Vive la (Petite?) Difference!
May is here already—a colorful and busy month—saturated with flowers, celebrations, sunshine, and hope. A month pregnant with many desires—for love, for freedom, for new adventure, new challenges, new dreams…. Cupids are flying among the birds and sharpening their arrows. So I decided to write something “sexy” this time.
In one of the latest THE WEEK magazines (April 27, 2012) I stumbled on the article: “Sweden: Purging gender from the language”
It just so happens that quite a few years ago (1986), as an op-ed columnist for Cape Cod Times, I wrote a piece titled “Our language reflects our values.” I questioned the use of the title “selectman” for that position in Falmouth given that for eight long years Falmouth had had a woman as a selectman. Here it is what I wrote:
“Let’s say the title of selectman were to change to selectwoman, as logic would call for in the Falmouth situation. What would happen? Would the male candidates have to run for selectwoman? Here is the core of the issue. I am sure that men would object. But why? If a woman runs for selectman, why can’t a man run for selectwoman?”
“All of it starts early in childhood. When a little girl becomes a tomboy, it is cute; it is all right. When a boy is sensitive, open, and expresses his feelings with tears, he is called ‘sissy’; he is being ‘a girl.’ We as a society have yet to value masculinity and femininity as equal.”
You can see why I got intrigued about the Swedish society purging gender from its language.
First of all — to purge gender from some languages is simply not possible. In my native Polish for instance, every noun has a gender – it is always she, he or it. The adjectives and verbs are modified according to the noun gender, so Polish and other Slavic languages are heavily gender coded. They would have to be reconstructed totally from scratch!
On top of everything else the likable Swedes went very far in their political correctness.
Quoting from THE WEEK: “State-run preschools have been instructed to avoid referring to children as girls or boys, and many of them have hired ‘gender pedagogues’ who ‘help staff identify language and behavior that risk reinforcing stereotypes.’”
To not be addressed by your gender at all? It is one thing to try to be fair and to give both sexes the same chance to be treated as equally as possible, but is it necessary to go to such an extreme? What do you think about it?
Small gender differences (except anatomical of course!) in the appearance of very young children are not that small in their behavior, moods, and interests according to the What to Expect on line journal from which I copied this photo.
Let’s face it, we are different from the very start – genetically. Denying gender differences seems to be absurd to me. I will repeat what I wrote years ago: Recognition of sex is not sexism: the putting down of one sex by another is. We do not have to be the same to be equal.
Vive la petite difference, and not so petite after all!
This familiar Yin Yang symbol represents Taoism’s way of understanding opposites like light and darkness, masculine and feminine. There is equality there and interpreted as two sides of the same coin where one could not exist without the other. They in fact complement each other. There is an idea of balance. Growing acceptance in our culture for a wider variety of sexual orientation caused by nature or due to personal choice is comforting. It does not upset (in my opinion) any balance of nature, just like dawn and dusk do not upset the balance between day and night.
Many of you may be familiar with this book by John Grey. I purchased this 1992 edition a couple of years later and still have a mixed feeling about it, but can’t deny that the author’s goal was to improve communication between men and women. Here is a quote from his introduction:
“[The book] reveals new strategies for reducing tension in relationship and creating love by first recognizing in great detail how men and women are different…. Relationships do not have to be such a struggle. Only when we do not understand one another is there tension, resentment, or conflict.”
So here we have it – women and men, or men and women, how really different are we? There have been a huge number of researches, opinions, laws, and actions addressing this question. Frankly, it can be overwhelming, so today I propose that we just laugh a bit about our petite difference.
Please click on the photo (or this YouTube link) for a few minutes of humor and laughter. Enjoy it!
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Text copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann. Photo of laughing people by Yuri Arcurs (purchased from BigStockPhoto.com). Yin Yang symbol by Petr Kratochvil (public domain).