False Dichotomies: Grammar and Sexual Polarity

  • Deborah Cameron

Abstract

Yin and yang; animus and anima; as the epigraphs to this chapter point out, a tendency to classify the universe by an opposition of male and female principles recurs in patriarchal thinking. But is the opposition such a true and fundamental one? A basic insight produced by the feminist theory of this century (we owe it to Simone de Beauvoir1 and it has been developed by Luce Irigaray)2 is that women in patriarchy are constructed as the Other — as whatever men are not. If man is active, woman is passive; if he has the phallus, she simply lacks it. Femininity is masculinity inverted.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, trans. Parshley (Vintage, 1974).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Luce Irigararay, Ce Sexe qui n’en est pas un (Minuit, 1977).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    M. Bierwisch, ‘Semantics’, New Horizons in Linguistics, ed. J. Lyons (Penguin, 1970).Google Scholar
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    Dale Spender, Man Made Language (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980) p. 2.Google Scholar
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    John Lyons, Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics (CUP, 1968) p. 284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 9.
    Jakob Grimm, Deutsche Grammatik, quoted in Janssen-Jurreit, Sexism: the Male Monopoly of History and Thought (Pluto Press, 1982) p. 292.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    Anne Corbett, ‘Cherchez la metaphor’, Guardian, 18 Feb. 1983.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Harvard Crimson, quoted in C. Miller and K. Swift, Words and Women (Penguin, 1976) p. 92.Google Scholar
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    B. Dubois and I. Crouch, ‘American Minority Women in Sociolinguistic Perspective’ IJSL, 1978, p. 9.Google Scholar
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    Maria Black and Rosalind Coward, ‘Linguistic, Social and Sexual Relations’, Screen Education, 39, 1981.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Deborah Cameron 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah Cameron

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