Sunday, April 16, 2006

Jafaikan demeans women

In a response to the article mentioned in the "Can you speak Jafaikan?" post, Zoe Williams argues that we shouldn't be celebrating such slang developments but looking at why they disproportionately label women rather than men. She makes the point as follows:
What all these words in fact have in common is that they define women by sexual function - denigrating them if they show any interest in sex themselves, ranging them according to their physical attributes and dismissing them once their physical peak has passed.
It's an interesting response and one that I feel a degree of instant sympathy for, but having said that, when hasn't slang denigrated women? Julia Stanley's research in the early 1970s found over 200 terms used to derogate women, and only about 20 for men. Others have contested these figures and carried out their own research using online databases , but the pattern holds true for the most part: there are more terms around to label women than there are for men.

Is this because - as many feminist linguists suggest - men dominate language as they do society (Dale Spender's Man Made Language being a good example of this view)? Or is it down to the nature of slang itself?

Slang tends to serve many functions in society, but one of its main ones is to put other people down, so it's hardly surprising that new slang developments do that too. But Zoe Williams has a good point - if we uncritically embrace all new language just for the sake of appearing cool, hip, nang or whatever new word means "up to date and fashionable" then we might miss some of its nastier influences.

Useful for:
ENA1 - Language & Representation

2 comments:

*Chrissyfloss*- ex SFXian said...

where can i access this article?

*Chrissyfloss*- ex SFXian said...

Never mind, I've found it now. I think she's singing an age-old song though. And since when was the word 'sket' ever overiding 'ho'? I haven't heard that word for time....