Archive for January, 2012

Women and Language: Is English biased against us?

This is an informative post.

Being a linguistics student and a wordsmith, I tend to give most of my attention to lexicon; how people talk, the words they choose, their tone, their auxiliary verbs, their dialects, their adjectives, their lack of adjectives and so forth. It fascinates me and opens up my eyes to a better understanding of this world. Really, it does. I believe in linguistic relativity in very limited forms; Perhaps, in a vise versa sort of way where we, as a society, influence language.

Hint: Linguistic relativity is a theory developed by Benjamin Lee Whorf. It basically means language affects the way its speakers think and behave. The theory, however, was well in mind of thinkers and scholars of the 19th century.

Now, English as a language favors males. It is biased against women. Not the language itself but the language we structured, the terms we coined, the behaviors and connotations we gave to it. Let me first give you a brief outline on women dialects.

Robin Lakoff, a linguist, developed several theories on genderlects. She proposed that women speak differently from men. Now, some of those models she proposed are quite interesting because I myself, as a female, do them as opposed to the males I know. Even when media addresses women, they tend to use different tactics and lexicon to seek their attention. Here are a few:

  1. Color terminology: If we took two magazines: One aimed at women, and the other at men, we’d notice that when it comes to colors, female magazines are apt to use more variety in colors. So blue isn’t just blue, it becomes teal, iris, periwinkle, azure, and turquoise. However, in male magazines, blue is just blue.
  2. Empty Adjectives: Females are more apt to use those, males not so much so. For instance, pretty in female terms becomes: gorgeous, stunning, elegant, dazzling, cute, and whatnot. In male terminology, however, pretty is just pretty.
  3. Tag Questions: Women tend to seek conformation more via questions, so for instance, a lady would say, “I look good in this dress, don’t I?” or, “you think I’m crazy about you, don’t you?”
  4. Indirect requests: Although Lakoff’s theory involves what women tend to say more, I do believe men do this often as well. These would be something like, ‘I am thirsty,’ or ‘its cold’ or ‘I’ve been feeling down lately,’ in lieu of asking for water, a jacket, or a hug.

She also proposed that women tend to be more grammatically cautious than men and are less apt to use weak expletives. A student of hers later on developed genderlex, meaning basically men and women speak differently. And we do, to a great extent.

Then again, language is what we make it, right? When some terms come to mind, they don’t sound right. We live in a society that subtly favors men. If we take, for instance, words describing men vs. words describing women, we’d really notice how awful the situation is.

Have you ever heard the term family woman? I did not. But family man is something more common. Ironically, when googling family woman definition the top result was Wikipedia’s domestic violence page with no definitions, and when I did the same thing with family men definition all I got was definitions.

Then again, career woman is there. Ever heard someone introducing a guy to you and saying, ‘he’s a career man’? Obliviously both terms exist, but when speaking of a spinster people tend to shame her for being a career woman, whereas a bachelor with a career is considered someone ‘too good to be true.’ I am aware that bachelorette is there as well, but there should be equality in terminology as age progresses. There are dozens of those, I am extremely disturbed by the fact that we let such minuet differences slip by. I am not being picky at all. I am being observant, and I do not like what I see.

All in all, I believe a society that dominates men is bound to have a language that supports it. I wrote this post hoping to cover Arabic language biases against women. That is, however, proven to be difficult due to dialects. But my interest in genderlects will hopefully drive me to write another post on why we’re in the 21st century and women are still fighting for their rights in the Middle East. Here’s a tip: Always start with language.

Labels: Our social résumés.

Listen to: Where is my mind – Piano cover.

I always hated labels. I tried to avoid them as long as I could. Being the “tall girl” in class, however, did not really help my cause. It is ironic that my elementary school memories revolve around teachers calling me “that tall girl” and always asking me to move to the back of the line – maybe a little sad, too.

Growing up, I learned that our society’s infrastructure is based on labels. She is blonde; he is short; they are religious; she is a spinster; he is bald, and so on. Needless to say adjectives always find their way along these dreaded labels, thus utilizing language in its ugliest forms. Language, however, is never ugly, people are ugly – their intentions are, anyway.

