In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"

Puppies, Language and Gender: Ten for Today

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September 14, 2016
 
Between classes in the adjunct faculty lounge, I researched a little for those 600-word blog posts due in a couple days and then decided to lie a bit on the couch before my class in an hour. Teaching a two-hour afternoon class and a four-hour night class, Wednesdays are double espresso shots over ice with soy milk days. It’s just too long. And with the sleepless night discovering that 5-week old Husky puppies howl like wolves when they’re small, scared and lonely at night, I almost went for a third shot. That might have made me jump up and down in class, scaring students.
 
The lounge/work station/office is usually empty when I enter with maybe one or two other adjuncts tapping keys or eating lunch. Today there were two, then just me for a stretch, until five minutes ago when the mom-toned, 50-ish, Spanish teacher came in with the young Vietnamese student. She encourages the young man with the thick Vietnamese accent in her thick Spanish accent. She is gentle. He is intent, trying to understand nuance, detail and idiosyncrasy of the language. He frets over Spanish gender words.
 
For good reason. Gender confuses me too these days. I agree with Judith Butler and many who followed after her: gender stretches out over the arced spectrum of identity, biology and psyche. Binaries are a relic from a bygone era. But the English language hasn’t caught up to reality, how people live. It lags. Pronouns shift; grammar is slow to follow. The plural “they” is now more apt a singular designation for the individual, neuter, than a plural. 
But aren’t we all a plurality of identities? Ethnicity, nationality, biology, anatomy, culture, class, IQ, ideology, lifestyle, and a myriad of other particulars–including gender? Tracking gender in language, on government forms and in questionnaires is obsolete.  

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