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Гендер і мова

Гендер і мова
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Introduction. Much of the meaning conveyed Contemporary equality movement has focused much attention on the issues of socialization into gender roles and of sexist discourse. These issues are profoundly interrelated, since the everyday discourse with which children are surrounded from the day of their birth, in which they themselves become eventual participants, is a primary means by which socialization is effected about what it is to be female and male. In fact, implicit meanings are undoubtedly more effective, insofar as they remain unquestioned, and hence unproblematic. Equality between men and women, in particular, have questioned social attitudes and social practice concerning gender and, by doing so, have rendered problematic what was previously, for many, entirely uncontentious-a non-issue. By naming certain attitudes and behavior sexist, a word that did not exist until very recently, attention has been focused on those attitudes and behavior in a way that was not previously possible. The equality stance, speaking on behalf of women, has been highly critical of contemporary society. They have seen women's interests as consistently subordinated to those of men, women's personalities systematically distorted in the service of their subordination, women's capacities underrated or denied, their desire for autonomy frustrated and ridiculed, their sexuality at one and the same time denied, feared, and exploited, and their image trivialized and sentimentalized. Much of the response to this comprehensive naming of social injustice with respect to women has been to deny that any injustice is involved, to deny that the issue of gender is in any way problematic: men are men, women are women, and that's that. The basis of such denial of the problematic nature of gender is usually that male and female are seen as fundamental, natural, self-evident categories (for some, they have the even greater force of being regarded as God-given categories), whose naturalness and obviousness depends on seeing the social category of gender as deriving automatically and exclusively from the biological category of sex... There is no doubt that the biological difference between male and female is of considerable importance in human societies. It seems equally beyond doubt that what is regarded as appropriate behavior for males and females, other than that directly consequent on those biological differences differ widely from one society to another. It is also readily observable that even where social expectations are strong and explicit, some variability in the behavior of males and females does occur: many will conform to expected patterns of behavior, but some will not. All of this suggests that biological sex (identification as female or male) needs to be distinguished from social gender (identification as feminine or masculine), since the latter is not an automatic consequence of the former. If gender is a social creation, then one should be able to find evidence that this is so, including evidence of the process of its creation. In particular, one should be able to find linguistic evidence, since language is the primary means by which we create the categories that subsequently come to organize our lives for us. Such evidence is indeed to be found: from the different treatment by parents of newborn babies, depending on sex; through the reiterated messages given to four-year-olds that women and women's activities are marginal and trivial ; through the social approval of the writing of little girls at school who write almost exclusively about home and family, elves and fairies, and talking animals while their male classmates get on with the business of finding out how the world outside school and family works and produce what stories they write with the twin focuses of power and violence; through TV, films, and books; to the categories taken for granted in everyday conversation. Difference is simply assumed, with no awareness of the extent to which adult behavior creates that difference. If it were simply a matter of difference, however, where men and women had their own spheres of activity with rights and status and a complete range of possibilities for achievement within those spheres, then one might feel less concerned. But however much some groups and individuals might like to maintain that this is indeed the case in our society, it is not so. Three consequences of this differentiation in our society should be of concern: 1. The institutionalized inequality/inferiority of women, where they have been denied the right to engage in certain activities-to be certain kinds of people-and their activities and their very selves denigrated and trivialized. 2. The institutionalized channeling of human diversity along two and only two pathways, the choice determined only by which set of genitalia one happens to be born with, with the consequent damage to, and misery of, individuals who, for a variety of reasons, fail to fulfill the stereotyped expectations, to say nothing of the loss to society itself of diverse talents. 3. The institutionalized hostility between male and female (a complex consequence of both the above). This hostility is most frequently realized in action by male against female, as, for example, in the violation of the right to personal space. A more extreme violation of female by male is the violation of self/identity that is rape. Such hostility is all too commonly discernible, however, in the everyday words of girls and boys, men and women, with respect to one another, words flung in one another's faces or muttered with anger or resentment behind one another's backs. These issues are of importance to all members of our society, but they should be of particular concern to parents and to educators, because they are the primary agents of the society in the socialization of children into these institutionalized attitudes. It is at their hands that children learn their initial categorizations of the world they live in, including the evaluations attached to those categorizations. It is from their mouths that children hear the words, and the ways of speaking, that will eventually become their words, their ways of speaking. Children do not remain passive recipients of the socialization efforts of others but become active agents of their own socialization as they acquire command of the meanings available to them through command of the words and ways of speaking of those around them. We need to know what it is we are teaching our children to think and feel about themselves and about each other as female and male, and what are the means by which they have come to learn to think and feel thus. Much of the public debate, such as it is, arising from feminist critiques of language in relation to gender has focused on words and word-forms (such as diminutives) that overtly denigrate, trivialize, or exclude women and which assume or cultivate stereotypes of both women and men. The existence of such words is clearly of importance: the usual explanation is that the existence and use of such words and forms of words unambiguously reveals social attitudes and beliefs. One must go further than words, however, in terms of 1. What one takes into consideration as linguistic, as part of language; and 2. How one regards the relationship between language and thought/ ideas/beliefs. These issues will be investigated in the following chapters of my work.

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