So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

04 March, 2007

Sticks and Stones

One of the concepts in my religion is that creation is an act of language. (Those folks who are familiar with more mainstream faiths may have heard of that one.) That language is a magic we share with the gods.

The net result of this is that our words create the world we live in.

(Link to Dan Savage's column in The Stranger.)


Trinity said...

I personally am not entirely convinced language alone does it. I've been trying for several years now to find some concrete evidence that the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is correct, but I've never seen anything concrete either way. Have you?

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I think that's a rather stronger interpretation of the comment than the thought warrants.

A culture of hostility to gay people -- mediated by language -- leads to gay people being not merely targets of violence and discrimination but a higher suicide rate among, for example, gay teens.

A culture that treats sexual harassment in teenagers as "boys will be boys" does not make it stop. (One of my personal peeves.) And I would be stunned if some of those junior high school boys didn't come out of that tacit encouragement for their behaviour with really disgusting attitudes towards women as adults.

This is one of the reasons I don't use the phrase "gay marriage" -- it's like "woman doctor", it treats a marriage between two people of the same sex as some sort of special marked case that needs to be pointed out, which is a concept that bolsters the positions of the opponents of marriage equality, not its supporters.

A newsgroup I read is currently discussing a situation in which someone called a person with Down's syndrome a "retard", and then was horrified by learning about his condition -- something which was initially presented as funny. Several people have pointed out that the use of language is unacceptable regardless of whether the person in question is developmentally disabled, someone else has said, more or less, "Well, it's culturally normal, like saying that something is 'gay' if it bothers you." Others have pointed out that that behaviour is as unacceptable in their culture as "nigger", speaking of other words that used to be "culturally normal".

The words are a huge part of the social environment; the social environment spins out into other effects.