Feminism: Being The Representative

[Content Note: Generalization of Cultures and Experiences, Rape and Rape Survival]

I've mentioned before that I'm a member of NetGalley and also that I love it to little tiny pieces. Once a week or so, I get a title round-up in my inbox and these frequently become fodder for my traditional rambly musings. Today this one showed up in the inbox:


Jews and Words
By Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger

Why are words so important to Jews? Novelist Amos Oz and historian Fania Oz-Salzberger roam the gamut of Jewish history to explain the integral relationship of Jews and words. Through a blend of storytelling and scholarship, conversation and argument, father and daughter tell the tales behind Judaism's most enduring names, adages, disputes, texts, and quips. These words, they argue, compose the chain connecting Abraham with the Jews of every subsequent generation.

Framing the discussion within such topics as continuity, women, timelessness, and individualism, Oz and Oz-Salzberger deftly engage Jewish personalities across the ages, from the unnamed, possibly female author of the Sons of Songs through obscure Talmudists to contemporary writers. They suggest that Jewish continuity, even Jewish uniqueness, depends not on central places, monuments, heroic personalities, or rituals but rather on written words and an ongoing conversation between the generations. Full of learning, lyricism, and humor, Jews and Words offers an extraordinary tour of the words at the heart of Jewish culture and extends a hand to the reader, any reader, to join the dialogue.

Now before I get any further into this post, I want to stress that what very little I know about the traditional publishing industry informs me that it's very likely that neither Amos Oz nor Fania Oz-Salzberger (hopefully linked to the correct people there) had any input or control over this blurb. It's highly possible this blurb was written up by someone in the marketing department who may not be Jewish, may not know anything about Judaism, and may not have even read the book.

I'd also like to point out that I am not Jewish.

So I may be about to say a bunch of really foolish and offensive things. If I am, I apologize and do please for goodness sake let me know so I can improve.

All that out of the way, my first thought when I read this was, Huh. I'll bet there are some Jews for whom words aren't important. I wonder how they would feel reading this? Is it possible that they'd feel like they are being told they are "un-Jewish" for not attaching importance to words? 

My next thoughts ranged over similar territory: there are probably some Jews who don't believe in the literal existence of Abraham; there are probably some Jews who believe that the Song of Songs is a work of a collection of authors (rather than a single author) many of whom may not have been Jewish at all; there are probably some Jews who feel that their cultural uniqueness is linked not to central places, monuments, heroic personalities, rituals, written words, or ongoing conversations between generations, but rather to something else entirely. There are probably some Jews who don't like being called "Jews" at all and might prefer something else, like "Jewish people" or "Jewish person". How would all these different individuals feel reading this blurb?

(Also, I am the only one who is surprised that food wasn't mentioned in that list of culturally unique things? I've seen more than one scholar argue that one way to really define a culture is through that culture's general eating habits and popular food. In fact, now that I say that, I remember also reading that theory from at least one Jewish scholar in my library, which would be topical! Hang on. *goes to search Calibre* (This is now officially the most rambly post ever.) Ah! Here we are!)

Today, as in the past, people demonstrate their ethnicity in many different ways: in language, religion, customs of dress, burial practices, and elaborate dietary taboos. The simple material culture left by the highland herders and farmers who became the first Israelites offers no clear indication of their dialect, religious rituals, costume, or burial practices. But one very interesting detail about their dietary habits has been discovered. Bones recovered from the excavations of the small early Israelite villages in the highlands differ from settlements in other parts of the country in one significant respect: there are no pigs. Bone assemblages from earlier highlands settlements did contain the remains of pigs and the same is true for later (post–Iron Age) settlements there. But throughout the Iron Age -- the era of the Israelite monarchies -- pigs were not cooked and eaten, or even raised in the highlands. Comparative data from the coastal Philistine settlements of the same period -- the Iron Age I -- show a surprisingly large number of pigs represented among the recovered animal bones. Though the early Israelites did not eat pork, the Philistines clearly did, as did (as best we can tell from the sketchier data) the Ammonites and Moabites east of the Jordan.

A ban on pork cannot be explained by environmental or economic reasons alone. It may, in fact, be the only clue that we have of a specific, shared identity among the highland villagers west of the Jordan. Perhaps the proto-Israelites stopped eating pork merely because the surrounding peoples -- their adversaries -- did eat it, and they had begun to see themselves as different. Distinctive culinary practices and dietary customs are two of the ways in which ethnic boundaries are formed. Monotheism and the traditions of Exodus and covenant apparently came much later. Half a millennium before the composition of the biblical text, with its detailed laws and dietary regulations, the Israelites chose -- for reasons that are not entirely clear -- not to eat pork. When modern Jews do the same, they are continuing the oldest archaeologically attested cultural practice of the people of Israel.


So! Not entirely sure where I was going with that, except that food could have been in that list of things that some Jewish people might consider part of their cultural uniqueness and that some Jewish people might not consider part of their cultural uniqueness and that -- probably -- it's better not to generalize about what precisely comprises Jewish cultural uniqueness because probably different Jewish people would answer that question differently. I'm guessing.

And this is the part of the post where I move away from the tentative flannel-graph book example and leap into the general cultural example where I'm much more comfortable, because as both a woman and a rape survivor I have seen this before.

There are so, so, so many books out there about what women think and what comprises being a woman and what is important to women and how women prioritize things and women are from [insert planet here] and therefore [insert generalizations here]. And there are fewer books but plenty of blog posts about rape survivors and how they respond in the aftermath of their rape and how their relationships are affected afterwards and how they live the rest of their lives and what sorts of trigger warnings they do and do not need and how to respond to them when they share their rape experience with you.

Oh, look! I've done that last one by telling men not to react to rape stories with overt anger and other survivors have bravely pointed out that, actually, anger on their behalf made them feel better. Whooops, me!

One of the frustrating things about being a member of a minority group is that you are often expected to be the Representative Minority in the room. If you are a woman, you are supposed to provide The Woman Perspective. If you are a rape survivor, you are looked to as the source of The Rape Survivor Experience. I'm told that other minorities are similarly subjected to this archetyping: people of various colors and cultures are looked to -- both explicitly and implicitly -- to be The Representative of that culture or race for the education of everyone else in the room.

