Car Rides and Gender Bias

This all started because I was trying to figure out why inanimate objects have gender in Hindi and German, while I fervently argued with my mom on how to make sense of the gender of keys or a table on a rather long car ride. Those who have tried learning those kind of languages  know that grammatical gender is one of the most vexing aspects of learning a new language.

So mom started explaining , in the Hindi language, nouns like a river are feminine whereas something like a mountain is masculine.

My immediate thought: HOW?

This is both baffling and somewhat astounding. What makes a mountain any more manly than a river. Now, you’re probably thinking, ‘Well, that’s obvious’. A reason supporting this statement also popped up in your head, didn’t it? It it because it’s strong? Tall? Sturdy? Broad?

Now, explain why a female couldn’t share the same traits? Any luck yet?

So I start to wonder, what is gender? To the dictionary, it is simply defined by your reproductive organs. To some, it is defined by what pronouns they perfect. When exactly did our personality traits start to define our gender?

We always knew our whole idea of gender has been cluttered with stereotypes and misconceptions. Like princesses or cute things, you’re a girl. If you are broad-shouldered and like bulging muscles, you’re a boy! A man likes rainbows? Oh no! he’s too feminine. A girl with a short haircuts to those playing football, or  weightlifting and boxing (shudder..) A tomboy.

We thought we knew the  gender stereotypes we encounter ! Just until half and hour ago, I hadn’t realised it had seeped so deep in our culture , right unto the language we speak.

So I googled of course and found a study, where native German and Spanish speakers were asked to describe words which had opposite genders,with 3 English adjectives.

Across the board, object gender influenced the participants’ judgments. For example, the word “key” is masculine in German and feminine in Spanish. German speakers described keys as hard, heavy, jagged, metal, and useful. Spanish speakers, on the other hand, used words such as golden, intricate, little, lovely, and tiny when describing keys. The word “bridge” is feminine in German and masculine in Spanish. Sure enough, German speakers described bridges as beautiful,  fragile, pretty, and slender, while Spanish speakers said they were big, dangerous, strong, sturdy, and towering.

So much for living in  a society that is moving away from gender stereotypes, when the very language we communicate is unknowingly coding our brains even as I type. (oh wait this is English , Good! 🙂

Aren’t we all humans? We’re not humen and huwomen, we’re all a single race.

Idea of the day!

The labels ‘he’ or ‘she’ come with strings and expectations, so why not address yourself by ‘it’ or ‘them’ instead? It’s a generic term, referring to neither a man or a woman. That gives you the entire range of personality traits to choose from, and nothing is too ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’.

Have you ever done something that people generally correlate with the other gender? Have you ever complained about a rowdy boy, but then you were told ‘boys do that’? Are you a girl who punched someone in class and then was told off  not because it was wrong to hurt but because ‘that’s not how girls should behave’?

If you believe this is true, address yourself with a neutral pronoun for an hour. Because, aren’t we all a little mixed up?

(It would also make learning languages so much easier, but I digress!)

ps- do leave your thoughts in a comment for me!

 

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Sources Cited:Boroditsky, L., Schmidt, L., & Phillips, W. (2003). Sex, Syntax, and Semantics. In Language in mind: Advances in the study of language and cognition, ed. D. Gentner & S. Goldin-Meadow, pp. 61- 80. Cambridge University Press.

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Be More Chill (Ned Vizzini) – Everything About You Is So Alive!

Don’t we all crave the title ‘popular’? To not stand awkwardly in the hallways and brun from bullies who are hell-bent on making your non-existent reputation worse, to just be accepted and revered and just…be more chill?

Ned Vizzini wrote ‘Be More Chill’, an accurate representation of teenagers, how wild they can get and just how far they will go to get what they want. This book was turned into a play and later, an off-broadway musical.

Jeremy Heere and his best friend Michael Mell are losers for obvious reasons. Jeremy believes he has no chance with theatre kid Christine until…he gets a squip. When his former bully Rich recalls his tale of how it takes him from sad to interesting to hip, Jeremy knows he just has to get his hands on one.

He’s willing to ditch it all, his parent’s trust, his dignity, his best friend…all to get popular.

