Archive for Gender

Gender fluidity in the classroom

Recent article on gender and language teaching:

How Language Classes Are Moving Past the Gender Binary

Languages that contain only “he” and “she” pronouns pose problems for communicating about gender identity. Here’s how some language teachers are helping.

By Molly Lipson, NYT     Sept. 1, 2021

Selections from the article:

Tal Janner-Klausner teaches Hebrew. There is nothing unusual about that, but the language presents a frustration that Mx. Janner-Klausner, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns in English, feels compelled to discuss with their students.

Hebrew, as well as French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and other languages, uses binary pronouns, which means that gender identities outside of he/she and male/female don’t exist in any formal capacity.

In Hebrew, even the word “they” is gendered. In French, “ils” refers to a group of men or a mixed-gender group, and “elles” refers to a group of all females. All nouns in gendered languages — including people — are categorized as either masculine or feminine, and any adjectives associated with these words must reflect that gender.

That presents a problem for students who are gender-nonconforming, and, of course, for the speakers of the language in general. Is it possible for learners of a gendered language to refer to themselves and others when their identities are not represented?

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Vulgar village vernacular

This Chinese article is about a man who has made a living by painting slogans and ads on village walls for thirty years. Some of the slogans are rather bizarre, as may be seen by looking at the many photographs in the article.

The article says it is such a well-paying job that the man was able to buy 6 apartments in his hometown with his earnings. Painting on walls is one of the major ways to advertise or propagate goods and ideas in the countryside.

There are many examples of such signs in the article, but I couldn't understand all of them upon first glance, so I wondered if the country folk would be able to read the signs. I asked a number of my graduate students from China, and they all said, yes, the country folk not only would be able to read them, but would enjoy them and would be motivated to buy the products and services promoted by the signs.

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Slurring and blurring

Something seemed amiss from the very first words of this video:

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Nonbinary third person pronoun in written Mandarin

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Gender-inclusive French

An unusual article on language in Foreign Policy:

"Aux Armes, Citoyen·nes!  Gender-neutral terms have sparked an explosive battle over the future of the French language," by Karina Piser (7/4/21)

The article is long and detailed.  Here I try to quote only the most important and telling points.

In early May, France’s education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, announced a ban on the use in schools of an increasingly common—and contested—writing method designed to make the French language more gender-inclusive.

Specifically, Blanquer’s decree focuses on the final letter “e,” which is used to feminize words in French—étudiant, for example, becomes étudiante when referring to a female student. Like many other languages, French is gendered: Pronouns, nouns, verbs, and adjectives reflect the gender of the object or person they refer to; there is no gender-neutral term like “they.” Most critically, say the proponents of the inclusive method, the masculine always takes precedence over the feminine—if there’s a group of 10 women and one man, a French speaker would still refer to the group in the masculine plural, ils.

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Soused noodles / face

[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson]

An unfortunate cultural misunderstanding has occurred in the attached image:

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Awoman: gender-free language in Congress

No, that is not a typo for "A woman". It is meant to be the feminine gendered equivalent of "Amen".

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver closes Congress’ opening prayer with ‘amen and awoman’

By Emily Jacobs, New York Post   January 4, 2021

A House Democrat tasked with leading the body in an opening prayer for the new Congress has gendered the word “amen.”

To close a prayer he delivered from the House chamber Sunday to mark the swearing in of the 117th Congress, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), an ordained minister, altered the traditional “amen” to say “amen and awoman.”

“May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us and give us peace,” Cleaver said during his two-minute invocation, “peace in our families, peace across this land, and dare I ask, o Lord, peace even in this chamber.”

“We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God, Brahma, and ‘God’ known by many names by many different faiths. Amen and awoman.”

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Viral gender dispute

Kim Willsher, "'La Covid': coronavirus acronym is feminine, Académie Française says", The Guardian 5/13/2020 ("Many in France have been referring to “le Covid” but guardians of French language rule otherwise"):

The Académie Française, guardian of the French language, has said a big non to le covid. Not to the actual disease, but to the use of the masculine definitive [sic] article “le”.

While many in France have been referring to “le Covid”, the so-called “Immortals” who make up the academy have ruled otherwise. Covid, they insist, is most definitely feminine.

“Covid is the acronym for coronavirus disease and acronyms have the genus of the name that forms the core of the phrase of which they are an abbreviation,” the academy ruled in a statement on its website under the heading “Say, don’t say”, aimed at stopping the French language being infected with Anglicisms.

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Pinyin vs. Sinographs

This came across Jeff DeMarco's Facebook yesterday:

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Gender bending in the Sinosphere

Don Clarke has called to my attention a new bilingual, digraphic expression:  “娘man结合”.  That's "niáng man jiéhé ('woman man [the English word] combination')".

It’s a women’s fashion style that combines femininity in one part of the outfit with manliness in the other — like wearing a colored print dress with an army jacket.  Supposedly, “man” is read in the first tone.

Don remarks:

This expression must have the authorities very distressed; not only does it contain foreign words spelled in letters, but it also has the disfavored style "niáng 娘" ("mother; woman; mum; ma; a woman; young girl / woman; young lady; a form of address for an elderly married woman; effeminate [coll.]") . No less than the Xinhua News Agency recently inveighed against the sissified “娘炮”之风 (basically, the Korean boy-band look) as unmanly.

Here’s an account of the controversy (in Chinese).

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Sexist tech ad

The news about sexism in China's high tech industry is out and it's all over the internet:

The most damning account of all comes in Lijia Zhang's "Chinese Tech Companies’ Dirty Secret" (New York Times Opinion, 4/23/18), which includes a video presentation.  At 1:34, there's a job ad from the Chinese tech company Meituan which is so disgusting that I've purposely put the screenshots on the second page.  (What follows in the video is even more repulsive.)  I didn't want to pass up the Meituan ad altogether, however, because it does have an interesting linguistic hook.

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Ask Language Log: Are East Asian first names gendered?

The question comes from George Amis:

I wonder– are first names gendered in Mandarin?  That is, is it possible to tell that Tse-tung or Wai-wai are masculine names? Given the extraordinary proliferation of Chinese first names, I rather doubt it. And what is the case with Japanese first names? Here, I suspect that the names are gendered, although of course I don't know.

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Gender distinction in languages

[This is a guest post by Krista Ryu]

It may be true that the problem of gender inequality is more severe in East Asian countries than in European countries. However, in terms of languages, Indo-European languages actually distinguish genders while East Asian languages traditionally do not.

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