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I was watching Wildlife on Two and it was about elephant seals and it was really really interesting. But it really bothered me that the name for a group of female elephant seals is known as a Harem. it really bothers me that we are using a word that literally means "women's quarters" but that Westerners use to describe groups of, almost exclusively, women of colour and applying it to a group of animals.

A male elephant seal is a Bull, a female elephant seal is a cow, wouldn't it make sense then to call a group of them a herd? or even a pride, or a pack

We don't call a female animal of a species that pair bonds a wife do we? and we would think it was weird if we did.

I'm sure the way the west generally thinks about harems and women in polygamous marriages feeds into this as well, they are far, far to often portrayed as having no agency or independence and who have to be sexually available all the time. It also feeds into how the west thinks about men in societies that have polygamous marriages as authoritarian rapists who ride roughshod over the wants and needs of their wives.

It just really felt like unacknowledged racism and misogyny and made me think what other words have we taken from cultures we don't understand or even have really negative ideas about and used really inappropriately


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October 2010

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