Thursday, October 15, 2009

Language of Man

"...rendering of the frustration experienced under the phallocentric order. It gets us nearer to the root of our oppression, it brings closer an articulation of the problem, it faces us with the ultimate challenge: how to fight the unconscious structure like a language (formed critically at the moment of arrival of language) while still caught within the language of the patriarchy?"
Does this quote from Laura Mulvey's "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" remind anyone of anything...The discussion of earlier days about language and how it became a way to change and influence and affect more simple cultures. Although those talks spoke to the written language, think about what it means in this context of male and female form and impression. We have a language, a language that was developed many years ago and has continued to change since that time. Who has shaped that language? Who has shaped the connotations of the words of the language? Simply, man.
Not at all difficult to conclude, however, it can be bothersome, we say man meaning the human race. Why doesn't the word woman imply the human race? It's just a word that is part of the language. Is 'woman' less than 'man?' Today we say no, but what do we practice and what do we truly see? In some other languages (obviously not all since I have no knowledge of every single language in the world), like French, for example, passive objects have a feminine structure. Not strange, it's just a language, but why are not a majority of the passive objects with a masculine structure? This does not mean anything...does it?
What are you thoughts? Does language, its structure, its usage, its connotations help shape the views of its users? Is language the language of men (patriarchal)? Why do you think so?


  1. Janetta, you've actually pointed us back to Derrida, specifically his discussions of phallogocentrism--the idea that there is a phallic/masculine speaking subject at the center of Western discourse. Think The Word in the Gospel of John or good ol' Plato in the pharmacy, attempting to construct all of Western philosophy. So in a way, we could argue that Western discourse is masculine, at least in the way that it has been deployed. This point, though, is certainly debatable, as many of the subsequent feminists and queer theorists will argue. The even more complicated notion is the unmarked whitness of Western discourse, which is a topic that will be taken up by hooks, Gates, Baker, Paula Gunn Allen, and others later in the semester.

    Having said all that, and turning back to your post, Derrida--the guy who started all this deconstruction stuff--was French. Can we take anything away from that?

  2. It's no surprise to me that language shows evidence of phallogocentrism, as Prof. Fisher referenced, as language is a pivotal tool of power. Therein men who held power could control language. The question is why this hasn't changed with greater rights for and regard for the autonomy of women. My answer would be that old habits die hard, and language conventions become more tied to our beings than the most prevelant habits. I believe there is hope in the increase in androgynous language out there - some of it sometime overly-politically correct, yes, such as the overuse of he/she, but hopeful none the less :D

  3. Those are a lot of questions that I don't even know if I can answer. But I agree with katherine(I hope I spelt your name correct). I think that language is definitely controlled by men. This was because in history, men had power and knowledge which gave the ability to control language, which definitely goes along with what Foucault's main arguements on.