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Marriage and Middlesexes

After watching the film clips in class last week, the part that really stuck with me was a quote from “Middlesexes�. It was said by one of the women that without marriage, women are nothing and that you’re not an adult until you are married. I think that this is an underlying issue in our society and after the readings it seems possible that it stems from the English language.

In Laura Richardson’s essay, “Gender Stereotyping in the English Language� she highlights that one of the problematic stereotypes in the English language is the way women are defined in terms of men. She says, “Fifth, women are defined in terms of their relations to men; men are defined in terms of their relations to the world at large� (Feminist Frontiers, pg. 101). She goes on to give the example of the words master and mistress. Even though the two words began with the same meaning, over time they evolved to be different and mistress began to be defined by men. This seems also to be true with the names given to unmarried women and men. An unmarried man is called a bachelor, a term that has a more positive connotation, where an unmarried woman is called an old maid, a term with a negative connotation. These processes of pejoration and amelioration are evident to have come from the English language and the idea that women are defined in terms of men and men are defined in terms of the world.

This idea could also stem from gender processes. The patriarchal values in our society allow the normative gender roles in marriage to be that women are inferior to men in a family system. If the English language promotes this patriarchal gender role through the way men are women are defined, it only makes sense that women could be ultimately defined by their marital status, an issue that is seen in everyday language.