Most of the time, being The Representative in the room sucks because there's a whole heap of expectations to the point where you, The Representative, are being forced to be the face of your entire minority group, and therefore if you aren't perfect, then someone else after you is going to be discriminated against for your failings. If I slack off at work, the next Woman will be pegged as a potential slacker. If I can't complete a spacial math problem, heads will nod meaningfully over Women and their crappy Maths. If I quit work to spend more time with my family or for health reasons, that's one more woman who won't be hired or one more woman who won't be given a raise or a promotion, because these women, you just can't trust them to not dump their career on a whim. And, sure, individual men do all these things, but these men aren't Representative. They're individuals.

Rarely, though, being The Representative can be kind of nice, if you have the spoons and the time and the inclination to do some education. This is the Feminist Blogger situation, where Ana (and people like her) can sit at her computer and do fluffy-bunny Feminism 101 posts explaining to the Privileged People how it can feel to be raped, and how it may feel in the face of certain reactions, and how it might affect the survivor over the long-term. But there's always that tension of getting the Can/Maybe/Could words lined up in the right order while still firmly suggesting that while it is possible for some Real Life women to react [insert stereotypical reaction here], that doesn't mean that the media is justified in reinforcing that trope constantly with every woman in every movie / television show / book evah because "possible" doesn't mean "likely".

And this is really freaking hard to do! And one major reason why I'm very much not trying to dump on Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger (besides the fact that their book blurb may have been written by someone else entirely). Because "you're missing the Can/Maybe/Could boat and claiming total Representation" is a concern troll tactic so popular it made it into the Derailing 101 compendium:

Your Experience Is Not Representative Of Everyone

Of course, straw man arguments are critical to any successful derailing of conversation. It’s very important to discount the Marginalised Person's™ experience at every available opportunity. Apart from being simply outright hurtful and demeaning, it also forces them into a constant position of defence.

If a Marginalised Person™ gives you a personal testament, then you must immediately assume they are speaking on behalf of their entire group of people and be very quick to point out that it's wrong for them to do so.

It's a diversionary tactic, designed to get them denying your accusation and so forgetting to continue to argue their point.

You will find that something very important to Marginalised People™ is stressing the fact that they are not all the same. This is because Privileged People® have routinely lumped them all together as one great big monolithic group who all look the same, act the same, think the same, speak the same, dress the same, eat the same, feel the same - you get the idea. And, of course, all of those monolithic behaviours are "other" than those of the Privileged®. Othering is a process that permits Privileged People® to consider the Marginalised™ as less than human, thereby justifying discriminative and stigmatising behaviours against them. So naturally, it is imperative to a Marginalised Person™ to make it understood their group of people are as diverse in expression and experience as Privileged People®.

You can play on this concern by alarming and insulting them with the implication you think they are homogenising their own group.

It also works to suggest to them that their experience is worthless because it doesn't align with everyone's - particularly those that you've decided to favour. That is, the experiences that, to your mind, back up your prejudices. This is belittling and offensive in the extreme as you are essentially denying their reality. People's personal experiences are important to them, so it's likely they will, whilst getting increasingly hurt and upset, continue to try and defend and "prove" them to your exacting measures while you can bask in the satisfaction of knowing you have caused them distress.

You are well on your way to winning!

So this is seeming to me like one of those areas where Heads-I-Win-Tails-You-Lose for Marginalized Peoples: even if you manage to put in every possible Can/Maybe/Could, there's still someone who can play the troll card and claim that you're unfairly speaking for an entire group of which you are only one member.

And yet... well... we keep trying. We don't let trolls dictate our way of life. So when I say "women don't like X" or "rape survivors feel Y" or "disabled people hate it when Z", don't feel bad to be there to remind me that my perspective (while unique and valuable and non-erasable) is one in a million, and that it might not be true for everyone in that category. And maybe we can all -- even book-blurb-writers who labor under severe word limits -- try to be a little more sensitive to the idea that there are very few blanket statements that can be applied to every member of a minority group. Women aren't all from Venus; Men aren't all from Mars; Jewish people don't all find words "so important".

That's my hope and my goal in my writing, anyway.

70 comments:

Will Wildman said...

It's probably unsurprising that I agree with a lot of what's here (I wrote a post on the same general issue, in the specific context of diversity among fictional characters), and in the cases where I'm not so sure, I'm additionally not sure whether that's because we actually have differing opinions or if I just default to giving the benefit of ALL of the doubt to people too often. When someone says something that might be okay or might be unreasonable, I will read it in the reasonable fashion automatically, possibly without even noticing the alternative because who would say something that ridiculous?

So, looking at the blurb, the writer uses several phrases to all mean roughly the same thing - they talk about Judaism, Jewish history, Jewish continuity, and they talk about Jews*, and I suspect these are meant to be roughly-synonymous concepts, but I also feel like it's much easier/safer to say that a thing is important to Judaism (collectively over thousands of years) than it is to say that it's important to Jews, for exactly the reasons you describe. Saying that a concept is important to another large concept seems safe - like saying nature is important to Paganism or science is important to atheism, it may not be important to every single individual (and certainly many atheists don't understand science as well as they think they do) but it may be important to the history and the context and the evolution of the whole thing.

And then I am left trying to work out the implications of the word here - and I'll keep running with science/atheists rather than words/Jews, with the intent that this should keep me from accidentally saying something daft. If someone started with "Why is science so important to atheists?", do I read it as 'all atheists' or 'every real atheist' or 'lots of atheists'? I would default to the last - there is probably a statistically significant concentration of people-highly-interested-in-science and people-who-are-atheists, and that's indicative of a meaningful history and context that could be talked about. And that again seems reasonable to me.

But admittedly, there is a failing to said analogy, which is that there's a Jewish cultural identity and community far more robust than there is for an atheist, and there's been far more historical interest in what does or doesn't make one Jewish than for atheists. So I could well be missing something important here.

*This is again, obvs, one of those 'call people what they want to be called' rules; in my case, I've never met a person of Jewish descent who was bothered by 'Jews', but I have known some who were exasperated by people meticulously using the phrase 'Jewish people' and acting like 'Jew' was a slur.

Ana Mardoll said...

*This is again, obvs, one of those 'call people what they want to be called' rules; in my case, I've never met a person of Jewish descent who was bothered by 'Jews', but I have known some who were exasperated by people meticulously using the phrase 'Jewish people' and acting like 'Jew' was a slur.

I mess up on this A LOT. I have been politely asked to not say "QUILTBAGs", but rather "QUILTBAG people/persons", only to then be told by someone else that they rather liked "QUILTBAGs".

