We refer to female officers as women officers. Can we call male officers "men officers"?


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    In what context? I for one have never heard the phrase 'women officers'. – Tim Lymington Nov 8 '15 at 10:41
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    Sadly, rules in English are neither universally agreed upon, wholly coherent, nor wholly logical. Hits for "women officers" vastly outnumber those for "men officers" in a Google search, and many of the latter seem to be false positives (eg men/officers and ... men. Officers ...). There is no grammatical rule saying 'men officers' is incorrect, but 'male officers' is the accepted variant. I'll add that it's a more important point that one should pair 'male and female officers' rather than 'male and women officers'. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 8 '15 at 10:48

As phrases are coined in the need to express identity, they are kept alive by the persistence of that identity. Thus the original phrase "woman officer" ostensibly was once conceived to express the readiness and benevolence (in a certain measure) of male to accept female colleague as equal in spite of the obvious, in certain aspects inferior characteristics of women (as the environment it went forth from - police, army etc, required physical strength as a decisive quality) and the term is upheld by the male identity which seeks to differentiate but not to discriminate (hence benevolence).

Thus the term 'man officer' can't be deemed impossible. The woman's identity in this case would be of a professional, officer first (the term depicts another officer first and man second) and a kind of psychological need to refer to male colleagues when conversing with other females second. It would thus be primarily of psychological nature, less professional or societal as in the case of 'woman officer' and would serve its professional-psychological function perfectly fine within a female environment. But it could hardly becone a general public phrase. Yet a confident female officer wouldn't be rude if she used the term in appropriate context, e.g. a female environment, but also when speaking to male colleagues if she expressed her specifically female professional perspective.

So this is really a question of identities and culture. The term can be used in the right environment and in the right context, but to understand its limitations one should imagine a man who offers his thoughts on 'female mother love' to a woman.

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