bawling for balls at the ball

2 Apr

Balls: Some people got ’em, some people don’t.

About half the people in this world have got balls. The other half have brains.

Now, was that sexist? It depends, of course, on how you read it! (Oh, boy! Homophones!) For instance, if you read it… ahem… literally, then the sentence is an apt description of the sexes  sexist and false. If you read it from a child or athlete’s point of view, then obviously the sentence is a hyperbolic exhortation to wear a helmet when you play sports involving hard projectiles. If you read it as a statement on how some people take the Hamlet route—think before you act—while others are more action-oriented, then… then you have given me an example of the sexism of the English language.

Why does someone who’s “got balls” equate to someone courageous or bold? Back in Japan, I used to giggle over how sexist the Japanese writing system (which actually stems from chinese characters) really is. I mean, the kanji for noisy is just the kanji for woman repeated three times. Okay, fine, that one’s kinda true. But there are plenty of other examples that I won’t get into to save time. My reason for mentioning this is that English is pretty dang sexist, too. Why do we prefer the pronoun “he” to refer to anyone? Why does “girly” have a negative connotation, while “manly” has a positive one? Why are there “seamstresses,” while nobody uses the term “seamster?”

I’m not much of a feminist myself. I’m not saying I want to introduce seamster into popular jargon. Sometimes I just like to think and wonder about what we’re really saying. And since I set the ball rolling (sorry, couldn’t help myself), I’m also curious which came first—were we two genders naturally different from the start, and language evolved around existing typical differences, or was language simply created by those with a skewed perception?

On a side note: I’ve always secretly wanted to wear a ball gown. I can’t wear one to prom because I tried to order one last year and my parents laughed at me. But maybe someday, in the distant but not yet haggish future, I will wear a ball gown at my wedding. A girl can hope.

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2 Responses to “bawling for balls at the ball”

  1. Chocolate & Morphine April 3, 2013 at 1:38 am #

    We don’t use seamster because the term “seamstud” is preferred. 🙂

    But seriously, our language is evolving to a more gender-neutral form. Policeman becomes police officer, fireman becomes fire fighter, mailman is mail carrier or postal worker, and so on.

    I took a Critical Writing class in college that made me acutely aware of the pronouns I use. Ever since, I’ve put more effort into choosing neutral language.

    I’d be very interested in learning more about Japanese language. Maybe you can incorporate it into another letter (J for Japanese or K for kanji). I’ve been thinking about learning Japanese, but I have no idea where to start.

    • chloeaevm April 3, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

      Seamstud? Classic. 🙂
      That’s a very fair point. It seems people are much more conscious of which words they use than they were before. But that leads me to wonder, while everyone’s striving towards PC perfection, is there a point where people become TOO politically correct? I mean, is there something to be said for the idea that drawing too much attention to and overemphasizing certain arguably trivial matters actually heightens sexism/racism/whatever? I don’t know. I’ll confess, I’ve never really put much thought into this before.
      Oh, thanks for the suggestion! You should. It’s a great language, and it’s surprisingly simple. The only reason people think it’s hard is the vast amount of characters you have to learn to be considered literate. I learned Japanese in school, so I can’t really suggest anything there. I’ve heard good things about Rosetta Stone, if you’ve got deep pockets.
      Thanks for commenting 🙂

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