A new era of “Webmistresses?”

Check out this fascinating poll on preferences between the use of “Webmaster” or “Webmistress.” The writer of the blog, Jennifer Kyrnin, has some interesting delineations to make between the terms.

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3 thoughts on “A new era of “Webmistresses?”

  1. It might interest you to know that my high school theatre prop master was referred to as the “prop bitch” when female. I’d take “webmistress” over “prop bitch” any day.

  2. *laugh* I would take “prop bitch” in a heart beat. Of course, when I was the prop master in High School, I think people called me something like that behind my back, and I was proud of it. I took my job seriously, and that meant taking care of the props that the stupid actors would have broken in a heartbeat if I hadn’t been bitchy about it. 🙂 But for me, “mistress” implies a weak, ineffective woman (IMHO) and “bitch” implies strength. And I’ll always prefer being seen as strong over weak.

  3. I’m endlessly fascinated by the way these terms are used and revised… especially in light of the way that so many marginalized groups have (re)claimed words formerly used to denigrate them. But I can’t say that I know a lot of positive uses of ‘mistress’ other than those associated with task- or school-… so of course, I go to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which helped us so much as we began to explore the history and potential of ‘harlot.’ The results:

    1. WOO-HOO! The first definition, starting all the way back in the 14th century, is “A woman having control or authority” (Def A.I.1), with sub-meanings referring to women as teachers, heads of households, employers, patrons of the arts, wives and sweethearts, even political leaders. The vast majority of the uses refer to women in respected and respectable positions of authority, control, and power.

    2. Negative associations are actually remarkably rare and, in early uses, usually obscure. The contemporary connotation of a married man’s lover doesn’t even come up until def. 7, where it is bracketed by the dominant positive associations.

    So what do we think about the term now? Can we reclaim it to mean women of knowledge, power, and influence? Or do we just relinquish it to the seemingly endless lists of derogatory terms for women? Judging by how few words we find that actually designate women as strong leaders, I think we should be careful how we toss them aside… or relinquish them to the haters!

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