February Slugs and Steins with Professor Daniel Wirls
Why We Call House Members "Congressman/woman", and Why We Shouldn't
How did we come to use and accept “congressman”, and later, “congresswoman” instead of “representative” as the nearly default designation for members of the House, while at the same time referring to senators exclusively by that title? And despite it being inherently inaccurate and unnecessarily binary, this convention for members of the House has gone unchallenged, even as gender-neutral language advances and even as the House of Representatives has considered such things as adding more gender-neutral bathrooms. This work traces, for the first time, the history of “congressman” (and “congresswoman”) as a linguistic meme popularized by the coverage of elections in nineteenth century newspapers. I draw on that history to argue that the House, press, and public should drop these gendered, civically confusing, and politically inappropriate honorifics in favor of the one specified in the Constitution. “Representative” is not just politically correct, it’s constitutional.
Monday, February 12 at 6:30pm to 8:00pm