he-she and all that sexist language

8 Apr

I was listening to Morning Edition the other day and they ran this piece called, Shakespeare Had Roses All Wrong. Essentially, it’s about how some languages use feminine and masculine nouns- in a way it’s a descriptive noun.  For example die brucke is bridge in German.  It is a feminine noun and elicits other “feminine” descriptive terms like slender, elegant, and beautiful.  Whereas in Spanish the word for bridge is el puente, which is a masculine noun so when spoken immediately it elicits other typically “masculine” words, like strong, big and sturdy.  We don’t have this type of grammar in English, although we do often assign a sex to an object- like cars or electronics, we name them and we treat them accordingly.  It’s fascinating really how different cultures assign different meanings to different words. (phew! lots of differences in that sentence).  And then here’s something really different!  Some languages don’t even have pronouns.  For example, Estonian- there is no he or she.  That’s right in Estonian you don’t say “her car” or “his house” you would say “tema” or “he/she/it’s” car.  It’s kind of nice because it certainly simplifies things and also it demystifies objects.  Now the program really didn’t get into this, but I couldn’t help but think about language in terms of sexuality.  I can only speak from an American perspective, but we are constantly objectifying things and defining things in terms of sex, both masculine and feminine even without the “descriptive” noun affiliation.  i am a woman that questions my sexuality, not my sex or my gender, but i know many people that do and sometimes language can be so damaging. it brings up a lot of quetions about the language we use even within the gay community, like “gender queer”, transgender, bisexual- these words and others carry a lot of meaning.  we are constantly trying to define things, label them, organize, compartmentalize and so on.  what if the bridge is not a girl? what if the bridge is not a boy? what if the bridge just IS? what if? well maybe it’s not about bridges, maybe it’s about flowers. turmericdrawing

TANGENT ALERT:  biologically speaking, if i can remember back to my undergrad years, some flowers are bisexual and sometimes “bisexual flowers” are referred to as perfect flowers meaning they have both female and male reproductive systems, like a lily or a rose. hmmm…..maybe shakespeare really did have roses all wrong!


One Response to “he-she and all that sexist language”

  1. Brandi April 27, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    😀 I really enjoyed reading your post, I laughed several times and agreed with all of it. Thanks for sharing <3!

    P.S. Shakespeare definitely had it all wrong 😉

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