And I have a book around here by Charles Mann (1491) who states that in his experience, most "Native Americans" dislike that term and have asked him to use "American Indian" instead. Which paralyzes me a little (my own problem, to be clear, not anyone else's problem) because I feel like if I say "American Indian", I will sound wrong.

Words are hard.

Maartje said...

I hate it when people's self-identification is also used as a slur. (Though I understand that's probably the reason why people choose these words as a slur.)

I went to a poor school, and in my city of origin that meant 'school with many Turkish kids.' There was a LOT of fighting and name-calling and bullying going on in that school, and 'Turk' was one of the most popular all-purpose slurs. To this day, I have to do a double-take when someone says "I'm a Turk" because the first thing my brain hears is "I'm an asshole" and I have to knock myself on the head to hear "I'm a person with a Turkish passport or Turkish ancestors."

I don't WANT to have that association, but I've never been able to rid myself of it. Maybe it would help if I lived in an area with many Turkish people around and had more Turkish acquaintances, but my current neighbourhood is majority Moroccan.

Will Wildman said...

It is and has ever been difficult to language. There's definitely been a reclamation of 'Indian' for people indigenous to North America, and I try to keep up on what's preferred where - in broad terms, Canada includes First Nations, Inuit, and M├ętis, but if you can be more specific, that's good (since those are vast groups, like 'Europeans' or maybe 'Mediterraneans'). I know 'First Nations' isn't used in the US, so I default to Amerindian for the contiguous 48 states if I can't be more specific.

(On a similar but thoroughly tangential note, I've never been clear on what purpose 'persons' serves rather than 'people'.)

Smilodon said...

This is part of why I generally don't like summaries. I read that blurb as almost patronizingly self-evident. "Jews, like many people from other cultural/religious traditions, are linked by shared stories being passed on through generations". I don't read it as pigeon-holing Jews together, I read it as trying to claim a human trait as a uniquely Jewish one.

But, if I was interested in exploring Judism, I think that might actually be a good book. Reading between the lines, I suspect that the book actually reads "Here's a bunch of Jewish stories, and a history of how those stories came to be and influenced people through time." The idea of exploring Judism's relationship with words is kind of neat. It's just something about calling it extra-special that seems odd.

fizzchick said...

I agree with Smilodon - the thing that struck me as slightly weird about that blurb is the implicit assumption that only (or predominantly Jews) tell stories, whereas a blogger I like once pointed out that there are two things that make us human: We tell each other stories, and we try to figure out how the world works (and often tell stories about how the world works). Roughly speaking, these translate to the humanities and sciences, and thus claiming that we can do without one or the other is... an exceptionally limited viewpoint.

Anyway, that and the "such topics as ... women" were the two things that struck me as oddest. Women... as people? As societal roles (mother/daughter/grandmother, or writer/nurturer/worker)? As representatives of continuity, timelessness and individualism? Or is that the usual people=men, women=other dichotomy again? I just feel like I should be singing with Bert and Ernie. "One of these things is not like the other..."


And finally, because I couldn't not cite it when you made the note about women and math, Ana, this xkcd cartoon, quoted for truth.

unbeliever536 said...

(On a similar but thoroughly tangential note, I've never been clear on what purpose 'persons' serves rather than 'people'.)

I think it has to do with whether you want to talk about several individuals or a collective group, and you feel like being super technical/pedantic. Like, if you hear a philosopher or legal scholar talk about "persons", it's sort of comparable to hearing an anthropologist or sociologist talk about "a people". The two constructs ("persons" and "a people") serve to specify what the speaker is talking about. In the first case, the speaker is referring generically to several beings that could be called "a person" individually*. In the second case, the speaker is referring generically to any particular connected group of beings.

Does that make any sense?

*It's really hard to talk about what "person" and "people" can mean without using those words. Wow.

Will Wildman said...

Framing the discussion within such topics as continuity, women, timelessness, and individualism

Here again I'm struggling to tell whether this is intentional sexism or terrible writing. Is it 'and for some arcane reason they think it's important to talk about women; who'd've seen that coming?', or is it an inept writer realising they need an intro sentence for their essay and so cramming together a bunch of subject headings to say 'Today I'm going to talk to you about...'?

'Cause Abrahamic religions are very patriarchal throughout the vast majority of their history, and feminist discussions are held around 'women in X thing' all the time, so exploring the strongest influences of women in Judaism absolutely sounds like a worthy (if broad and probably simplistic) topic, but the actual content therein may or may not be well-developed.

(As for the whole concept of 'words are special to Judaism' thing, my knowledge is again limited, but I have been given to understand that there is special significance to the written word within the religion. This is a fact that sticks in my head after someone on Slacktivist said that the Antichrist in LB was really not bringing his A-game in trying to offend the Jews by sacrificing a pig in their temple - he should have written the Tetragrammaton in huge letters and then had it erased.)

Will Wildman said...

I am sorry to say it does not make any more sense to me, although I very much appreciate the effort. Would specific examples be more workable? Could a sentence be constructed where the phrase 'Canadian people' would be swapped for 'Canadian persons' and the meaning would clearly change?

fizzchick said...

@Will: For me, people implies a collective, a la "the will of the people" type thing. Persons recognizes that though these humans may have something in common, e.g. Canadian, they are still largely individual actors. But it's a subtle, connotation vs. denotation thing. In a sentence... well, I'll try for a stereotypical one to exaggerate the effect.

"Canadian people like hockey." implies, to me at least, that all (or nearly all) of those who can be described as Canadian enjoy hockey, at least moderately. Thus, a person who is Canadian but doesn't like hockey would be weird and out of the norm.

"Canadian persons like hockey." to me, carries a hint of "well, lots of Canadians like hockey at least somewhat, but not all of them do, and some of them may prefer baseball or curling to hockey, or maybe not like sports at all." Our hockey-disliking friend from above would not be as much of a standout in this group, since the individual personhood, and thus variety, is more recognized.

To someone who has always been one of the "Canadian people" who doesn't like hockey, I can see how "Canadian persons" would be a little less grating. It doesn't imply that you are always and only a representative of Canadianness, and it neither attributes the (perceived) characteristics of the group uniformly to you, nor your characteristics to the group as a whole. Bringing this back to the main post, you are slightly less likely to be a Representative Minority in a "persons" system than a "people" one.

Thus, unbeliever536's note about lawyers and philosophers using persons preferentially, because they generally are very careful to speak about the specific situation under investigation, as opposed to unnecessarily broadening/universalizing their statements. Whereas (broadly speaking) anthropologists and sociologists are interested in distinguishing between multiple groups of persons, many of whom may no longer have living representatives, and so they speak of the collective tendencies of a people. They cannot assert (most of the time) that this specific person liked red, but they can say that red was a prominent color in the clothing of these people.

