congresswoman

MaryamSeresht

Senior Member
Persian
Hi,

I've searched congresswoman in some dictionary and found: A woman member of the U.S. Congress. But since this woman is Indian, living in India, could it mean: member of India congress?

"Early one morning in Bonda, a car stopped and a whole group of ladiescame flowering out, passionate congresswoman Mrs. Mohan at the wheel. She had spotted Nimi by the gate of Jemubhai's residence: "Oh, Mrs. Patel come along with us- why always no? This time I won't take no for an answer! Let's go and have some fun."

Thanks for your idea.
It's part of Inheritance of Loss, a novel by Kiran Desai.
 
  • lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    Certainly, it could be a woman in any Congress.

    The word "congresswoman" also implies - in my eyes, at least - that the woman has some stake in being identified as a "congresswoman" (and thus not as a "congressman" or "congressperson"). She probably has a feminist leaning that would lead her to assert her identity as a "woman," against being identified with the universalist "man" or the post-gendered "person." The descriptor "passionate" (obviously here meaning "passionately interested in politics") reinforces this idea.
     

    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    Actually, Lucas, it's the opposite. A feminist (of the 1970s variety, anyway) would NOT want the suffix "-woman" attached. She would rather be called a "congressperson" so that she would be seen as equal to a man.
     

    MaryamSeresht

    Senior Member
    Persian
    In fact this group of women were on their way to a demonstration, to welcome Nehru. They were top members of the Congress Party. And according to wikipedia, congress party is: The Indian National Congress (abbreviated INC, and commonly known as the Congress) is one of the two major political parties in India,
     
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    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    Ha! I love it when there's such strong disagreement. My sense is that outside of America more feminists identify as female, preserving "female" as a vital category instead of leveling distinctions between the sexes (for instance, we had "bra-burning," the French had "women's writing"). But I do have no idea whether the resonance is feminist or anti-feminist in an Indian context.

    The passionate female congresswoman in Nehru's Congress would've been agitating for women's rights, definitely.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    In fact this group of women were on their way to a demonstration, to welcome Nehru. They were top members of the Congress Party. And according to wikipedia, congress party is: The Indian National Congress (abbreviated INC, and commonly known as the Congress) is one of the two major political parties in India,
    Yes, that's how I interpret it, Maryam - that the woman was a member of (or at least a passionate supporter of) the political party called the Indian National Congress.

    Feminist language {congressman, -woman, -person} is a red herring, I think - by my reckoning, this part of the story would have taken place in or around 1941, when Nehru was released from prison.
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Hi,

    I've searched congresswoman in some dictionary and found: A woman member of the U.S. Congress. But since this woman is Indian, living in India, could it mean: member of India congress?
    A nice simple reminder, dictionaries are not infallible. The reader must always beware...

    GF..
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Surely in context it can only mean a female member or supporter of the Congress Party.
    That being the case, it ought to be written 'Congress woman', as we would write 'Labour woman' or 'Labour man'.

    Hence, I would suppose that Desai wrote 'Congress woman' and an unthinking editor changed it to 'congresswoman'.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Many writers, myself included, prefer to avoid the problem by using terms such as (in this case) "representative," or "representative in Congress" if the first word by itself isn't enough. There are gender-neutral terms for most occupations: "letter carrier" for postman/woman, "firefighter" for fireman/woman, "server" for waiter/waitress*, and so on.

    _______________________
    *Thank heavens that the linguistic abomination "waitron" never caught on! Let's save that word for robotic servers. They won't be long in coming, I'm sure.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Surely in context it can only mean a female member or supporter of the Congress Party.
    That being the case, it ought to be written 'Congress woman', as we would write 'Labour woman' or 'Labour man'.

    Hence, I would suppose that Desai wrote 'Congress woman' and an unthinking editor changed it to 'congresswoman'.
    I agree. Given the background, this makes more sense. A member of the Congress Party is different from a congresswoman.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hence, I would suppose that Desai wrote 'Congress woman' and an unthinking editor changed it to 'congresswoman'.
    I agree. Given the background, this makes more sense. A member of the Congress Party is different from a congresswoman.
    Actually, the single-word version seems to be standard in Indian English alongside the two-word version- see eg
    here:
    'Not in politics for business'
    Congressman Munisanjeevaiha for ward-170

    Munisanjeevaiha (Sanjeevappa), aged 56 years is a contesting on the Congress ticket from Jayanagar East ward no.170. A resident of Puttaianpalya 9th Block, Jayanagar, he has been serving the Congress for the past over 33 years as a loyal party worker, without expecting any post or favor.

    Or here:
    Congresswoman Priyanka?
    Is Priyanka Gandhi a member of the Congress or not? While in Rae Bareli, she was asked by a pressperson why she limited her campaigning to Rae Bareli and Amethi. She shot back that she was not in politics and that it would be improper for her to campaign for those who were not members of her family.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Thanks for the research, Loob. Apparently the rules are different in Indian English. It certainly would lead to confusion in American English if someone were to call himself a congressman and mean that he was a member of a political party called The Congress.
     
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