Friday, September 2, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

gender the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex. There are other meanings. One can discuss the ending applies to words in various languages, all of which are based on gender associations within the particular language. Only there's not much basis for those gendered endings; some things make sense, but in Latin farmer is feminine, even though almost all Roman farmers would have been men. So let us discount that meaning, and stick with the listed one. Note that it mentions cultural. What is "manly" in one place is not going to be "manly" everywhere, and the same can be said for "womanly" behaviors. In Victorian England, a woman was meant to be pretty and pristine and tender (unless she was lower class and had to work). In some Native American tribes, they ruled the family. In Judaism, though women have low actual status, the line of descent is matrilineal. If you mother wasn't Jewish, neither are you, no matter how very Jewish your father might be, so your mother had better be pretty Jewish. So is Jewishness a gendered trait, then? Is fashion womanly? It didn't used to be. Once upon a time men's clothes were the only things anyone cared about, and their ornamentation was full of meaning and significance. But now, at least in the West, men's fashion is a small subset of the overall fashion world, which is bent entirely on women. Definitely a gender based construction, but purely cultural, a historical accident. So what is gender, except what we decide it is at any time and in any place?

It's nothing at all. It's an opinion we assert. Sometimes on ourselves. Sometimes on others. But it's just that: an opinion. Everyone has one. And there's no right or wrong ones.

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