I hope this helps. Whether "Canadians" is more like "Canadian persons" or "Canadian people" is a whole 'nother discussion, and considerably harder to articulate, I think.

Will Wildman said...

Aahhkay, I see at least what the idea is supposed to be now - my thanks to the both of you. And I know how deeply precise and technical legal language needs to be, so I can totally see why they'd want that distinction.

Yet, in colloquial use, the connotations come through - 'Canadian people like hockey' is clearly a generalised statement, and it feels like the emphasis is on the 'Canadian' part, whereas 'Canadian persons like hockey' feels like it shifts the emphasis to 'persons', such that I would think the 'persons' construction had a stronger implication that non-hockey-liking-people were also No True Canadian. This might just be me. I don't want to derail further, but if anyone else wants to tangentially throw in their readings of the two options, I'd be quite curious to see how it goes.

Ana Mardoll said...

What fizzchick said; I've seen "persons" used as an attempt to move away from the All (Marginalized) Groups Are A Hivemind concept. So a statement made about "X people" would be tautological (Christian people are Christian) but a statement about "X persons" would contain wiggle room for differences (Christian persons believe in a Christ figure). And even then I want to put a "many" or "some" in there, so it's far from perfect.

Plus it's very subjective and may not carry that connotation with everyone.

Language! Hard!

Ana Mardoll said...

Speaking of, I'm always confused by the idea that the term "females" is bad or Otherizes women as barnyard animals or something. I'm more likely to refer to myself as "female", because I've had a very rocky history with "girl/woman". I've had to watch my language carefully on feminist boards that don't care for the term for various Valid But Non-Intuitive To Me reasons.

Ana Mardoll said...

Which would be the most offensive part, the writing or the erasing? (Forgive my ignorance.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Also: Derailling is what we DO here. LOL. Just so you won't feel bad. ;)

Brin Bellway said...

Ana Possibly Saying Foolish Things About Jewish People

At least you'll fit right in in Chelm.

Jews and Words

Which reminds me, I need to get all the books on Jewish mythology off my shelf and onto Brother's, as Mom thinks he needs more awareness of his heritage or something. Be right back.

Will: (I wrote a post on the same general issue, in the specific context of diversity among fictional characters)

My first reaction when I saw the title of the post was "Oh, it's the ambassador from Minoritania!".

(Then a moment of weirdness when I saw which Minoritania, because I was raised in a town where being Jewish was perfectly ordinary and unremarkable and not ambassadorial at all, and I tend to forget that most places aren't like that.)

depizan said...

My understanding (I am not an expert!) is that the problem with "females" rather than "women" is that a) people mostly don't use "males" (they use "men" or "people") and b) that "women" is specifically human and "females" can apply to any species that, well, has female members. I waffle back and forth on whether I agree. ... And suddenly I think that, actually, it's not what the word means so much as that a lot of speakers/writers who are extremely dismissive of women/females/whatever we want to call that segment of humanity use the word females rather than the word women. At least, that's what popped into my head when I thought about whether or not I agree.

Though, I see one major problem with "women" as a collective. It generally only refers to the 18 and older group. So if we want to include kids, maybe "females" is a better choice.

But I am not an expert! And I am only loosely associated with said category, whatever we're calling it, so I should probably shut up.

unbeliever536 said...

At a guess, I'd say it has to do with turning the adjective into a noun. You refer to yourself as "female", but do you refer to yourself as "a female"? I think it's possible to read the nouning as saying that the defining characteristic of the person in question is her femaleness, which definitely sounds like Otherizing.

I am male, though, so someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

Ana Mardoll said...

Though, I see one major problem with "women" as a collective. It generally only refers to the 18 and older group. So if we want to include kids, maybe "females" is a better choice.

Yeah, that's where I'm coming from -- I didn't feel like a "woman" until well out of college. And I was in college for 7 years, during which time I didn't feel comfortable as a "girl". Personal stuff.

@Unbeliever, I'm not sure about nouning vs. adjectiving. I'll have to think on that.

I DEFINITELY see it as Othering when, say, a man is talking about "females" and why we need more laws against abortion and etc. etc garbage etc. But at that point it's just extra icing on the Othering cake, for me.

fizzchick said...

Since I'm having fun with language today... I have also seen complaints that "female" is a bit clinical and othering/gender essentialist, as it is assigned on the basis of XX chromosomes and/or genitalia. Whereas "woman" is a category that can be self-adopted in concurrence with or despite chromosomes and genitalia. There's also the women do things, females have (unsavory) things done to them in labs, connotation that may be there for some people. Personally, I'm a scientist and so my default is to consider "females" nothing more than a statement of the sample under discussion. And I'd actually rather have MORE "female specimens" a lot of the time, since often things like menstrual cycles are considered "too messy" to deal with in clinical trials, and then you get things like "classic signs of a heart attack" that should really be "classic signs of a heart attack in men". But now I'm reaching WAY off topic.

Ana Mardoll said...

Whereas "woman" is a category that can be self-adopted in concurrence with or despite chromosomes and genitalia.

Thank you. That's a very good point I'd not thought of. My cis privilege showing.

Will Wildman said...

I think there's definitely an age range increasingly defined in our culture where 'girl' sounds is too young and 'woman' feels too mature. Same for 'boy' and 'man', though it's mitigated since we've got 'guy' and 'dude' and suchlike, which don't have a clear age definition, but there's no popular equivalents for other genders.

Will Wildman said...

It'd be the erasing. I found a concise summary:

In Jewish law the name of God is treated with a great deal of respect and reverence. When the name of God is written or printed in Hebrew, that text cannot be erased or destroyed. This is why siddurim (prayer books) are ceremoniously buried when they are no longer being used - the books cannot be destroyed since they contain the name of God.

The law doesn't apply to writing/erasing God in English, though some people will use G-d instead just for comfort.

Ana Mardoll said...

Thank you. I was under the impression that the writing part wasn't supposed to be done carelessly, but I didn't know about the erasure part.

Agreed, re: dude. We have "dudette", but that carries different connotations (for me) from "dude" and perpetuates the Default/Derivative pattern of Man/woMan. "Chick" and "babe" and similar terms are sexualized and Othering (animal, infant, etc.). "Gal" isn't bad, but doesn't flow well for me.

Will Wildman said...