Then comes the part of being a 7alabi female, or Arab in general terms – the label hell breaks loose. In a typical lifespan of a 7alabi female, 18 is where she’s either married, getting married, engaged, getting engaged, or “msama 3alaiha.” And my goodness, labels flood in like a tsunami of stereotype being welcomed into our homes and blinding our youth. A guy can simply, with such ease, tell his mother he wants a tall, blonde, white, educated, gorgeous, thin, color-eyed, young female. It will not be offensive at all. I bet most people reading this will not understand what is offensive about it. I bet I am not making sense to anyone here because it is normal, it is 3ady, after all, how could the poor fella live with “god forbid” a brunette? Here is a little tip: Just because it’s socially acceptable, does not mean it is okay or 3ady.

Let me move away from social labeling and talk about social network labeling. I have been an active social networker since early 2009, way before the world got so much uglier. You know those “About me” or “bio” sections? I could never settle on what to write. I tried it all. I tried labeling myself, I tried un-labeling myself, and I even tried writing random things to avoid labeling myself, which by the way, I still do. I settled on a quote – How cliché.

Social networks exert such pressure on users to conform. Yes, each person has a different reason to join, but eventually we are all here to feel like we belong. What better way to belong than to give ourselves a few socially acceptable labels?

I doubt that we can even go a day without labeling ourselves or others. It is a flaw of me to expect that social media or the virtual world as a whole can be a utopia other than a society full of social taboos to “avoid.” I would, however, like to believe that in social media, I get to pick whose side to take. I get to belong to a not-so-stereotypical Syrian community. I get to meet people from other Arab countries and think, hey, they’re less labeling; I might want to settle there someday. Yet, we still managed to bring along a few crumbs of labeling.

Maybe I hated labels because I was never so sure or who I am, or perhaps due to the negative connotations my labels have. So yes, I am a believer in women’s rights; does that make me a feminist? I do not know. Yes, I write everyday and words are my sole source of overhyped joy, does that make me a writer? I do not know. Yes, I am, I am, and I am, but does that make anything at all? I do not know.

But here’s a good question: When did Twitter or any other social network become my social résumé? When did we even need a social résumé? Or is it when we decide that we do not want to be social outcasts and “belong” to a society we need to play the part of not being ourselves? If so, I have three bookshelves in my room full of imaginary worlds to live in.

 

SOPA: How to go dark with a .wordpress domain.

How about a little song while reading this? Listen to this.

Disclaimer: I am not a programmer or a CSS expert.

Now, I’m not a techie per se, but I am quite savvy and do keep up with news every now and then. But as an internet user, I find this really important. So let’s educate ourselves a little.

What is SOPA?

The US House of Representatives in congress introduced Stop Online Piracy Act Oct 26, 2011 that would allow U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders to seek legal action against any pirated material online. In short, we’d be seeing a lot of those pages:

Source: thisisnthappiness.com/

What’s the big deal about it?

If passed, websites like Google, Wikipedia, and social networks Facebook and Twitter would have to go through every link posted in their sites. In case of any pirated material located through them, they would be held responsible. Individuals would face charges up to 5 years in prison. Ridiculous.

Why should it matter?

I’d rarely quote a republican but here’s what Paul Ryan had to say about it, he’s also very cute:

The internet is one of the most magnificent expressions of freedom and free enterprise in history. It should stay that way. While H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act, attempts to address a legitimate problem, I believe it creates the precedent and possibility for undue regulation, censorship and legal abuse. I do not support H.R. 3261 in its current form and will oppose the legislation should it come before the full House. (source)

So anyway, for a more informative and less boring approach, here’s an infograph on SOPA:

Source: marketingtechblog.com

Now, on to my actual purpose of posting this:

A lot of websites, in fact, plenty of websites are going dark in protest of SOPA Jan 18 (which is tomorrow). Being a .wordpress.com blog, one can only go so far in the CSS field. It’s very limited and wordpress.org plugins do not work here. Ergo, the only way I found to go dark is through widgets. I found two. Needless to say I did not write those widgets or claim any sort of ownership of them. Codes are suggested by James Huff.

1) Badge:

It’s cute, and you should have it. It would look something like the one I have on the top right.

Here’s the code:

<a target=’_blank’ class=’stop-sopa-ribbon’ href=’http://americancensorship.org/’><img src='[URL]’ alt=’Stop SOPA’ style=’position:fixed;top:0;right:0;z-index:100000;cursor:pointer;’ /></a>

To install it: Appearance » Widgets » Text » copy the code and save.

