|Tim Chevalier (tim) wrote,|
@ 2011-03-23 09:42 pm UTC
|Entry tags:||gender, language|
Why does it work this way? In my mind, one reason is because suggesting that someone is feminine is insulting (certainly if they're a person who would prefer to be perceived as masculine, and sometimes even if not), while people, on the whole, are expected to take a judgment of masculinity as a compliment. Compare calling a woman "manly" -- connoting courage and assertiveness -- with calling a man "girly" or "ladylike". Yes, the first can occasionally be an insult (as Janet Reno or Ann Coulter could probably tell you), but I can't think of a situation outside specifically queer spaces where the latter would ever be expected to be received warmly.
And another reason is that, as Douglas Hofstadter wasn't the only one to write about but was one of the most succinct ones to write about, people who speak my language unconsciously call on the idea of the default version of a human being as male, and women as departures from or variations on that authoritative template.
So, I can't think of reasons to treat "guys" as gender-neutral and "women" (and its variants) as gendered that aren't predicated on misogyny. Can you? And if not, I think we ought to retire such idioms, as language is one of the ways in which we all participate in reinforcing and reproducing some varieties of oppression and in resisting others. Yes, it can be awkward to find other ways to communicate. The nature of oppression is that it makes itself seem comfortable and familiar, and resistance seem awkward and disruptive. But awkwardness in the name of liberty is no vice, and it comes with the bonus of getting to think consciously about how you want to use words to relate to other people, rather than allowing yourself to be told what to find natural or comfortable.