I think 'guys and gals' seems okay - admittedly, 'gal' is just derived again from 'girl', but 'guy' is derived from the effigies of Guy Fawkes burnt on the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, so neither is really the height of noble etymology.

I continue to support 'were' as the all-purpose term for any sapient being regardless of age or other characteristics.

Lonespark said...

...yeah...good luck with that, Will.

Maybe MItt Romney can help you, him being all concerned about our Anglo-Saxon heritage. Now I kinda want an AS or OE version of the US Constitution, ala Poul Anderson's "Uncleftish Beholding."

fizzchick said...

@Ana: I was also thinking of things like androgen insensitivity syndrome, where even the most hidebound, hetero- and cis-normative scientist would likely agree that the people involved are women, but not female.

Samantha C said...

to derail the derail a little bit :) I'm no longer Jewish (and in my better moods am happy to open that can of worms but not right now before work), and I think part of what made me leave and identify as 'non-religious' rather than 'atheist/agnostic Jew' is that I didn't have a lot of those cultural connections. My family ate bagels and celebrated certain holidays, but really that was about the sum of it. Being Jewish never had any real relationship to my actual life, just my religious life. So that's never a good way to keep an identity, I guess.

I bring this up just to explain how amusing I've found it to move into a new area without as many Jews around, and have people confused at the Reform Judaism I was a part of.

*story about my mom involving a cookout with bacon*
"Your mom eats bacon? I thought your family was Jewish."

Idunno how the actual, currently-Jewish community tends to feel about it, but it was definitely weird to come up to people who thought that keeping Kosher was a defining part of Judaism, cause it was never something anyone I knew did.

depizan said...

complaints that "female" is a bit clinical and othering/gender essentialist, as it is assigned on the basis of XX chromosomes and/or genitalia. Whereas "woman" is a category that can be self-adopted in concurrence with or despite chromosomes and genitalia.

Ah, that makes a good deal of sense.

There does seem to be a need for a collective term for people who identify as women, regardless of age, though. On the other hand, none of the collective terms for people who identify as men, regardless of age, sound very professional, dignified, or inclusive. Though the thought of referring to, say, a bunch of business men and their sons as "dudes" amuses me.

Brin Bellway said...

I've had similar conversations to a point, but after the "But bacon's made of pork!" bit I usually respond "You make bacon out of pork? Weird."

(Bacon is made of beef. Pork bacon can be kind of nice in a novelty sort of way, but mostly it just seems wrong. Pork is like that in general, really.)

Loquat said...

To further derail, there's also the question of what words one should use for fantasy/scifi species that aren't human but still have two genders that map reasonably well onto the concepts of male and female. Using "man/woman" seems to be relatively recent - Tolkien treated those words as human-specific, which isn't surprising considering "man" was still used to refer to humanity in general during his lifetime - and while I'm sure I've read fiction that used "man/woman" to refer to human-like races like elves, Mass Effect is the only work I can remember where those words are used for beings that don't look human at all. (And I'll confess I found it a bit jarring to hear an alien that looked like a conglomeration of cat, velociraptor, and lobster refer to himself as a man.)

There's also the solution of just making up new words (Tolkien's Ents and Entwives, for example) though in practices that seems prone to irritating constructions like "racename" for males, "racename-ess/wife/etc" for females.

depizan said...

Hell, even when writing about human-looking non-humans (elves, twi'leks, draenei, romulans, etc) it's easy to end up tripping over how to refer to them. Most authors (and I'm guilty of this myself - I may try to do better in my next short story) refer to the non-humans as "the female [species]" or "the [species] woman" while referring to the humans as "the woman." It sounds unnatural (because no one does it), to refer to everyone with both species and gender identifiers: "the twi'lek woman," "the human woman," but that would be the right way to do it. I think. (Barring inventing man/woman equivalents for your non-humans.)

The only time I can think of where the humans are labeled are in situations where the human(s) are the minority.

Also, I just realized that "the human man" sounds more awkward than "the human woman." *ponders* "The male human" and "the female human" sound acceptable (if a bit clinical or as if the speaker is looking down on said individual...and I'd expect them to be non-human). I think "the human man" sounds awkward because of the repeat of "man." (Or it could be ambient sexism.)

Still, if "the female human" (or, for that matter, "the human woman" though a little less so) sounds like it's dismissive of the subject, doesn't "the elven woman" have the same problem. Crap. How does one refer respectfully to members of multiple species when you don't know their names?

Aidan Bird said...

This is a bit of a minor point here, but this is something I've never understood why people don't consider the brain part of the body? I mean, really, chromosomes and genitalia as definitions of female doesn't make any sense to me when the brain is also part of the body and has more influence on one's gender than chromosomes and/or genitalia. It just seems as another way to other people, especially since I've used this sort of rhetoric as an excuse to destroy trans* identities, which again, doesn't make sense to me, because studies have shown heavy similarities in ciswoman and trans woman brains. There isn't as much studies done on transmen sadly. So why do chromosomes and genitals get more focus when it comes to labeling someone as "female" than the brain? The brain is what determines who you are.

This is something that's bothered me for awhile; you just reminded me of it.

Aidan Bird said...

I've gotten in the habit of using 'you all' or 'y'all' instead of guys or guys and gals. That way it's more gender neutral for those who don't identify as either guys or gals.

Ana Mardoll said...

Aidan, that's something I haven't really consciously thought of before, thank you. Why SHOULD genitals be gendered and not brains? One presumes because we can't check brains as easily, and many people still struggle with "respect peoples' claimed identities".

---

So tallying up the thread, I think we need:

1. Replacement term for human man to encompass all "men", regardless of age or genitals.
2. Replacement term for human woman to encompass all "women", regardless of age or genitals. NOT #1, plus some additional letters.
3. Non-gendered term for humans, regardless of age.
4. Term for alien creatures who identify as similar to human male.
5. Term for alien creatures who identify as similar to human female.
6. Non-gendered term for alien creatures.

Did I miss something? Will, do you have words for these things? You brought up umberlock, so I'm hopeful. ;)

Loquat said...

Well, I think "[species] man/woman" is a perfectly good formulation - we say "[ethnicity] man/woman" in real life and I've never heard anyone say it's inherently dismissive. I agree that "human man" sounds awkward because of the repetition of "man" - alternatives like "Terran man" or "Earth man" sound fine, albeit reminiscent of bad 50's scifi.

