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Guest column| Mary Partington

After goof, red-faced writer seeks the facts

How many synonyms are there for the word "embarrassed"?

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary some of the words are discomfited, abashed, disconcerted, and rattled. All of which apply to me and maybe to Hillary Clinton.

A reader of my guest column, "Give wives in scandals their privacy," March 17 Pasco Times, about the plight of the wife of former New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer pointed out an error. I referred to Zora Neale Hurston considering herself a womanist. The word was not coined until 1983 by Alice Walker, 23 years after Ms. Hurston's death in 1960.

"Womanist" was used by Alice Walker to describe the perspective and experiences of "women of color." The writings of Ms. Hurston have been reviewed and have in some instances been referred to as "womanist prose."

I recently took an Introduction to Short Fiction course at Pasco-Hernando Community College and during the course the class read the short story Sweat written by Ms. Hurston. The word "womanist" came up during the class discussion and I immediately related to the word because I always considered myself by that term. I refused to be classified as a feminist.

A little information can be dangerous. When I was writing the column about the wives of disgraced politicians I went to a Web site to look up Ms. Hurston to be sure I was not referring to the wrong author. My research was flawed because I did not go far enough to discover the correct application of the word as it applies to Ms. Hurston.

Every day we have opportunities to learn and this experience gave me a reason to learn more about the etymology of "womanist."

The early feminist movement was about woman suffrage. Later the feminist movement focused on oppression based on sexism and was made up of white women. This ignored the oppression that was the result of race and class. The word womanist was coined to include all forms of oppression.

I have my own definition of the term as it applies to my life. It has been greatly enriching to read about the accepted use of the word. I thank the reader who pointed out the error.

How many times have we been involved in a tiff with a family member over a fact or an incident? We remember it one way and stand our ground only to find out later our memory was faulty.

Hillary Clinton recently spoke about evading sniper fire in Bosnia and, after footage of the event was played, she recanted. In her attempt to make herself look more presidential she managed to call into question her ability to be truthful. This caused more harm that good.

In my case I was not accurate about the facts and better research would have corrected this. My real error was in putting on literary airs. I did not need to include the reference to the author. In every uncomfortable situation I learn something. This time I learned:

Just the facts, ma'am, just the complete facts.

Mary Partington lives in New Port Richey.

After goof, red-faced writer seeks the facts 04/17/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 10:38am]
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