Saturday, December 17, 2016

Masculine dominated language by Cassie Kinney

Masculine dominated language

Within the three days of observing the generic male and female language, I found that words that are demeaning, derogatory, and hateful are so commonly used that they are normalized. Our culture tends to use extreme, violent, binary, loaded or ‘trigger’ words in everyday conversation. From my perspective, ‘Bitch’, ‘bitches’, ‘girl’, and ‘guys’ were used most often in everyday conversation or music when referring to the generic female and male binary. Both ‘bitches’ and ‘guys’ are used in conversation by, and towards, all people. Admittedly, women, including myself, will say ‘you guys’ towards other women. ‘Guys’, is a generic male term while ‘bitch’ is a generic female term while both words are used towards any gender; and yet ‘bitches’ contains so much more negative connotation.
Over the course of three days, I heard ‘guys’, a generic male term, used three times directed towards women or an audience. In one instance, ‘you guys’ was used by me. I was telling my mother that I bought groceries for her and my brothers when I purchased my food. When I was addressing her about this I said, “I got food for you guys.” At this year's first LGBTQ+ pride event in town, one of the male speakers addressed the audience as ‘you guys.’ Later that night when I was on Facebook, I saw that on a picture of two women, a female commented on the photo saying “cute you guys.” Then a different person posted a meme of a fashionable lady with a bourgeois man next to her and the caption said: “Beside every bad bitch is her gay best friend.”
The next day, I was listening to a rap song “Bia Bia” by Lil Jon and the East side Boyz. The title of the song is abbreviated from ‘Bitch’, so when you hear it in the song, it is pronounced B-I-B-I. ‘Bitch’ is directed towards males, and ‘bitch’ is plainly used throughout the song directed at black men or men in general. My partner and I like rap and hip hop despite its flawed and derogatory language. Later that night, we were watching a stand-up special by Louis CK. He says ‘bitch’ in a nasaly Valley-girl voice in one of his jokes. He was portraying a defiant woman, asking ‘are you a little bitch?’ to an implied male character.  ‘Bitch’ was used throughout the rap song as well, but I will count this as one instance where the generic female word is used, so over the course of three days, I heard bitch used three times (including the meme that used ‘bitch.')
Moreover, two female peers called me ‘pretty girl’ when greeting me. Both women on separate occasions said, “Hey, pretty girl.” Naturally because they are both beautiful, I reply back, “Hey pretty girl,” to redirect back what they said to me. When I think about it, it’s awkward that people I barely know greet me in this manner, which is why I paused, smiled, and said: “Hey…other pretty girl.” As laughable or absurd as it is to use this manner of speaking to them, I use this language with my female friends and family (best friend, mother, sister, dog, and cousin.) We all greet one another similarly by saying ‘pretty girl.’ We are exchanging compliments upon greeting, either because we live in a Patriarchal society that has conditioned all of us to compliment one another solely based on looks, or we all are in fact beautiful to the point it must be said in conversation. I probably heard ‘girl’ used four times over the course of three days. 
When grown men are referred to as 'boy', often this evokes a rage that sends me into confusion. In fact I witnessed this on one occasion when my partner was called boy by a 60-year-old man, and he felt it did not come from a harmless place. Actually my partner felt it evoked that old racist tone from the deep south where men were called 'boys' out of domination and disrespect. Actually, I agree with this, which is why I'm wondering why the word 'Girl' does not hold the same disrespect. Historically, the words boy and girl were used by the white master as a way to undermine men and women of color. I certainly may act young and childish, but I don't want to be called a girl at 27-years-old! Presently, society still calls women 'girl(s)' up until they're 30 years old. Even I'm guilty of this! 
From this experiment, I also became aware of other derogatory words used that have been normalized such as ‘rape.’ I heard two men utter that word in casual language to talk about their hardship with math homework and work at a retail store. This exercise also made me reflect on old conversations that I would overhear boys have. For example, to insult someone, boys would say at another boy: “Your mom.” I also reflected on how my own language has become gendered, and I’m not sure how it happened. We all hear these words repeated over and over to a point that we begin to use them ourselves.
To sum up a bit of what I calculated over the last three days of observing the generic female and male language communicated: ‘guys’ was used three times, ‘bitch’ was used three separate times, and ‘girl’ was used four times. From my own interpretation of these words, ‘guys’ is used for everyone in a non-derogatory way, communicating that when the word ‘girls’ is used, it is an insult. For instance, ‘you run like a girl.’ Of course I was the fastest ‘girl’ alongside two other boys in my elementary school, so that wasn’t an insult to me; but ‘girl’ is often used as an insult when directed towards boys or ‘guys.’ ‘Bitches’ is certainly symbolic of our culture when human women are compared to female dogs. These words used in our language are a reminder they involve subtle (or not-so-subtle) ideas about women/girls and men/boys. The masculine dominated language keeps women into categories such as girl, bitch, slut, spinster, and old hag. Our society has created an androsexist language that places men at the center--to the extent of referring women to 'guys', and that it is acceptable for women to want to be men; while simultaneously the culture says it is not acceptable for men to want to "be" or "act" like women. To this extent, the words we use are maintaining sexism and continuing to replicate the ideas of binaries and dichotomies.  

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