In order to get the badge URL, download this onto your Media section from “add new” and place the link there: https://thearabzy.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/stop-sopa-ribbon.png

2) Going dark:

The only flattering way I found that is not as bad as others is:

The process is pretty much the same as the one mentioned above. You can play with it and change the ugly font the way you please. I do have to warn you, it does not fully give the dark effect but it’s worth making a statement for.

<div align=”center” style=”position:fixed;width:100%;height:100%;top:0;right:0;background-color:#000;text-align:center;font-size:800%;font-weight:bold;padding-top:300px;”><a style=”color:#fff;” href=”http://americancensorship.org/” target=”_blank”>Stop SOPA</a></div>

Also, do not forget to change the background to black from Appearance » Background.

The web is free. It should remain that way. Go dark for a day or forever live in the dark ages of a censored internet.

La fin.

Emotional investments: A game of hearts.

Listen to: Brother – Road Hawgs. 

She is awakened by the trees hitting her window. She lays silent in bed, eyes open wide, and ponders.  She fears closing her eyes, for traces of unwanted shadows will haunt her. She slips into her white lace nightgown. She rises off her bed and gently places her tippy toes on the freezing floor. The wind is heaving stronger tonight. Perhaps it heaves for her. It is as though it summons her disrupted soul into a state of despair and welcomes it. It is cold; it is far too cold in her somnolent soul — Yet, this coldness of hers is her hearth. She is foolishly buoyant. How come, though, her body reacts with a mistaken cause of hypoxia? She tries to breathe. She closes her windows, opens her heart — and there, right there, right that second, she wishes she lived in a house of open windows and hearts wrapped in volute.

Emotional investments have always been my only weakness. I was never really good at business. I dropped the one economics high school-level course when I realized my risk calculating skills would land me in the streets. It was either that, or failing a course; little did I know that I practice this business thing in everyday life, not with money though, but with emotions. I rarely take risks. I rarely put myself out there. Sometimes, though, I lose grip of reality and gamble it all like a greedy businessman whose stocks went up.

Yet I fail.

The thing about emotional investments and I has always rattled me. Here I am, as none business-like as they come, risking my most valuable possession and offering it cold turkey to others. And yes, I may have failed once before, but the burden was not mine to carry, yet I embraced it with open arms and lived with aching regrets and forlorn.

But I do fail.

There I go again, building walls and walls of distance and apathy. I thought I was immune to such foolishness, to such madness, to such insanity, to such idiocy. But really, who is anyway? So let’s play a game – a game of hearts. Let us assume, and I hate to assume, that these hearts are really ours to give, fill, throw away, and rupture. Let us assume we have three lives that are prolonged with magical red and blue potions. Let us sit on a poker table and face our biggest worries of commitment and broken promises. Let us bid our highest hopes on a set of diamonds and spades. Would we proffer it all; would we go all in or all out? Have we really reached a point where we’d trade organs for tacit emotions?

And I do, I do, and do fail.

She walks into a bar full of skilled poker players wearing her lucky red lipstick. She takes the middle seat. All eyes on her, the dealer distributes the cards. She nods and one other player folds. The dealer distributes again. She nods, nods, and just when she gets a full house, she folds.

365: Arabzy blogs for a year.

Here’s to another year of blogging. I’ve had other blogs. My first blog is dated back to March of 2009. However, I used to change blogs/online identities more than a snake sheds its skin.

Milestones: 

1) I am no longer an anonymous Arab. Apparently, I’m not just a username.

2) I write around a thousand words a day. Something I never thought I’d be persistent at. I have my university and work life to blame. (no complains, happy as a muffin)

Setbacks:

1) My blogging has deteriorated and my attention span is as long as 14o characters (blame them tweets, yo.)

2) I started this blog to write about Arabs: Our problems, cultures, and politics. Little did I know of what the future held. I never wrote about a single alphabet.

3) I abhor Arab politics.

Resolutions:

1) Become a better me.

2) Write with soul.

3) Be happy.

Here’s a little comic from my favorite internet gif, pusheen:

 

For a more insightful post on resolutions and new years, why not visit an old post?
I leave you with a quote, and yes, I’ve become as corny as those who share quotes:
I loved words. I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.— Anne Rice