03 February, 2008

Men = Kleenex?

(This was written in response to a paper I read for class, "Penguins Don't Care, but Women Do: A Social Identity Analysis" by Fatemeh Khosroshahl. I edited it slightly so you, dear readers, might understand it a bit more. Please, let me know what you think! Answer my questions!)

According to this article, men view the word "he" as something like a brand name that covers generic humans and men specifically in the same way that many people use the word "Kleenex" to refer to the brand and generic facial tissues. This analogy was good, but I was struck by the humorous images in my head. How does one picture generic humans, anyway? (UGH! Never mind...)

Perhaps we overuse pronouns, and just need to get more creative with English. Every phrase I can think of that needs a generic pronoun can be rephrased to not include pronouns and be more precise.
Examples:

  1. "Somebody left his/her bike in the yard" --> "Somebody left a bike in the yard."
  2. "Man, being a mammal, excretes milk for his young" --> "Humans, being mammals, excrete milk for their young."
  3. "The average reader of this blog can afford his own car" --> "Average readers of this blog can afford their own cars" (Hopefully there's more than one reader, right? Even if you can't afford a car?).
Am I wrong? Can anyone think of phrases where using a singular generic pronoun is unavoidable?

Also, what about titles like "dude"? Historically, it referred to males, but in an appropriate context I use it to address both genders quite frequently and will respond to someone calling me a dude. Some of my friends have a problem with this, and ironically most who have voiced this opinion are male. I'd be curious to know how many people (and their age and gender) associate "dude" with the male gender.

11 comments:

Laedelas Greenleaf said...

Side note: How many of you have read an academic paper and referred to the author as "he" without even looking for a name? I do, as does most of my LING 1930 class. Last week we read a paper by a woman and one student was incredibly bothered by our continual reference to the author as "he." Interesting...

[Insert Name Here] said...

If I wrote a paper, I would be slightly annoyed if in discussion people used "he" to refer to my standpoint. I wouldnt use "she" in reference to a male author.

I frequently use "guys" in referring to a group of girls. I have the tendency to address guys as "dude" more frequently than girls. I dont mind at all when someone (of either gender) refers to me as either; no time soon am I going to enjoy "dudette."

I would think though the logic of my thoughts more fully but my head is fuzzy and my nose is stuffy. I shall return... maybe. Good topic :-)

I'm a reader, but cant afford a car ;-P

znyamqmd

iJosh said...

Edited it so we might understand it better, eh? "Whadda you think I am dumb or somethin?"

The one place we need to leave alone gender wise is the Bible. I don't care what the NIV says... God said it this way, I prefer to not muddle my hands in changing his scripture, so I will stay clean and leave it alone. And it's not just cause I'm a guy. Anyone else agree with me?

I can't afford a car either- unless, maybe, it's a yugo...

I completely agree with Lane on Dudette... man, it sounds awful! Rest assured, I will never call you that.

iotnosmz

I opened the nothingness occupying slimy materialized Zunes.

Laedelas Greenleaf said...

L: "Dudette" is wrong (I agree), but what about "actress?" And why limit the gender distinction to a few occupations? What's wrong with "doctress?" (I gotta attribute that last word to one of my classmates)

iJ: Edited so you might understand the context a bit more. Certainly not dumber :-) Scripture is definitely not to be trifled with, but keep in mind that some of the Bible's original languages had neuter gender pronouns that English doesn't has. Not every meaning of every word can be communicated when translated, which is one reason why I want to learn Ancient Hebrew. It's also why we should choose our translations with a lot of prayer. Still, the TNIV translation is just wrong, I agree. On many levels.

2 readers! And none of us can afford cars! Sweet...


lqejvf
Loquacious, Querulous Elves Juggle Varnished Feet

a said...

Man, that's sad that you guys (I mean *ahem*) people can't afford cars. At that party on Saturday, I got three cars. They came free with little marbles. They get the best gas mileage in the world.

Elf, question about the tags. Why is "men" uncapitalized, while "Women" is capitalized? :-P x100

I am happy to say that I have never used the term "Dudette" as it sounds horribly stupid.

[Insert Name Here] said...

LG- I now have the desire to go make a list of jobs and see how many have female/male distinctions, how many dont and how many could...
Seamstress/Tailor is another example. Receptionist, nurse, teacher, lawyer... do other cultures have gender distinct titles?

pwrte
pirouetting women raced twirling elephants

Laedelas Greenleaf said...

A, THANK YOU for noticing! I was wondering if anyone would. It's not a subliminal message about men at all, but some time in the history of this blog I must have tagged a post with "men." I usually capitalize all my tags, but that one must have escaped my notice. I tried changing this tag to "Men," but it won't let me. Ah well. Also, thanks for calling me "elf." Much better than "dudette" :-P X 1,000

INH, you've just discovered the passion that drives most linguists. Not that you necessarily HAVE to be a linguist to follow this passion, but this is why I love spending time with classmates. We geek out over stuff like that. Oh, and minimal pairs. We LOVE minimal pairs.

Breka said...

Hm, I left a really long comment on this post the other day but it doesn't seem to have posted. Oh well...

Jason said...

I can't answer all of your questions right now (but you'll have me thinking some). Nonetheless...

I think of "dude" as referring to guys. Speaking of "guys," that word is so commonly used in mixed company (or even to a group of girls) that it's almost synonamous with "you all."

As far as english using the male pronoun for general references, have you read Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart? The author has a long, hilarious footnote on the topic.

Anyway, there's a definite downside to this. How many times have you heard (or said) "oh, brother" when guys had nothing to do with it. Or, something goes wrong and someone says, "oh, man!" We get blamed for everything.

Jason said...

By the way, your title had me scared to read the post, as though it was going to be about men and kleenex both existing for women to cry on. Now that would have been a bizarre post.

Laedelas Greenleaf said...

Breka, write another long juicy post! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!

Jason, the title was meant to be a bit misleading. But I never considered that particular meaning! Also, I have a digital copy of DTRIMOTH, but have yet to read it. I think I shall.

I'm up to 5 readers! One of which has way too many resources when it comes to transportation... :-P