I do think "male/female [species]" sounds clinical and detached - I can't imagine a real-life situation where I'd refer to someone as, say, a "male Korean" rather than "Korean male" or "Korean man". And we've got real-world precedent for "[species] male/female" in roommate advertisements and criminal suspect descriptions. (Single Bajoran Female seeks female roommate. No smokers, silicon-based life forms, or Cardassians.)

Loquat said...

For (6), we could probably just use "person" and/or "people". I'm pretty sure that's what Mass Effect does. Alternatively, I believe I've seen "sapient" used as a singular personal noun in that way, and of course plenty of authors have invented words to fill that need (though all I can think of at the moment is C. S. Lewis's hnau).

For (3), I've gotten into the habit of using "folks", being a little too northern to comfortably adopt "y'all". (Also, my southern relations would remind me, the correct plural form is "ALL y'all".)

depizan said...

Well, I think "[species] man/woman" is a perfectly good formulation - we say "[ethnicity] man/woman" in real life and I've never heard anyone say it's inherently dismissive.

Good point. I think it's a matter of not being used to seeing the "default" (that is human, in this case) being appended that makes it more noticeable. Which is all the more reason to use it.

I agree that "human man" sounds awkward because of the repetition of "man" - alternatives like "Terran man" or "Earth man" sound fine, albeit reminiscent of bad 50's scifi.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure where that leaves us in universes that don't establish where humans come from. Or in which humans have been spread through out the galaxy for so long that applying Terran or Earth to them would seem misplaced. I guess one can always use "human male." (And part of me is still insisting that it's not just the repetition of man, it's that it's two "default" descriptors and that just can't be right!)

Randomosity said...

"There's also the solution of just making up new words (Tolkien's Ents and Entwives, for example) though in practices that seems prone to irritating constructions like "racename" for males, "racename-ess/wife/etc" for females."

I'm irritated by that construction as well. I also see in recent sci-fi/fantasy novels the following: Elves (for male elves) and elven women/elven maidens/elfwomen/elven girls for female elves. The female Klingon when she's female but the Romulan when he's male. Some novels have the pronoun "she", her name, and still reference her as the female species name in the same sentence.

I played Dungeons and Dragons at a GenCon years ago in which the DM referred to a dwarf and his wife approaching the party. I didn't think of it until afterwards, but next time I will have my character get all excited about meeting the half-ogre married to the dwarf since my character will have always wanted to meet a half-ogre.

fizzchick said...

In addition to Ana's excellent point, I think there's two more things, at least on the history of science side, that influence the definitions. One, there is a long history of considering there to be a mind/body dichotomy. Recent discoveries in neuroscience are eroding that heavily, but it takes time to propagate within science, let alone in the larger community. Two, for those who are underage/non-communicative/otherwise unable to claim the label of woman/man for themselves, science would still like to be able to classify them. Thus, a newborn baby is classified male or female on the basis of chromosomes and genitals, unless/until they speak up for themselves and/or undergo brain scans to demonstrate otherwise. There are folks (like the Canadian parents of baby Storm or the Swedish parents of toddler Pop) who refuse to label their child, but they are exceedingly rare. Heck, it's not just scientists. People like to classify. The second most common question I've received as an expecting mother is some variation on "boy or girl?".

fizzchick said...

Forgot to say, for other species here on planet Earth, chromosomes and genitalia is often all we've got. Unless you want to go on behavior, which can be very tricky to judge and doesn't always map well to human norms. See, e.g., the recent cuttlefish behavior.

And, because it will probably be asked: First most common is either "How are you doing?" if they know me and know I'm pregnant, or "When are you due?" if they don't.

depizan said...

The second most common question I've received as an expecting mother is some variation on "boy or girl?"

In the highly unlikely event that I am ever pregnant, I hope I'll remember to answer that question with "probably."

Silver Adept said...

To shoot for the double derail (can we stick the landing?), a professor of mine at university mentioned that the marks in written Hebrew that are supposed to tell a reader what the vowel sounds are with the word are different for the Tetragrammaton. He mentioned the ones that appear with that particular grouping are instead the markers for "Adonai", "the lord" or "Ha-Shem", "the name". If that's true, then I wonder whether the destruction of the Tetragrammaton carries the same problem, or whether one would need to write it with the correct vowel pronunciation on the wall of the Temple and them erase that. Presumably Nicolae, as the Antichrist, would be one of the privileged few to know how to actually pronounce it and write it correctly.

Ana Mardoll said...

Presumably Nicolae, as the Antichrist, would be one of the privileged few to know how to actually pronounce it and write it correctly.

Raising the intriguing question: if he happens to be the ONLY one to know the correct writing, will the appropriate offense still be given? If an Anti-Christ defiles a temple, but no one realizes it, do trees still fall in the forest? (How's that for a derail landing?)

Aidan Bird said...

The wonderfully array of diversity in the animal kingdom doesn't even make sense sometimes with the language used by some biologists. There's a bunch of fish with three genders, an all female lizard species, and all sorts of fun stuff. (Fun side note: You ever read Evolution's Rainbow by Joan Roughgarden? One of my favorite biology for the lay people books.)

I always learned in my biology classes that the classification was less on chromosomes and genitals and more on gamete size. Is that a more recent development?

Aidan Bird said...

Then why classify them at all? It's probably an intensely radical idea that maybe these scientists/doctors may not actually know jack beans about the gender of any newborn baby, but seriously, why are we so obsessed with gender to the point that we have to know their gender before the baby is even fully formed in the womb?

My guess is that it's all related to our patriarchy culture, and how over the centuries knowing determined which child would be the one to carry on the family name, so they used whatever method they developed to get the classification job done. But that's my speculation and although I'm good with science, I'm not well versed in history, so thoughts?

Maybe it's about time we unpacked all that and seriously considered the damage of it all? For from my research, intersex people in particular really get it bad when their bodies don't conform to this bizarre norm our society has for male or female bodies - often resulting in unnecessary surgeries to force them into a gender and then often never reporting it to the family. So it's not just trans people getting the short end of the stick with this rather barbaric way of deciding people's gender for them.

I don't really have any alternative for this at the moment that doesn't involve a complete deconstruction of our patriarchy system... so this is really all just me speculating about the topic.

JonathanPelikan said...

'Human man' only sounds a little off to me, partially because I think and pronounce human as hyu-mun instead of hugh-man most of the time.

depizan said...

I've no idea how I pronounce it, because I've never been able to figure out pronunciations. (I do, seriously, wonder how I ever learned a language. All the parts of my brain available for that must have self-destructed when I was about 10, possibly younger.) Hyu-man, maybe? Hyu-min? Hell if I know.

