Monday, February 28, 2011

Language Barriers

It is about time that someone spoke up against the language we use. This does not refer to the plethora of abusive and offensive words you'll hear on the drunken streets from fighting couples in the coming weeks, but to the choice of words we use, almost unthinkingly in every day life.

Language is man-made. Men wrote the alphabet that we see today and men created the words that are so naturally learned from birth. There are certain words which are so ingrained into our lexicon we think nothing of them until some loopy left-wing PC comes along and demands we call a dustbin man a refuse technician. Ok, that is a silly example and it is quite true that the work of the politically correct tends to work against the average thinker of this country who would like to see racist and sexist words discarded from our language.

Which is why I think that Morgan Freeman's attack on America's Black History Month is long over due in coming. The PCC Code states that reporters must not refer to a person's race unless it is integral to the story. For instance, if the story were to report a description of a murderer the police were hunting then it would be okay to mention the suspect's race as that is relevant to the story. Yet, it is a natural assumption that if the description said: "A man, aged between 25 and 35, medium build..." that the suspect is white because we are so used to seeing a reference to race when someone is non-white that it is logical in not mentioning a race, the person in question is white.

It is not just race that is problematic concerning our use of language, it abuses gender too. It barely needs mentioning that the word feminist is now a negative term which is used to insult women. How many times have you heard the argument, "I'm not feminist but..."? It actually makes me sad that so many women fought and died for what they believe in just for some women today to denounce those freedoms which are rightfully ours.

I don't want to go in to a social essay about the history of feminism and how the fight didn't end with the vote yet, patriarchy in inherent in our society because it is so inherent in our language that on the most part, we think nothing of it.

I was watching E4 yesterday to see an advert for a game show called "Bamboozle" or something along those lines. The premise is that anyone can be a Jodi Marsh and become famous simply for being famous, but where women are concerned it is usually involves getting their kit off. What shocked me most was the use of language in the advert, "fine young filles." I'm sorry, but did I somehow end up watching a Roy Chubbie Brown DVD by mistake?

Please feel free to argue with me and say it is all just a bit of fun. However, what goes in through the eyes and the ears, comes out through the mouth and the actions. When you refer to women as girls, objects or pieces of meat, you are supporting that inequality and making it more naturalised in our society. Is it right that future generations will think it is perfectly normal to call a 2o-something year old woman a girl? I officially stopped being a girl when I was 18, so don't call me one.

I am not a lady either, I have no airs or graces and I certainly don't act lady-like. Why should I? It is time for that well-worn example that if a woman goes out and gets sexual pleasure from a number of men then she is a slut; if a man does the same then he is just doing what normal men do.

When I was younger I was advised to stay a virgin until I was married because men prefer to marry virgins and not the woman they have already slept with. There are so many things wrong with this statement that I am not sure where I should even begin. However, I am quite sure that part of the problem is the language we use.

Morgan Freeman said the only way to end racism was to "stop talking about it." That needs a change in our attitudes, the way we think and the language we use. The latter being the most difficult to change.

I have spoken mostly about language being used to create inequalities between men and women because, as a woman, I am more confident on that subject. However, the theory is just the same for every inequality. Change the language and then change the thinking. It is a mammoth task that has gone wrong in recent years but it is our job to readdress it for future generations.

Don't let that grumpy old Yorkshire man be right for every generation:

This Be The Verse - Philip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

No comments:

Post a Comment