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So I'm noticing that something has changed in the way my mind deals…

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So I'm noticing that something has changed in the way my mind deals with the world, in the wake of the race!fail and sexism conversations I've participated in on LJ.

A good example of how happened a couple days back. I was discussing a person I know who is doing foolish things and I said 'I don't get it, because she's a smart woman'-- then paused, shook my head, and said 'I'm sorry. I don't get it because she's a smart person: her gender's irrelevant to the question'.
While it's not an example of me being perfectly proper about sexist use of language, it's at least a good example of me noticing the sexism implicit in the language I used, and navigating around it.
  • (no subject) -
    • It's not to my view either- but I can easily see how someone would read 'she's a smart woman' as 'she's smart for a woman'- which was totally not the purpose, hence the correction.

      I'm more remarking on the fact I'm thinking about the question than that I spotted it correctly, though: it's been an intriguing process of looking at how I use language without considering how others might hear it.
      • I've had a similar experience with increased awareness lately; this summer I did some volunteer time mapping closed-circuit camera locations in downtown that monitor public space. Some of these are city cams and some are private cams that also monitor public spaces like sidewalks and street corners. I really notice closed-circuit cameras now.
        • Yeah. It's intriguing noticing that my perspective now on this question (what language am I using that, unbeknownst to my white male self, has a hidden cutting edge for my fellow travellers?) has shifted from 'I didn't mean that' to 'I should perhaps exercise some care'. Noticing CCTV cameras is quite the same thing, as far as the perspective shift goes.
    • It still makes explicit mention of gender in a setting in which it wasn't particularly pertinent to the discussion. It's not the end of the world, but It's the sort of thing I try to avoid anyway. Sort of like how Joe Biden going on and on about "tough, smart women" back when Clinton was still in the race struck me as slightly weird and patronizing. I guess the idea is to go against sexism by sort of contradicting it blatantly without explicitly mentioning that that was the point of the exercise, but it just struck me as sort of weird and pre-emptive and fixated.

      I don't really know. :-/
      • "Tough and smart is the new articulate and clean" is the way I worded it at the time.
        • A pleasing job of illustrating the divide between 'what is specifically said' and 'what is implicitly meant', there.
      • Yeah- to me, it's interesting that by becoming just a bit less blindered about both sexism and racism and how it's part of the everyday vocabulary of the general vox populi, I'm a little more acutely aware of it when it crops up. I'm still adopting a 'right' vocabulary- that is, still looking for the proper median to follow- but it's very pleasing to me that I can recognize something I didn't before recognize as incorrect.
      • (no subject) -
        • It's interesting- to my ear, 'she's a woman who is smart' isn't assigning a gendered meaning to the smartness involved, while 'she's a smart woman' leaves the possibility of measuring women on a different yardstick than men.
          Amazing how just these eensy little clause shifts in how we put together a sentence in English can almost completely alter that sentence's meaning, isn't it?
  • There are a couple of chapters of Douglas Hofstadter's Metamagical Themas that I think you'd really get a lot of benefit out of reading right now, because they tackle the concepts of implicit assumptions in language and how those interact with gender-markers.

    wow, I just made that sound really boring, didn't I? Really, Hofstadter makes it much cooler. He introduced me to these issues, back when I was in early high school. And I'd love to see what you think of what he's got to say.
    • I've not read any Hofstadter. Perhaps I should increase my intellectual-snobbery-quotient around the office and pick that up for the next trip down. ;)
  • That can go too far! I recently caught myself saying 'if a person is pregnant....' Well... uh... yeah.
    • hah- okay, point. That's definitely something related to the gender one's born to. However, such circumstances are pretty rare.
  • I have definitely gained far more awareness from the internet than from rl

    In RL people are less willing to call people out when they do something foolish, it tends not to chip our language as much and make us school our tongues (though the words still perpetuate the stereotypes and hurt people)

    In many cases not only do I take the effort to remove the casual prejudice that I ignored because I know it's more important - but I have opened my eyes to more problematic issues than i knew existed.
  • This is an interesting point to ponder. I think the gender question is a weird one because it is so embedded in our language. In your example, you're already conveying the information that you're talking about a woman with the pronoun. Given that, is it "more ok" to use woman instead of person (you've already given the information that the subject is female, so isn't it just being consistent?) or less (since you've already conveyed that information, is there a point to saying "woman" instead of "person" other than implying "for a woman").

    Also interesting is that we would never say "I'm surprised because s/he's a smart black person."
    • Actually, that last sentence goes straight to my point. Race doesn't enter into a discussion of smartness, so why should gender?
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