The Feminist Critique of Language: A Reader

The Feminist Critique of Language: A Reader

by Deborah Cameron

It serves both as a guide to the current debates and directions and as a digest of the history of twentieth-century feminist ideas about language.This edition includes extracts from Felly Nkweto Simmonds, Trinh T.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Rating: 4.11
  • Pages: 388
  • Publish Date: March 12th 1998 by Routledge
  • Isbn10: 0415164001
  • Isbn13: 9780415164009

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Haven't read the book, needed a home for: A Person Paper on Purity in Language William Satire (alias Douglas R. But let us grant that in our society there may be injustices here and there in the treatment of either race from time to time, and let us even grant these people their terms "racism" and "racist." How valid, however, are the claims of the self-proclaimed "black libbers," or "negrists"-those who would radically change our language in order to "liberate" us poor dupes from its supposed racist bias? Most of the clamor,as you certainly know by now, revolves around the age-old usage of the noun "white" and words built from it, such as chairwhite, mailwhite, repairwhite, clergywhite, middlewhite, Frenchwhite, forewhite, whitepower, whiteslaughter, oneupuwhiteship, straw white, whitehandle, and so on. The negrists claim that using the word "white," either on its own or as a component, to talk about all the members of the human species is somehow degrading to blacks and reinforces racism. Therefore the libbers propose that we substitute "person" everywhere where "white" now occurs. Think how ugly it would be to say "All persons are created equal," or "All whites and blacks are created equal." Besides, as any schoolwhitey can tell you, such phrases are redundant. There is nothing denigrating to black people in being subsumed under the rubric "white"-no more than under the rubric "person." After all, white is a mixture of all the colors of the rainbow, including black. Used inclusively, the word "white" has no connotations whatsoever of race. For years, Niss Moses, authoroon of the well-known negrist tracts A Handbook of Nonracist Writing and Words and Blacks, has had nothing better to do than go around the country making speeches advocating the downfall of "racist language" that ble objects to. Niss Moses says that words like "chairwhite" suggest to people-most especially impressionable young whiteys and blackeys-that all chairwhites belong to the white race. Another of Niss Moses' shrill objections is to the age-old differentiation of whites from blacks by the third-person pronouns "whe" and "ble." Ble promotes an absurd notion: that what we really need in English is a single pronoun covering both races. Numerous suggestions have been made, such as "pe," "tey," and others, These are all repugnant to the nature of the English language, as the average white in the street will testify, even if whe has no linguistic training whatsoever. There are, of course, some yapping black libbers who advocate writing "bl/whe" everywhere, which, aside from looking terrible, has no reasonable pronunciation. Another suggestion is that the plural pronoun "they" be used in place of the inclusive "whe." This would turn the charming proverb "Whe who laughs last, laughs best" into the bizarre concoction "They who laughs last, laughs best." As if anyone in whis right mind could have thought that the original proverb applied only to the white race! Niss Moses would have us totally revamp the English language to suit bler purposes. Come off it, Niss Moses-don't personwash our language! "Personhandling" the language is a habit that not only Niss Moses but quite a few others have taken up recently For instance, Nrs. Delilah Buford has urged that we drop the useful distinction between "Niss" and "Nrs." (which, as everybody knows, is pronounced "Nissiz," the reason for which nobody knows!). Bler argument is that there is no need for the public to know whether a black is employed or not. Ble conveniently sidesteps the fact that there is a tradition in our society of calling unemployed blacks "Niss" and employed blacks "Nrs." Most blacks-in fact, the vast ma jority-prefer it that way. Unemployed blacks want prospective employers to know they are available, without having to ask embarrassing questions. The answer, of course, is that in America and other Northern societies, we set little store by the employment status of whites, Nrs. Buford can do little to change that reality, for it seems to be tied to innate biological differences between whites and blacks. As for Nrs. Buford's suggestion that both "Niss" and "Nrs." be unified into the single form of address "Ns." (supposed to rhyme with "fizz"), all I have to say is, it is arbitrary and clearly a thousand years ahead of its time. Nrs. Buford also finds it insultingly asymmetric that when a black is employed by a white, ble changes bler firmly name to whis firmly name. You guessed it-authoroons such as Niss Mildred Hempsley and Nrs. Charles White, both of whom angrily reject the appellation "authoroon," deep though its roots are in our language. Fortunately, most blacks are sensible people and realize that mere words do not demean; they know it's how they are used that counts. In any case, Niss Moses (once again) raises a ruckus on this score, asking why we don't have a corresponding word for young whiteys who play blackeys' games and generally manifest a desire to be black. The lesson is that White must learn to fit language to reality; White cannot manipulate the world by manipulating mere words. I am sure I need hardly remind you; it is God. As everyone knows, Whe is male and white, and that is an indisputable fact. I have shared this "joke" with a number of friends of mine (including several blacks, by the way), and, to a white, they have agreed that it sickens them to the core to see Our Lord so shabbily mocked.

This book was super enlightening, and I think you all should read it. I read this to get some background for a term paper Im writing about the so-called Labovian gender paradox and its validity in language-in-contact situtations. It starts off with some interesting observations from an anthropologist in the 1600s about the language of the Arawak peoples of the Caribbean, where men and women sometimes use different words to refer to the same idea. Then he talked about linguistic differences between men and women in other cultures, getting to English towards the second half of the essay. While it might be valuable to read some sexist bs from men back in the day, I could just as easily go outside into the world and listen to a couple average conversations. And I also dont think that women should strive to divorce their art from politics in an attempt to be more genuine. Nrs. Which, in Hofstadters world, defines the persons employment status (further analogized by Mr. becoming Master) So his analogy to race shockingly reveals the damage that using patriarchal language can do, and also draws interesting comparisons between race, sex, and power structures. If you think that our perception is bound by certain pre-determined linguistic categories, then you might say that creating new linguistic categories would be difficult, if not impossible, because they exist outside the confines of our perception. Alternatively, it might be a little less hopeless to think that our linguistic categories come from some kind of base perception of reality, because obviously our perceptions of reality are changing, so it shouldnt be impossible to change the language to suit that. It gets into a kind of crazy paradoxical circle, though, when you start to think, OK, if what we perceive is determined by pre-existing linguistic categories, how do those categories get formed in the first place? The discursive formation which allows men to represent themselves as non-gendered and to define women constantly according to their sexual status is a discursive formation with very definite effects.