women and children

“Women and children” is an old pairing of words that people who speak into microphones (politicians, TV journalists, etc.) still use all the time, usually in sentences like this: “The violence killed 34 people, including women and children.”

The idea is: It’s worse to kill women and children than it is to kill men.

You can almost understand the children part. Children don’t really stand a chance in battle. It’s not very sporting to attack people who can’t defend themselves. But women, too? Women, some of whom know how to operate tanks? They’ll probably put up a decent fight.

Women are often victims of violence at the hands of men — men who are usually bigger and stronger than they are. That’s terrible, obviously, and (as mentioned above) not very sporting on the part of the attackers.

But if you are in the habit of saying “women and children,” it will be easier for you to think of women and children as a single category of people — separate from men — whose common characteristic is helplessness. Oh, and it might make you a little more comfortable with the indiscriminate killing of men. Everyone loses!

It’s important to choose your words carefully.