I'm a mother of teenage daughters, and we three feminists feel fortunate to have the versatile word "dude" to help us convey our reactions to the things we see men do.
Watch TV on our couch for very long, and someone will react to a male act of genius with a surprised and cheerful, "Dude!" -- as in, "it's pretty awesome that those men did that!" Like when Andy and Justin give gift-giving advice, or when Ewan and Charley go on a motorcycle adventure through Europe and Africa.
The word has a less complimentary meaning when, in a staccato near-whisper, one of us offers a resigned and disappointed: "dude." This is usually in response to an act of male stupidity, and it roughly means "the world is just a little bit dumber because of men like that." Witness, for example, Akin's ideas on the female reproductive system or anything having to do with Seattle Sports Radio's annual "Queen of the Hardwood" contest.
Clearly, women can and do occupy similar positions on this "dude-to-Dude!" continuum, and in the aftermath of this election season, we're craving a gender-specific way to express our reactions to spectacular successes and failures of our own sex.
We have learned, however, that there isn't a female equivalent to "dude" -- a scan of the Online Slang Dictionary offers only a disheartening reminder that our language embeds a disdain for the female. ("Ho bagel"? I don't think so.)
So for now, we'll go with "sister."
To Ann Coulter, for example, we might sigh, pityingly, "Oh, sister." Her whining that there "is no hope" now that the Romney/Ryan ticket has been defeated is almost too much to take.
But to Rachel Maddow, we might offer a grateful "Sister!" Thank you for reminding us that "evolution is a thing" and that earnest debate, and not evasion and name-calling, is the route to meaningful problem-solving.
And, generally, we might exclaim "Yes, SISTERS!" in response to the fact that more women than ever are going to be involved in the problem-solving our country will need during the second term of two of my favorite "Dudes!" And to the fact that, thanks to organizations like Emily's List and The Center for American Women and Politics, the U.S. has a shot at eventually breaking its current tie for 78th place (with Turkmenistan!) on the global rankings for women in politics.
Which brings me to feminism, that force for good in the world that has earned my daughters the right to see themselves represented in the political process and to imagine a life of self-sufficiency and choice as they enter adulthood. I am consistently grateful that feminists of both genders have made all this and more possible. They have also, for example, afforded today's teen-aged girls the audacity to laugh at dick jokes and to openly mock anyone who is featured in an episode of Say Yes to the Dress.
Newly-(re)elected dudes and sisters, please don't screw this up. There's still a lot of work to do.