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#277688 - 11/24/98 06:09 AM Impact of Language on Fandom
Nadine W Offline
Member

Registered: 11/24/98
Posts: 56
Loc: Canada
Some of you probably saw the brief but flurried mini-discussion about gendered language a few weeks ago in the Creating Comics panel. I thought people might find the following relevant to that discussion, and to the larger question of how to get more people, especially women, interested and involved in comics.

A good friend of mine (a long-time comics fan) just emailed me saying that he's created an introductory web page about language and gender and the possible effects.

The URL:
http://www.altech.ab.ca/divnet/armstrong/index.htm

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Nadine Wettlaufer
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Nadine Wettlaufer

7 Stories Tall!
www.finearts.yorku.ca/7stories/

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#277689 - 11/24/98 07:54 AM Re: Impact of Language on Fandom
marcel Offline
Member

Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 55
Loc: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Hey Nadine,

Just looked over your friend's web page. For the most part, I agree with the basic thrust of the essay, and would carry that further to assert that these ideas are in fact crucial to any potential growth of the comic book art form. However, I found that a lot of the logic on the page was shakey due to inconsistent and largely unacknowledged assumptions, and that the whole thing was reduced to a level of simplicity where it no longer can assert much credibility.

Unfortunately, I see the movement to radically alter language usage, both in terms of gender and otherwise, as being too much like scientists and engineers who (often unintentionally) create things which go crashing about the planet wreaking all kinds of environmental havoc. I think that language is just as organic as any thing else in existence, which means that it is what it is for alot of very far reaching and very subtle reasons, and that to take a heavy handed rational approach to its re/de-construction is dicey business indeed.

I'd actually provide a critique of the essay, but i'm at work and have lost enough time as it is.

ciao
marcel


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Marcel Guldemond
Aporia Press
http:\\aporia.brainmade.com
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Marcel Guldemond
Aporia Press
http://aporia.brainmade.com/

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#277690 - 11/24/98 10:43 AM Re: Impact of Language on Fandom
stephen a Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/24/98
Posts: 1
Loc: AB
Marcel,

As the writer of 'Gender, Culture, and the English Language', I thought that I should respond to your concerns.

It was intentional, on my part, to simplify the basic ideas presented in the essay. Similarly, I am very aware of the assumptions I make - eg. gender roles are learned, not inherent.

However, the intention of this page is to inform, not alienate. What good is a hyper-academic explanation of gender theory, linguistic evolution, and social anthropology to the vast number of people who use gendered language on a daily basis?

To assume that all people have equal access and opportunity to information as a tool of self-definition is flawed; that's where the idea of political correctness came from.

This is a good example of how language evolves to serve the needs of the ruling class: PC is an expression that was coined in the mid-eighties by a mid-western American Republican, in an attempt to discredit individual self-definition. People in the disability community were opposed to the government appointed 'physically challenged' title for the group. Their argument has been that if ramps were constructed, instead of stairs, they would not be 'physically challenged'. The government response? They were just being politically correct.

I do recognize your concerns (and agree to an extent), but am trying to access that group of people to whom theory is meaningless and inaccessible. I don't know too many people who would be receptive to the idea that god is not a 'he'; or that men and women learn to be men and women.



I disagree that language is orgainic; perhaps it was once. One of my basic points is that language is out of step with itself. Language is not self determined or arbitrary; someone (usually academics) make active and conscious choices about language. As I mentioned in my essay, the gender neutral 'their' as a singular possessive preceeds the advent of gendered 'his' and 'hers'. Somewhere along the way, someone decided that using 'their' was no longer considered gramatically correct and was eliminated from the English language. Why? What purpose did it serve? In fact, those opposed to changes in language would also maintain that language is static and synthetic. The difference is that I maintain that language hasn't always been that way; those opposed would assert that it always has been, and should remain so.

It is more obvious in German, where everything is gendered. As new words come into being, someone has to decide which gendered article to use (der, die, das). Consequently, most "new" words relating to technology are male - der computer. Why? Perhaps because they are active components of a male dominated realm? Unlike 'factory' which carries a feminine article (die). Factory work has generally been female dominated (contrary to what contemporary revisionist history tells us), and factories, much like women, are defined as a site of production.

We do it in English with objects of ownership and status. How often have you heard people refer to their cars/boats as 'she'?

Stephen A

[This message has been edited by stephen a (edited 11-24-98).]

[This message has been edited by stephen a (edited 11-24-98).]

[This message has been edited by stephen a (edited 11-24-98).]

[This message has been edited by stephen a (edited 11-24-98).]

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