Sunday, January 1, 2017

Language, Gender, and Race

Deepak Chopra once said "Language creates reality. Words have power." These two simple statements speak a truth not often realized by most. Language is an innate part of one's life, an honest reflection of one's character and growth, and inevitably has an enormous impact on the way we view each other. The article, "How Our Words Affect Our Thoughts on Race and Gender"  by Julie Sedivy discusses how our language and upbringing have a crucial role in the way people treat each other, especially in terms of race and gender.  Sedivy claims that opinions on controversial topics such as gender and race are developed at a young age and are largely impacted by the language used at home. One specific aspect of language that play a part in creating social categories are nouns.  Sedivy states "Nouns serve as powerful invitations to create categories—they signal that things that are labeled with the same noun (e.g., cats) are similar to each other along many dimensions and different from things that have a different name (e.g., dogs)." She goes on to argue that noun labels encourage the formation of categories, especially ones that apply to people, leaving children to treat people of a particular social category, like gender or race, a certain way. Sedivy mentions a study in which it was found that children generalized traits when categories appeared in generic statements. The author went on to detail how beliefs about how disparities between genders or races often stimulate discrimination. She then recounts an Israeli study in which researchers recorded a conversation between parents and children while they read a picture book with  Arab and Jewish characters. Researchers took note of the generic statements that the parents used, especially the ones that believed that there were fundamental differences between the groups.  These statements had a huge impact on the children who, as a result of their parent's language patterns, had similar beliefs about the differences between the two groups. It is evident how language, especially the language patterns heard at a young age, can impact the way people view others.

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