Sunday, March 7, 2010

If Your Body's Sexed Female, Whose Words You Must Use for Yourself

The celebrated Greek virtue of self-control (sophrosyne) has to be defined differently for men and for women, Aristotle maintains. Masculine sophrosyne is rational self-control and resistance to excess, but for the woman sophrosyne means obedience and consists in submitting herself to the control of others."
--Anne Carson, Men in the Off Hours

Law, religion, science, and civilization are structured by the masculine symbolic. The feminine is figured as an absence within the real as well as the imaginary and symbolic orders. Thus, women have been excluded from symbolic order. Becoming a subject involves entry into the symbolic. Thus, the language and the whole symbolic order are masculine, so one can only enter into it as male. As a result, women can only appear as tokens of exchange within this masculine economy. Women’s own representation is by silence, absence, lack, or hysteria. Therefore, when woman is mirrored in the Freudian-Lacan mirror there is only lack and deficiency.
--Jea Suk Oh, "A Study ..."

As women gain more influence in Hollywood, even the term “actress” is disappearing. Just as stewardesses are now called flight attendants, many actresses now prefer to be called actors. The Screen Actors Guild has eliminated the term “actress” in the presentation of its awards, instead using “female actor.” Perhaps, as the term “actress” falls further out of favor, the award-granting organizations will be forced to acknowledge that male and female actors do indeed have the same occupation.
--Kim Elsesser, "And the Gender-Neutral Oscar Goes To...," New York Times

In English speaking countries one can also see that there are far more negative terms for women than there are for men. The semantics of English is also used against women as the metaphors available to describe women are derogatory compared to those that describe men. The use of animal imagery is just one example where the images of women are less positive from that of men. For example a man is a tiger while a woman is a chick (en). Sexism is also said to be engraved in the morphology of the language. The base structure of nouns in English always seems to be the male form. The female form is always a derivative of the male form. Take for example lion the female form is lioness, prince-princess, actor-actress and the list goes on.
--Shaneka Green, "Sexism in the English Language"

Of all of the pairs of words in English that have traditionally had "male" and "female" versions (actor/actress, instructor/instructress, doctor/doctrix, etc.), only ONE pair involves a basic word referring to the female and the variant referring to the male: widow/widower.
--susanhathaway, comment @ "Why Sexist Language Matters"

Sexism is revealed in the English language, as well as most world languages, in many ways. Language studies have concluded that language "discrimination is usually covert and difficult to be noticed without conscious awareness." [4]. Gender analysts warn that the danger of continuing sexist language is that sexist language tends to perpetuate gender stereotypes and reinforce biases against women [37].
--wikipedia writers/ editors, "Sexism: Sexism and Language: Reappropriation and Reclamation"

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