mind another dodgy connotation. A husband and wife, constituting two genders, can both be the hosts of a celebratory dinner party with friends. Yet a ‘hostess’ was considered to be a woman working in a nightclub, which was sometimes a euphemism for a prostitute, but never for a gigolo. Why not call the gigolo a prostitotor and her a prostetutrix? They both “turn tricks” and the alternative neutral title might be the mundane ‘roll your eyes’ prostitutron. What on earth would we call their respective clients?
Home sweet home – withTV
On TV the host is simply the host. Never a hostess. (one wonders if such a title might have opened our female presenters to some improper alertist propositions). A presenter is a presenter. Oprah Winfrey never wanted to be a the Presentress and Ellen DeGeneres, once described as the world’s richest lesbian, would have shuddered at the suggestion. Perhaps she should change her name to Ellen de Gener ! Certainly not DeGenerron ?
Good food and crazy jobs
So back to the restaurant, (not a nightclub) where the ‘hostess’ that shows us to our table, introduces us to our waitress, whoops I mean waiter … actually, I’ve been told, it’s now waitron. Restaurant owners tell me that when they advertise for a waitron they mean that both genders can apply. See the Restaurants Association of South Africa here and their Facebook page here.
I’m now confused. If a restaurant specifically wants a waitress (eg: female waitron) or a waiter (ie: male waitron), how do they go about advertising these criteria in the light of discrimination on the basis of gender being a contravention of Section 9 of the S’Effrican Constitution?
And what would they do about advertising for a Chef? Assuming it was allowed by law, would we be looking at adverts for a male Cheffer or a female Chefferess? To be true to this silly pointless convention they might want a Cheffron (which is not to be confused with a chevron), or a trainee á la cheffette. Or maybe they seek the services of a dishwasheress?
No gender questions asked
Think about this … We never question the gender, or have different terms for other genders of professions such as: Doctor, Plumber, Gynaecologist, Mechanic, Professor, – although at university my preference was always for the Professoresses who were cuter at a time when the male students’ (and likely some studenterresses) had hormones that were pumping 19 to the dozen. The list is endless … All of these could be any gender. Astronaut, Bricklayer, Chief Executive Officer, Security guard, Neurologist, Gravedigger, Trainer, Jockey, Weight lifter, Runner, Boxer, Wrestler, and Golfer.
Which leads me to Sport – Men, women and trons
When I was a teenager listening to a broadcast of cricket on the radio, the person “wielding the willow”, as the wonderful commentator Charles Fortune described it, was a Batsman. The person running after the ball was a Fielder. Today it’s a Batter and a Fieldsman. I shudder to think what the commentators (oops – commentatoresses) might say during a women’s match. We definitely don’t want to title them as a Commentatrix, do we? If you are for ‘equality’, call them all Commentatrons. If you want real equality, non-discrimination, non-sexist job descriptors and sanity, they are all commentators.
I love the reality that language evolves. It grows. The accepted meaning of words change. It’s exciting. Insanity on the other hand seems to be simultaneously constant and unpredictable.
Disclaimer: This is fun meant to be serious. Or am I being serious about having fun? It has nothing to do with binary or non-binary gender, LGBTQIA+, nor how anyone identifies. I simply want great service at a restaurant. Not from a “hostess” because I never go to nightclubs. I dislike the noise. Indeed, I expect great service wherever I am because I comprise all the gender-neutral atoms – – – electrons, neutrons, protons and positons with not a single … –resstron in my body.
Written by Peter Ucko, an effervescent ‘writron’, not to be confused with writeress (a female writer who delivers words). A Freelancer. Not a Freelanceress with no aims of being a Freelanceron. Perhaps I could make more money as a Freelancertrix? Alas, I don’t “turn tricks”.
I give thanks to Kerry Dimmer for being a fierce Editor and not insisting that she is an Editron/Editrix.