Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Just one of the guys... err, pals.

When people say "ignorance is bliss," they aren't kidding. Learning about language has totally ruined my life! Ok, so maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but really, taking Literary Theory and Composition Theory has completely changed my way of looking at the world. I can't do so much as go on Facebook without thinking about language and ideology-- which is how I was inspired to write this post.

Today, I was struck by something I say all of the time. A friend wrote about girls who are "one of the guys" in her Facebook status, and I thought, "Well, hey, I'm 'one of the guys.'" For most of my life, at least up until my sophomore year of college, my closest friends were predominately male. When I was younger, I would climb trees with the boys, ride bikes with the boys, hike in the woods with the boys, and light things on fire with the boys. When I got older, I watched football with the guys, drank with the guys, watched action movies with the guys, and talked "locker room" talk with the guys. To this day, of my three closest friends from home, two are male. When I'm feeling bummed, I can call "my boys" for a bar night, possibly followed by a diner run and Guitar Hero at 3 A.M. It's great being "one of the guys." They talk openly around me and never treat me like I'm a delicate lady, whose ears must be protected from curses, dirty jokes, and belches.

So what's wrong with being "one of the guys?" Aside from the fact that it assigns gender roles and puts women down as the weaker sex, annoying and overly-conscious of societal norms? I don't think I've ever heard a guy say he's just "one of the girls" (at least not seriously). Any guy who admitted to being "one of the girls" would undoubtedly be mocked for it. Why is it ok for girls to be "one of the guys," but not vice versa? In truth, I don't know many men, especially not straight men, who have mostly female friends, though I know many females who empathize with my situation as "one of the guys." That seems rather ridiculous.

I think this is a good example of how seemingly harmless language can really be quite harmful. "One of the guys" reveals quite a bit about our culture and about the dominating ideologies that circulate here in America. It suggests that women want to be men and that female friendships are somehow lesser than male friendships. While we think the gender landscape is evening out, small phrases like "one of the guys" are evidence that there is still quite a way to go. If we become more conscious of our language, however, we can began to shift the male-dominated language to one that is more gender-neutral and thus change the ideologies that privilege white heterosexual upper class males.

Can anyone think of other examples, or does everyone think that I'm completely out on a limb here?

1 comment:

Anti said...

Another form of this that I see is when speaking of power or strength.

"That takes balls."

or

"That was a balsy thing to do."

I started saying "That was a really ovary thing for you to do." Each time I heard someone assign a particularly daring or ambitious thing as "ballsy" or needing "balls."

Love this blog post and thanks for articulating your struggle.