I do suspect that the fact that it's two "defaults" has as much to do with it as how one pronounces the -man part of human.

fizzchick said...

Oh, sorry if I was unclear. Classification of human infants is (generally) done based on genitalia, or chromosomes if there's any ambiguity. Classification of other species is all over the map, and you're right, gametes play a role as well. I probably should have said "chromosomes and anatomy" instead - I meant to contrast it with asking the subject under investigation about their brain, which is only really possible with humans. It's not at all my field, hence the shorthand I was using, but as you rightly point out, things get substantially weirder, especially once you move out of Mammalia. Haven't read Roughgarden's book, but her notes on her experiences in academia pre- and post-transition are practically required reading for anyone worried about gender issues in the field.

As for intersex people, I agree, it sucks... and I'm not sure what can be done about it absent a larger reworking of the patriarchal culture.

Silver Adept said...

@Ana - Little wobbly - presumably, in such a world, The Being himself will recognize the offense and respond in a way that is unmistakably His - perhaps with insects. Also, I somehow suspect that the LaHaye/Jenkins combination would make it so that every RTC knew instinctively that this was the True Name and be properly outraged.

Because Jasper.

Still, good question.

Smilodon said...

My stepmum didn't find out her baby's gender until it was born, so when people asked me what I thought the baby was going to be I always answered "a kitten".

Ana Mardoll said...

You make a good point; just goes to show that I still struggle with the RTC mindset. ;)

Smilodon said...

For the "words to define groups of people who define as women and groups who define as men", I've always been a fan of "ladies and gentlemen". It doesn't really have an age limit either - I know an school teacher uses it to address students because she wants to show the students that she respects them, and to remind them that she has expectations for their behaviour, and she feels that "boys and girls" doesn't really do that.

It doesn't do much to define anyone as human, though, but I'm fine with needing two words to say "human lady". I can't think of a word to say "lady of race (or religion) x" in one word that isn't considered insulting nowadays.

Ana Mardoll said...

Aidan, thank you for this. I am startled and a little embarrassed that I'd not looked at it this way before. It seems obvious now that you've explained it, and I think I need to go recalibrate.

TW: Infertility, Gender "Choosing" By Parents

Husband and I have been through two failed IVF attempts and have made peace with being infertile. But when we were going through the IVF attempts, I insisted that the doctors do genetic testing on the embryos. This is usually reserved for testing for abnormalities, which the doctors believed we weren't at risk for (because I was "so young" in IVF terms), but it can also be used for gender selection. Since we only had one shot at this (my body would have struggled with one pregnancy, let alone two), and I wanted "a girl baby", we paid extra for the genetic testing.

In the end, it's a good thing that we got the testing both times because that's how we found out that we were genetically incompatible and were essentially (and unknowingly) wasting our money on IVF attempts. But now I feel ashamed that I was thinking about gender in terms of chromosomes and not brain chemistry. My admittedly weak explanation is that I wanted something as much like myself as possible (not being confident in my abilities to raise someone extremely different from myself), coupled with the data point that Husband's family has some genetic illnesses that are more likely to affect people with XY chromosomes (while I have illnesses that are more likely to affect people with XX chromosomes, but are easier to diagnose and prevent).

I whole-heartedly believe that I would have loved hir regardless of hir internal brain chemistry, but as said above, I think I need to go off and recalibrate my thinking.

Thank you, immensely.

Smilodon said...

I'd be pretty insulted if someone rebuilt the temple, and then went in with the consanants of God's name and a list of possible vowel combinations and started saying them all out loud until he hit on the right one. There are a finite number of likely combinations, after all. I can imagine people with more faith than me being more than a little insulted.

Besides, just rebuilding the temple and then walking into the inner sactum without the correct bloodline and without having performed the correct cleansing rituals is pretty grave already.

Will Wildman said...

The parallel topics in this thread delight me.

Useful thing about things like Terran (or were!) is that near as I can tell it's inclusive of any homo sapiens sapiens who don't identify as human, either.

SFF thought: humanity is still rife with sexism upon encountering an alien species that clearly has two standard sexes that roughly correspond to our own. Upon getting a good sense of our culture and working out what's what, the aliens decide that we are to refer to all of them as males. They want none of this second-class citizen stuff. (This is obviously a deeply incomplete idea, but it seems like the practical move on their part.)

---

then went in with the consanants of God's name and a list of possible vowel combinations and started saying them all out loud until he hit on the right one.

I know this is evil and all, but it is also hilarious. Applying extreme practicality to sorcerous situations just does that for me. (See also Army of Darkness, 'KLAATU... BARADA... erghememumble.')

Guest said...

What do you think of Homo sapiens man/woman? (or (fe)male Homo sapiens)? It sounds less science fictiony than Terran man, even if it does sound more sciency...

Silver Adept said...

@Smilodon - a solid point. Does this mean we can deduce that Nicolae is of the correct bloodline that he was able to enter a rebuilt temple in the first place? (The ritual might not be suitable, as it might involve something antithetical to his role as Antichrist) I would assume, in that universe, The Being or one of his remaining acolytes would at least attempt to prevent the entry of someone unsuited.

@Will - I am reminded of a short story, possibly called "The Ninety-Nine Names Of God." It involves a group of monks tasked with writing out all the names of the deity so as to bring about the destined end of existence. As a task to be dine by hand, of course, it would take millennia. The monks, however, have just bought/had donated a computer. With a dot-matrix printer. The task of writing out the names has been shortened considerably, and the narrator stats to notice things disappearing from reality after observing the success of the machine at doing the job.

I think you would like the story.

Penprp said...

@Silver Adept- that would be "The Nine Billion Names of God," by Arthur C. Clarke. An absolute CLASSIC of the sci-fi genre, and that last line never fails to give me the shivers.

Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.

Timothy (TRiG) said...

Hebrew was originally written without vowel points. By the time the vowels were added to the written language, it was already a taboo to pronounce the divine name, so it was pointed with the vowels for Adonai (Lord) instead. The Latin (and thus the English) rendering Jehovah derives from this, as the original translators didn't realise that those weren't the actual vowels of the name. The King James Bible, and many others, use LORD in block caps to translate the name. The Jerusalem Bible uses Yahweh, which is a scholarly "best guess" at the original pronunciation.

There are exceptions. The Bible text occasionally refers to Adoni YHWH. In these cases, the Masoretic text uses the vowel points from Elohim (God). The King James renders this as "the Lord GOD", again using block capitals for the divine name.

