Posts Tagged ‘ society ’

Poem on Syria: Putrefaction

of late

I’ve had this thought

that this country

has gone backwards

4 or 5 decades

and that all the

social advancement

the good feeling of

person toward

person

has been washed

away

and replaced by the same

old

bigotries

 

We have more than ever

the selfish wants of power

the disregard for the weak

the old

the impoverished

the helpless.

 

We are replacing want with war

salvation with slavery

we have wasted the gains

we have become rapidly

less

 

we have our Bomb

it is our fear

our damnation

and our

shame

 

now

something so sad

has hold of us

that

the breath

leaves

and we can’t even

cry

 

— Charles Bukowski, who rarely capitalized words.

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.