Brookline is about to consider a modest proposal: Let’s rename the town’s governing body the “Board of Selectwomen.”
The cheeky idea was proposed by Town Meeting member Michael A. Burstein, after other towns’ selectmen debated whether to trade in their titles for gender-neutral honorifics. As the idea circulated in Brookline, some deemed a change unnecessary, considering “selectmen” implicitly inclusive, like “mankind.” The women elected to Brookline’s Board of Selectmen — two of five current members — could call themselves “selectwomen” if they want, some argued.
Burstein saw some comedy in that. If that shoe were on the other foot — and it were a stiletto — it wouldn’t fit, he suggested.
“I said, ‘Better yet, let’s call it Board of Selectwomen,’ ” he recounted. “ ‘And the men, if they want, can call themselves selectmen.’ ”
The science fiction author doesn’t necessarily expect his idea to pass. A father of twin daughters and a self-described feminist, he’s trying to make a point.
His article could be considered at Town Meeting in November. But first, he faces some competition at a Monday night committee meeting.
A second Town Meeting member has proposed an article renaming the town government panel the “Select Board.” That plan would require the town to adopt gender-neutral language, which Burstein agrees could be even more welcoming to the “entire spectrum of gender expression.”
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