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Rethinking How Language Reinforces Social Norms - Gender

by Amelia (follow)
Amelia is an art enthusiast and writer
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I was having a conversation with a close friend about French and European languages in general when we came to ponder who it was that had decided to call a female cat une chatte, whilst a male cat is simply un chat.

Likewise, in Italian respectively, la gatta and il gatto follow suit.

cat, female cat, gender, language
Photo/graphic design of the Spanish pattern for 'cat' by David Vignoni via Wikipedia CC.

Both base words are inseparable from the gender of the thing that they describe, as opposed to English where the gender describer (female/male) is separate.

Gender-based languages are a world of feminine and masculine versions of things.

Can you imagine having to pay attention to the gender of things constantly? Wouldn't this drive you insane?

You may think that this might occur, but just like any language it becomes like a reflex once you have gained fluent mastery.

What does occur amongst gender-based language speakers is a heightened awareness of the gender of words and therefore this sensitivity contributes to the greater differentiation between things aka nouns.

English speakers have to make a special effort to mention the gender of something, which is far less frequently required in conversation than by gender-based speakers who use gender to make a sentence flow grammatically.

Why is English different?

English is a special language which has one of the most prolific reputations as a "borrower". Although Germanic in origin, English has adopted many words from languages all around the world which follow many different linguistic formats and patterns.

Some English words and their respective language of origin are:

Scenario - Italian
Plaza - Spanish
Veranda/h - Portuguese
Republic - French
Cafeteria - Spanish
Cigarette - French

Without the influence of the world through the travels of the British, the English language would be stumped!

Be thankful that English is less focused on gender differences! But why do English speakers still continue to slander each other anyway via perceived gender?

Language is only as good a facilitator as its words and patterns. But language can be used to suit the speaker, especially to suit one's motives. If you are a parent, it is a good idea to discourage gender differences as being bad or lacking in any way. By this I refer to attributions that English can give to some behaviours,

"Timmy cries like a girl."

crying, man, tears, male, fear, sadness
Photo by tourist_on_earth via Flickr CC.


"Samantha is rougher than her brother."

roller derby, pushing, girls, rough
Photo by Sanders/Matthew Demeter via Wikipedia CC.

Both imply that the behaviour displayed by the individuals are negative towards the stereotype and acceptability of the gender that they have been assigned.

gibson girls, girls, women, female, beauty, stereotype
Not everyone can be an ideal female beauty.

It is vital to remember that we are all born to be the XY or XX chromosomes we were designed as. That does not mean that everyone will fit the bill of what one society deems as 'female' or as 'male'.

Don't fight gender!

battle of the sexes, women, men, gender
Photo by Patrick de Laive via Flickr CC.

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