One of the most toxic effects of the debate over language (and yes, I know, naming reveals a lot about what we think about ideas, people or beliefs), is how it distracts us from the work at hand.
After all, trying to change abuse and violence is much harder than debating what to call it. Tossing words like virtual grenades back and forth is sometimes a way of avoiding have to confront the challenges in front of us.
There are multiple places around the world where women are denied even the most basic human rights.
Anyone with a soul was stunned by the murder of a young Muslim married woman by her relatives in Pakistan in front of her father and husband a few weeks ago. In the Sudan, a woman who won't renounce her faith as a Christian convert has been sentenced to die for "apostasy."
(A measure of our humanity is whether we can speak out on behalf of ALL women who are considered chattel, subject not only to warped family "honor' codes but to institutionalized discrimination by governments who find it more expedient to look the other way).
Ireland recently has been grappling with a dark and frightening past, not all that long ago, in which the children of unmarried mothers were termed "illegitimate" - and apparently left to starve, fall ill, and, often to die.
Even here in the United States, sexual violence against women is shockingly common. If it takes a national movement to get colleges to pay attention to what's going on under trees, in student centers and in the dormitories, so be it. About time.
As someone who has done some online dating (and as cautious as I am, which is very), I've had times when I was worried about my own safety. As a journalist, I've also felt vulnerable and afraid when faced with rage, both real and virtual, in a way that I think many men probably don't (though they, too, are often the target of basement crazies).
A few days ago, in what might be charitably be called an impish mood, I thought I'd post a quote on Facebook...just to see what happened, ya know. "It's better not to argue with women" was the quote. And, sure enough, a few people took the bait, innocent of the fact that the originator of said aphorism was Vladimir Putin. My FB friends, male and female, wouldn't mistreat or stereotype women in real life.
Putin's attitude toward women would be irrelevant if he wasn't the leader of a country in which discrimination and violence against women is common.
A month or so ago, on the NPR show "Tell Me More," I heard an African American male defend Donald Sterling's right to say the stuff that landed him in a world of trouble with his NBA-owner colleagues and the rest of the world.
"Why can't a 100-year-old white man (Sterling is 80) have a private conversation with his jump-off?" asked the commentator (I paraphrase).
It will be a great day for the Clippers, and a better day for all of us, when someone else owns the team and when racism isn't endorsed, even (perhaps especially) in private.
But it will be an even better day when we actually treat African-Americans as equal in public and in private, when all women don't have to fear violence or discrimination, when naming and shaming aren't media fads.
Then perhaps we can finally get to the point of addressing the societal problems we have, the ones that hold us back as men AND women - because fixing what is broken is a much tougher job than fighting over it.