Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Gorillas aren't sexist. MediaMoment2

Media moment 2.

I read this NPR Article titled 'Why Gorillas aren't sexist and Orangutans don't rape'.
In this article, a gorilla in a Chinese zoo received worldwide media attention for his supposed 'sexist' behavior in which he nipped at female gorillas and disliked the company of them. She also mentions the behavior of some Orangutans that physically restrains female Orangutangs and mates with her. She says that according to academic literature these male Orangutangs are raping these female Orangutans.

The author of this post, Barbara King, then investigates whether the words 'rape' and 'sexist', terms that have derived from human experiences, are accurately assigned to these situations. King illustrates that the terms are human inventions meant to express "institutionalized male dominance". Erin Tarver a professor of philosophy backs her claim as she states

First of all, when we look at the non-human world through gender-colored-glasses, which is what we do when we describe it using gendered language, it's hardly a shock that we "see" our own gender patterns everywhere. Second, these kinds of perceptions can end up justifying bad social practices. Once we believe that male domination is just natural, it's a very small step to believing that it's inevitable—and, for some people, that it's divinely ordained or otherwise meant to be.
I found this piece interesting because it made me realize the importance of language and meaning. We ascribe certain words without thinking of the implications of its true meaning. Popular uses of language is used for the experience of the hegemonic structure. How many times have we said 'Fireman' instead of 'Fire Fighter', 'mail man' instead of 'mail carrier' or 'mail person'? It can be difficult to realize how truly gendered our language is when it is embedded into our everyday way of speaking.

My Question would be:
Have you noticed improvement in the common language that is spoken (that gravitates towards gender equality)? If not, what other examples can you think of that illustrates just how gendered our language has become?

1 comment:

  1. A friend once told me that male dolphins rape female dolphins and pull the dolphins into rape cages and forcefully mate with them. The female dolphin can't free itself because supposedly the male dolphin's penis acts like a hook which prevents the female dolphin from escaping. This whole idea sounded very strange to me and I kept telling my friend that he must be mistaken. I agree that we use words with a certain meaning and do so consciously. I doubt that dolphins know the concept of raping or are even capable of defining what they are doing as so. It's always interesting to look at language and the deeper meaning of words that are bound to a society. Interesting article!