4.1143 Language and Gender (1/33)
Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Fri, 8 Mar 91 17:15:43 EST
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1143. Friday, 8 Mar 1991.
Date: Thu, 7 Mar 1991 22:38 MST
Subject: Re: 4.1140 Language and Gender
Those who have discussed whether language rules the world or the other
way round might want to read something about the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.
Those who have argued that the failure of (the English) language to
change the gendered practices of, e.g., honorifics shows that the
"issue" is a non-issue have it the wrong way round. The practices have
not changed (while the prevalence of overt racist naming or name-calling
has happily much declined) precisely because it *IS* significant to a
dominant group. That is, many refuse to change because they prefer the
continuance of gendered language AND behavior. And the gentleman with
two uneducated sisters, I ask, why is that he is and they are not? Why
is it he believes they are solely responsible for their fate, not he,
not their/his parents, not their school, not society? He is living the
proof of the faslehood of his own argument.
I am convinced that gendered language is a significant invidious
contributor to the slowness of progress in women's emancipation, and
that we must chip away at all these small obstacles if we are to break
down the larger ones. And if only women academics have the luxury of
concerning themselves with these small obstacles, having been blessed
with special opportunities, then it behooves them to accept the
responsibility for doing that work on behalf of others, who have not the
As for "Dr.", of course ii is as classist as Mrs and Miss are
sexist--but I have found it a fine weapon to wield on occasion over
those who condescend to me "Is it Mrs or Miss?" to reply "Dr."
And for the chap in Cambridge, as a fellow Brit, I might ask whether it's
possible to make that recommendation in a less pompously pratty way?
Perhaps a few references would be more constructive?