View Single Post
Old 4th July 2019, 01:42 AM   #125
Orphia Nay
Penguilicious Spodmaster.
Orphia Nay's Avatar
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Ponylandistan Presidential Palace (above the Spods' stables).
Posts: 37,447
Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
The opposite of conservative isn't liberal. The opposite of conservative is progressive. Conservative thinking is that the status quo is better than change. Progressive thinking is that change is desirable when it is done for valid reasons.

There is no valid reason to maintain the status quo on referring to ships as "she". The only argument you have is that "it's the way we've always done it", ie. tradition. Unless you are of the idea that preserving tradition is somehow an inherent good in and of itself (and let's stick to language here - traditional culture is something different), there's no reason to keep doing it.

On the other hand, gender neutral language is an inherent good. Language has been marginalising women from time immemorial. When asked to describe what they see when they picture a "hero", most people will describe a hero who is tough, brave, a risk-taker, and overwhelmingly, male. "Hero" is not a gendered word, but the "default" hero is male. For one of those female heroes, we have a special word - heroine. An "actor" is by default male. If you have an actor who isn't male, you have to single her out with the word "actress". Women are a deviation from the norm. They are aberrant, an exception. Think of how many times you hear or read about a "female professor". No! She's a professor. But if I start telling you about a professor I know, the image that will be conjured up in your mind is overwhelmingly likely to be male unless I take steps to make sure I refer to her as female. If I don't take such steps, then in your mind the professor is male. Male is the default.

Did you read the Person Paper I linked above? The tl;dr is that Hofstadter analogises the genderedness of language by imagining a world where instead of language being divided into male and female, with male being the default, language is divided into white and black, with white being the default. Then he makes ALL the arguments that people have made against gender neutral language in the form of arguments against race-neutral language. And it's shocking. It should be shocking. That's its purpose. I was shocked by it when I first read it, and it completely changed my opinion about gendered language.

Women can be heroes. Women can be actors. Women can be firefighters, soldiers, aviators, professors, engineers, electricians, pilots and doctors. We don't need gendered language. We don't need to single women out as something other than the default. If we really want a world where men and women are treated equally, which I think we do, then treating them equally in language is a good start.

Here endeth the lesson.
Only seeing this just now.

Very good, dear arth.

I'll challenge you something, since that's what progressive thinkers do for each other.

Women can be are heroes. Women can be are actors. Women can be are firefighters, soldiers, aviators, professors, engineers, electricians, pilots and doctors.

Cheers, and congratulations on winning TLA.
"We stigmatize and send to the margins
people who trigger in us the feelings we want to avoid"
- Melinda Gates, "The Moment of Lift".
Orphia Nay is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top