Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Speech Therapy

Really? Really? I want to say. You're fed up with the subject, well I'm fed up with jerks and arseholes not keeping their ears clean, or being too lazy to sluice out the passages between ears and brain.

Two plus two equals four. That's not a matter of opinion, it's not even a pragmatic truth, it's a simple matter of definition. It's a tautology. Mathematical truths are necessary truths.

When you use a term that has the meaning of 'male', that is to say, a gender specific term, and you apply it to both genders, you are using sexist language. That is what sexist language is, or at least the biggest definition category. You cannot argue that that isn't sexist, you can argue that you don't care, but invisibility defines one group, the major group of sexist language.

Let me push the point home. Man. I am not a man. Kevin is. So man means a male person, it doesn't mean all people, because if it did, then this sentence would make sense,
'When I see man breastfeeding, I realise that man is a mammal,' and clearly it doesn't.
This one does though,
'When I see humans breastfeeding, I realise that humans are mammals.'
This one,
'You men should come into the labour ward to give birth,' and so on.

I am not a man.
Man doesn't mean all people. Man means a male. When you use the term to stand for all people, you make women invisible.

And as it happens, there is research that shows that when you use a term that IS gender specific, like 'postman', 'policeman', 'he' and you expect it to mean both genders, people think of the actual gender. They think of male.

When you are writing which font to use in html, you can write a list, and the first one that the browser comes to that it CAN read, it will. It seems that we do the same.
If you read 'he', you will visualise male. A man will be more likely to visualise male when he reads 'he or she', or even 'they'. A woman will be more likely to have female as well as male images. BUT, if the man reads 'she or he', then he will be more likely to picture a female.

Why is there a difference?
If you read the university lecturers' forums on inclusive language, you will come across a comment from a man who reports a conversation between two women, one black, one white. The white woman thought that what the two of them had in common was being women.
'When I look in the mirror,' she is reported as saying, 'I see a woman,'
'But when I look in a mirror,' says the black woman, 'I see a black woman.' The white woman has the privilege of not having to worry about her colour, her race, it's not an issue because it's 'the default'.
The man who was writing, said that this was a cathartic moment for him, because he realised that when he looked in the mirror, he just saw a person. That HE was the default gender. He wasn't aware of gender because he didn't have to, and at that moment, he understood what it meant to be privileged and what it meant to be invisible. The less acceptable sex.

The research paper points to the inevitability of implications for behaviour and practice.
Almost, but not quite, a simple statement of logic.


Raymond's Brain said...

I wonder if this partly explains Oprah's support of Obama rather than Clinton.

Schneewittchen said...

That question did occur to me too.