Monday, September 12, 2011
"Fuck what you heard - she´s a vegan!" - Max Steele, 2008
During a conversation on language with my polyglot boyfriend he informed me that whilst in English pronouns (and some nouns) are gendered (he/she, actor/actress), and in German the articles are likewise (the notorious der, die, das), in Hebrew the verbs actually are too.
That is to say, the parts of speech that refer to the actions of a person or that person´s state of being, are also gendered. For example הוא רץ, היא רצה (he runs, she runs) with "רץ" representing the masculine running and "רצה" the feminine. This, I found fascinating, if at first a little bleak and inescapably essentialist - as if it wasn´t bad enough being referred to by one´s assumed gender, one also has to literally "act"accordingly.
I was however further informed of the possibilities in Hebrew to move beyond the limitations I had so quickly assumed, in that it is possible for you to deliberately say "היא רץ", ie, "she runs (in the masculine)." It hardly sounds poetic in English but can be very innovative in Hebrew, in a slangy subcultural way, which let´s face it is the only way. In English one can of course deliberately "misuse" the pronouns to come up with phrases like, "David is late, she is such a lazy bitch," but that is hardly an equivalent.
Then I thought about the high queenly habit of referring to oneself as "she", as in "She likes a heel" (where "She" replaces "I" - excuse me if I am over-explaining this). It counts as a refashioning of one´s own sense of self, almost outside of one´s self, sitting alongside one´s self and in dialogue with her. The interior personality refers to the exterior socially coded, gendered persona as "she", another person apart.
Obviously it´s meant first and foremost as campy and grandiose posturing, but I think that it also represents a definite and ironic strategy in resisting fixity, and furthermore mocks the strategy by which people are forced into gender conformity. It says "That which you make of me, is not me." Another identity is created out of nothingness, to house the personality, projected onto the air, called into being by naming (if we´re going to get all Heidegger about it - and frankly why not?) all of which refutes any notion of the naturalness of gender. Gender can´t really be sealed up in nature if it can simply be fabricated with a few words at any given moment, you see, it is always fabricated, that´s why we need gendered language, to keep pushing us back in line.
And isn´t it interesting that the only real way to regender English is to put it in the third person? The third person for the third gender - she loves a lingustic theory.