HaShem (the Name) is certainly used to refer to the divine name, but I don't think the vowel points from it are ever used in the Masoretic text.

TRiG, ex-JW (I know these things).

Aidan Bird said...

You're welcome, Ana.

There's so much complexity when it comes to how a human being forms, and - I referenced this text before in the thread - Joan Roughgarden does a great job of showing how, when you examine the various aspects that make up a body type, you actually end up with sixteen body types, thus blurring our idea of a gender binary quite a bit. Nothing is ever as simplistic as we are often led to believe.

Aidan Bird said...

@fizzchick: Thanks for the clarification. I get what you're saying now.

My previous comment was mostly just speculation on the side of humans. This does make me wonder why we would classify humans the same way we classify other species, when we have the resources to wait and determine the true gender from the human itself?

I'd rather live in a society that celebrates diversity and affirms people as they are, then a society that classifies everyone without their consent and condemns any that acts out of line. Though that once again leads us into an entire dismantling of our patriarchal society, which, to be honest, is something I hope we can reach one day.

It's also interesting how all over the map classification of other species are. It just goes to show how complex this business is, and how it's never as clear cut as people may wish it to be. Diversity is definitely the way nature plays hir cards.

By the way, Roughgarden is probably one of my favorite scientists within the biology/evolution sciences.

depizan said...

It wouldn't work in all sci-fi universes, but it's certainly another option.

Silver Adept said...

@TRiG - Many thanks for your scholarship. (Said professor preferred to use AdoShem, a portmanteau of both of those titles, to refer to The Being represented by the Tetragrammaton.)

@PenPrp - That's it! And yes, that last line is the reason I remember the story at all. I had originally thought it was Asimov, not Clarke, but I knew it wasn't "The Last Question".

fizzchick said...

AidenBird: Now you've reminded me of something, and I can't remember enough details to find it on the interwebs. Seems to me that I read somewhere about a scientist who discovered a pair of twins who had (as many twins do) their own private language, but this pair didn't divide the world into male/female, but rather into 15-20 categories, many of which correspond to known geno- and/or phenotypes. I.e., the twins could look at a picture, even just a head shot, and say "This person is blargle", and "blargle" would always correspond to AIS. "Ooga" meant Kleinfelter's, "booga meant Turner's, "quargle" meant a particular type of chimerism, etc. It sounds like an Oliver Sacks-type story, but I don't think that was it... Anyway, makes you wonder what would happen if we all learned to recognize the types, would we start being more accepting. I think the scientist had started to recognize types, as well, but didn't know how they were doing it at the time of publication. Probably wouldn't work absent patriarchy reform, but it's a fascinating thought experiment.

And many thanks to other commenters for the wild and wonderful thread.

Ana Mardoll said...

Annoni-no,

Thank you for your comment. I found it very enlightening. However, I'm concerned that you say my post "bothered" you and that I "know nothing about" Jewish history. While I confessed openly in the post that I don't know all the ins and outs of Jewish religion, I actually quoted -- first from memory and then directly -- a Jewish history book I own and have read multiple times. So we seem to have a misunderstanding here; I do know a little bit more than 'nothing' about Jewish history, for the record, and I would appreciate avoiding hyperbole about my posting methods and style.

I am sorry that I didn't know as much about Jewish religion and Jewish culture prior to this post. That's part of why this was a "jumping off" point for talking about something I *did* know a little bit more about, with the understanding that people could educate me in the comments should they so choose. It's also why I was open about what I did and didn't know, so that someone reading me wouldn't take me for an authoritative source. It is my belief that ignorance about a topic shouldn't preclude talking about it, but should instead affect how the topic is framed and what words are used to approach the topic. This is how learning happens in one of the learning methodologies I follow. This board is devoted to learning for everyone, including the blog-mistress. I'm sorry if the discourse method here bothers you; it has never been my intention to be offensive, and I apologize that I bothered you.

For future reference, however, I do politely request that you familiarize yourself with the comment policy here. Your final paragraph where you accuse me of doing no background research whatsoever and which claims I know nothing about Jewish history is an accusation of bad faith. Those are not welcome here, even if they are true, because I'm dedicated to providing a site for learning, not one for scrawling on the walls how much Ana sucks. Thank you.

Ana Mardoll said...

General Thread Notice

Further discussion about what Ana Mardoll does or does not know about various topics is off-limits for this thread and will result in closure of the thread.

Appropriate topics for this thread include Jewish history, culture, or religion as relates to the book summary and the topics it touches on, as well as comments brought up in the thread about gender.

Thank you.

Toby Bartels said...

>I continue to support 'were' as the all-purpose term for any sapient being regardless of age or other characteristics.

My term for that is ‘person’ (whose plural has already been discussed). Although often people will only use that word for humans, it has the right etymological and legal connotations for me. It only really doesn't work in stories with sapient animals (especially with pets who say things like ‘my person’), although you can hand-wave a justification where the animals aren't really sapient and the whole story is somewhat of a metaphor (for a different, slightly more realistic story). Or at least I can sometimes.

Annoni-no said...

Hi Ana,

I owe you an apology as well. It was late and I was very tired when I found this post, and I was hurt to find, in what had always been a safe space, something so central to the core of my cultural heritage being used to jump into a subject that was only peripherally related. HOWEVER, I communicated that hurt badly and hurt you in turn, something which I had no intention of doing. For that, I am sorry.

In regard to the main portion of your post on being The Representative, there's really nothing I can say except: I agree! Any further points I might have added were already covered or else felt like use nitpicking on an important topic.

With that being said, I hope you'll forgive me as I try and explain more clearly just why I found your use of the importance of words to Judaism to be so problematic in an otherwise excellent post. Basically, without those words discussed in the book you referenced, neither "Judaism" nor "Jew" as a cultural identity would *exist* to be discussed in the first place. On the other hand, if all the narratives and stereotypes about what women or men or [insert subgroup X] are really like disappeared tomorrow, those groups would still have a shared heritage and cultural identifiers they could use to define themselves with - or reject, as the case may be.

I hope that this clarifies things a bit, and I want to apologize again for hurting you however unintentionally.

Best wishes on your recovery,
annoni-no

Ana Mardoll said...

Thank you very much for your kind words and your willingness to share your valuable personal insight on this topic, which I know is not easy and costs time and spoons, and I thank you for it.

You are always welcome to post here, and I am sorry that I caused you pain. Thank you for kindly helping me to understand how to do better in the future.

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