The Language we Speak: Creating Gender Divide Linguistically!
The other day I passed over Taylor Swift’s interview with CBS Sunday Morning. Despite my differences in opinion, I somehow resonated with her take on the difference in gender vocabulary to quite an extent. I agree that this difference in gender vocabulary has slipped in our society by and large. Moreover, what is more, worrisome is our acceptance of it in general and as individuals. When she quotes that ‘there is a different vocabulary for men and women in the music industry, I agree to disagree with here due to the universality of the view in almost all available platforms. We are all sailing in similar boats, it is just that the ripples are felt more by some than the other due to the seats they are seated upon. While further explaining, she says, “A man does something, it is strategic. A woman does something, it is calculated.’ When she says that a man can act but a woman can only react, like any normal human I second the thought because this is how the demarcations are made subconsciously and eventually thrive in society.
I am not flagging feminism at this point. What I am trying to do is to understand, how come these terms became strong identifiable adjectives for creating a gender divide? Quite a few have been written about the language difference between men and women. However, there is still a considerable difference between the language difference used for their divide. Be it personal identification or professional scenario, the difference is obvious, yet we decide to ignore it consciously or unconsciously. Where men are described as analytical, athletic, dependable, competent, level-headed, practical. The women on the other hand are identified as selfish, passive, gossiping, vain, temperamental, indecisive, and so on. Seldom have we seen both qualities being transferred from one to another. On the rare occasion, we see one being identified with the other, it is in mere comparison individual identification with the quality of ‘the other!’ The words are not mere adjectives. They carry a very heavyweight impression as they can have serious implications thus, in turn, creating heavy repercussions at certain points in life. Such gender-specific language defines what and how we value a particular identity in a specific capacity. Sometimes we as recipients of the associated gender language tag, end up looking at ourselves in a different light due to the adjectives we are connected to. We in a way start exchanging or letting go of our innate and natural abilities and qualities to deliberately move away towards someplace which is not natural to our identity.
This language divide among genders becomes the reason behind the different treatment of them since there comes a hidden dominance that is due to the allocation of gender-specific terminologies. Professor Robin Tolmach Lakoff (1942) in her book ‘language and Woman’s place (1975), has made language and gender responsible for a topic of the hard tussle of thoughts in her subjects of linguistics and others. She to a certain extent used to confirm with the idea that there is a difference in language due to the existence of dominance theory since they have dominated both work and household areas, while women have been staying within their domestic boundaries. Because of this ever-spreading belief, most of us including women find it hard to have female leaders. We cannot digest the thought of women’s capacity to lead, speak firmly and decide objectively. If on certain occasions we find the courage and will to accept the feminine strength, then we associate the language of identification as the acquired or loaned male qualities that are rare traits to be found in women. Even in our objectivity to understand the gap of gender divide as per the language associated with them, we still suffer from our bias and subtle provocations of exclusion of a particular gender in its fight for equal survival. Language and discourse are processes that influence society, literature, and philosophy since language and its dimensions of dynamism enable humans to establish themselves as gendered subjects. The influence as such is conspicuous in society and plays the role of an agent or motive. Through employing a conventionalized association between the signifier and signified, individuals in human societies maintain and preserve solidarity in a unified system. Any instance of language use not only embodies but also reveals signs and phenomena that have already been enacted and experienced by individuals. Correspondingly, ‘language’ externalized in the form of socio-historically situated event or act is interconnected with ideology, rituals, identity, ideas, and values and is as such closely associated with the organization of society.
Language and discourse are concepts that influence society and its course of action. When this language becomes specified to genders in an individualistic manner, the worry of identification of individuals falls into chaos. Judith Butler in a way focuses upon neutralizing the difference between genders and their identity when she believes that gender is discursively made. If we pan the view, we can relate that language and discourse can unite and demarcate the consistency in treating genders. The way we speak about them individually is the way we identify them as separate entities. The concept of putting tags for them is suicidal for there is a gender fluidity in their usage all the time and one can be identified with the other under usual circumstances. There is a dire need to do away with gender language politics because now is the time when we ask such questions not just to read them as mere questions. What we need are clear answers regarding our perception of gender-specific language. When we add mere adjectives to specify the abilities and qualities of genders, we are subconsciously creating heavy walls between their co-existence and social respect. A penny dropped has the power to eventually raise the water level. But when the same water starts spilling over, the sight is not as pleasing as the ripples it created while dropping coins in its depth! So next time you see a soft cashmere or course jute, don’t start identifying the language term as a gender-specific adjective. A man can be termed beautiful and a woman as a strong individual. Remember, they are just qualities and not identifications!