Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Gender in Language

I had never really thought about the presence of gender splits in language, until I read Sheila McAuliffe's article regarding "Second graders' use of gendered language". I guess growing up, it never occurred to me that language we use further divides gender. The article brought up some interesting points that I could relate to. I am one of three girls, so in my house I was not exposed to the constant difference in conversation between young girls and boys. However, at school my friends and I would conform and sometimes not understand boys' thinking and logic. For example, when boys talk about video games, still to this day I cannot follow their COD lingo. One specific example from the reading was when a girl started crying because she flunked a test and the boys did not understand why she was upset. Ever since I was in elementary school I noticed that girls got more upset, and showed their emotions more than boys, but being like any other victim of implied gender in language I thought that was the norm. This brings me to what Mr. Robertson emphasized in his discussion last night.
I really enjoyed the discussion, and I found it very interesting. Language is something we use everyday and Mr. Robertson made the point that language reinforces your gender roles. Again, there is something said here that it is natural to do this. There is a gendered system in language that is already in place and we as humans conform to this. He also mentioned that language instructs us how to speak as a male or female, in that there are things that are okay to say and things that are not okay to say. Now that recognizing this difference, I will be able to notice the differences in how we use language to address different genders.
 What I thought was compelling was the whole notion of Lankoff's thesis which states "Females are taught at a young age, that they cannot speak strongly and they are not allowed to assert their will as much as a male" I do think this is true. We talked about insult words, and almost every one for a male is somehow related to a woman. Even though that is biased and hurtful toward women in general, I think insult words are only a small portion of the bigger problem which Lankoff constructed above. It is built in language that women are not as strong as males. Mr. Robertson pointed out that women often avoid assertive language by putting it into a question, to soften their opinion, and look for others approval, where a man could often be found to say a more direct statement. I do not think this is right, but I am guilty of it everyday. I would probably address a second grade girl differently than a second grade boy, but is it really our fault? Generations have been raised this way, and personally I think that is the problem. Once you use language repeatedly at a young age it becomes a nature to use it that way. Mr. Robertson's talk really opened my eyes to a hidden division in something humans use everyday without even realizing it.

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