The SQUIP is a small supercomputer that analyzes social situations and then provides the best reaction to it, causing people to start to get attracted to you, making you popular.

And who will refuse you when you’re popular?

The mindset of every character is very real and if you heere (pun intended) Jeremy’s thoughts, you’ll probably remember a situation where you thought the same thing. He wants Christine, and he believes the only way to get her is by being popular. Unfortunately, you have to make sacrifices and during the ‘bathroom intervention’ scene Jeremy knows he’s in too deep, shutting down Michael and leaving him in the bathroom to cry to himself.

Jeremy realises too late that the SQUIP was a bad idea, and manages to repair his relationships. He realises that his successful interactions with Christine only occur when the squip was off, and that he’s uncomfortable in situations that ‘popular’ people get into.

He’s just happy with being him, and that’s all he should be.

Michael says: “I could stay right here, or disappear and nobody would notice at all.” 

Sometimes we feel like we could just disappear into nothing and because we’re not the in crowd, no one would care. But, just like how Jeremy comes back for his Player 2, there is always someone who cares, someone who you are important to

The SQUIP, to me, is a metaphor for the stereotypical person you are forcing yourself to be. You believe everything about you is so terrible, you need to be that impeccable image to be accepted. You watch someone else transform, and then suddenly you realise you can too, without thinking of the repercussions.

For some, being popular is a natural thing. Their personality is just wired that way. You don’t have to be them, if that’s not the way you are comfortable. You are the way you are, and you cant let anyone else ridicule you for you, you need to stand up, not think that you are unacceptable in society.

You cant let people get to you, because no one else can have the same sense of humour or the same gawky smile or the same interest in old vintage games, but you!

And who knows, one day the type of person you were will be deemed ‘popular’.

(I’ve linked in the songs where i’ve used the lyrics!)

The Words I Say

I was only 13 when I locked out my friends,
Said I never wanna see ’em again.
They creep, they creep
Under the door,
Tryin’ to get into the fort that I’ve made
Around myself.
These fears, these worries
The’re tryna’ get to me.
And I’m afraid, yeah, I’m afraid,
That’s, oh, it’s working.
The words I say, choke my throat
I can’t say anything more,
I need to say something more than what I never did.
Will I be my worst regret?
I don’t want anyone near me,
I don’t wanna see them cry.
I want you to leave me alone,
I don’t want you to try!
I know I can’t be saved,
Pick up the shards of my broken being.
Give me a nice send-off,
And when you come down to hell,
Come see me.
The words I said, choke my throat
I won’t say anything more,
I should have said something more than what I never did.
I am my worst regret.
WAIT!
No, no, no.
My head is spinning,
My blood is rushing,
The tears are flowing.
And then I see your face,
Are you upset? Relieved? Dissapointed?
You rush towards me,
I collapse, a sobbing mess
But you catch me.
And the tears flow again.
“Please help me,” I sputter,
The words I said, free my throat.
I don’t need to say anything more,
I’ve done what I needed to do.
I am getting better.
I am getting better.

She is Different Now

The girl I love
Is amazing, beautiful and strong
Can weave words into beautiful pictures
Of courage, love and epiphany
And believed in herself and us
More than I did

Her eyes shone bright
When she spoke about us
When she spoke about things she loved
And I loved it

No other I’ve seen can hold a candle to
Her fire, that burns so bright

But,
She is different now
Not any less amazing, beautiful or strong
But
She no longer believes in herself
She no longer believes in us

Bangles of blood adorn her wrists
And she craves that pain
For reasons I cannot fathom
She is so smart, so talented
She can bend words to her every whim

But now
She bends them against me
Hiding herself behind
A wall of false words
“I’m fine” “I’m okay” “I’m cold”

But her eyes
Those eyes that once shone with laughter
Now revel in the depths of sadness

Imploring me to push forward,
To stay
Even if her words say otherwise

So I push on
Staying there
Holding on
Smiling, laughing
Even though
Every time I see the pain
Reflected in her eyes
I am broken a little more

Please,
Come out
Speak to me

I am okay with anything
As long as you’re okay

You can cry and scream
And feel like you’re a mess

But promise me that
I’ll see you again tomorrow.