Wednesday, February 10, 2016

prevalence of gendered language

 The most surprising thing, to me, about the McAuliffe article was that I saw many of the things that were stereotypically "feminine" writing characteristics were present in my writing. I often think of myself as a person who doesn't allow gender roles to be imposed on me, so it was a little disconcerting to realize how much I fall into this imposed gender binary. Like most of the young girls in the article, my stories were often about family and friends, and involved a resolution that arose through collaboration. I don't think I've ever written a story involving a contest, and I've definitely never written anything about either sports or war. I've also always used lots of descriptions in my writing, and I distinguish between colors in a "feminine" way; I know the exact difference between lavender and lilac, or tangerine and salmon. Chartreuse is one of my favorite colors. I liked how Mr Robertson used Melina's class' stories for that- not only is it humorous because I remember when she was in second grade and her classmates wrote those (and she stole my poem), but they also basically match perfectly with the article's examples. I feel like we often see examples of gender differences like this and we presume that they don't really have any correlation with our own lives, that examples are always more extreme than reality... The article in conjunction with the student pieces was kind of an eye-opener for me.
I thought making the list of gender-specific insults was an interesting activity- in both genders, we saw insults reducing a person to their own genitalia, but males also are insulted by using terms of female genitalia- we insult men by calling them "pussies", and this usually denotes some sort of weakness. I also found it interesting that on both sides of the gender binary, "bitch" is used to insult someone who isn't conforming to societal expectations of how people of their gender should behave- a female called a bitch is too bossy or opinionated, while a man called a bitch is usually whiny or sensitive.  I have often noticed that there is no real male equivalent to words like "slut" and "whore" meant to degrade women for embracing sexuality; it was nice to see this brought up in class.
The Motschenbacher article was interesting, too- none of the findings surprised me much, but seeing the numbers from an actual study confirmed what I had basically known was true. I think the most interesting part was Motschenbacher's reasons for the divide in body-related language in publications for men and women. One hypothesis was that female body parts that are valued are aesthetically pleasing, but not overly functional, while male body parts referenced are often functionally useful muscles, which is evidence that strength is one of society's main values for men, while women are meant to be fragile-- they are not supposed to work hard; their role is to look pretty. We value male bodies for what they do, but we value female bodies for how they look.
Our discussions and readings have made me much more aware of gendered language- it is something I will pay more attention to in the future. When/if I have children, I vow never to tell any daughter of mine to be "ladylike".

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