Every time I hear some reporter say the word "congresswoman," I cringe. I have two problems with the word. First, it's unnecessarily gender-specific. We don't have special names for women Senators, or women Cabinet Secretaries, or women Presidents. So why do we need a special name for women in the House of Representatives?
My second problem is that "congresswoman" is imprecise about the person's position. We use the word to refer to a member of the House of Representatives. But the Constitution of the United States says, right there in Article 1, Section 1:
All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
Given that Congress includes both the House of Representatives and the Senate, "congresswoman" could refer, technically at least, to a woman in either the Senate or the House of Representatives. The word is overly specific about the less important information, sex, and imprecise about the more important information, the person's role in our government. That's bass ackwards.
So what word would be better? No, not "congress person," which in addition to being imprecise about position just feels awkward, as if it were invented solely to mask our politically incorrect urge to say "congresswoman."
The word I like is the precise, gender-neutral word that the Constitution uses: Representative.
I invite you to join me in my crusade to eliminate the word "congresswoman" from our national vocabulary. And while we're at it, we might as well eliminate the equally gender-specific and imprecise "congressman." Use "Representative" instead.
How can you help? By making a phone call or writing a letter the next time you hear the word "congresswoman" from your favorite reporter or reporteress.