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  • Sanvari Malik

'HER' Language

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

It was after reading Elaine Showalter’s ‘Feminist Criticism in Wilderness’ that an unknown part of me felt acknowledged; some wrinkles of my ‘self’ eased and soothed out just as if it was long-standing knocks in the back of my mind; and the woodpecker just found a new home someplace else.

Or it just made a lot of sense altogether! After often hearing that the world’s ideological bank was met the most value by Plato and hence an ‘echo-spree’ is ongoing, making no actual contribution to the actual sum of ideas in the world, Showalter upturned and found a new kind of stone for me. So the history of fights, battles, invasions, survival and death, from the pages of past glory and doom, are obscurely male writers writing about males. The only evidence of women can be deduced from the fact that people died because they were born; in the fact that the population didn’t hit a halt and as a result we are here, I am writing this now and you are reading this now. The history of the ancient that we know of now, is a produce and result of men. Such hegemony over the narrative gives an upper hand and a freedom to define things in a subjective manner. The nature of fight, the feeling of valour, the bravery, all tinged up with how it came to be defined by the male gaze?

A huge part of our world is described and defined by the male gaze and male writing. The distinctiveness of a male gaze and perception is important to acknowledge because, the way of life for both the sexes has been different. Just as it is different for each human that has ever lived or is alive now. But, the gender roles and biological sphere having a distinct nature, the sphere of life for women is drastically different from the male sex. This doesn’t mean that the aspects of female gaze should be limited to their biological sphere and gender roles as we progress. But fathom how the female spheres too have been acknowledged and defined by and through the male experience.

Why then, the linguistic nature of communication is same for the female and male sex? That is, the narrative has been prominently developed and defined by the male gaze and therefore runs a risk for a subjective and irrelevant fit for the female sex. Similarly, the language which makes up the recorded narrative of all that has been said, done, seen, heard, is again done with an absence of contribution from the female sex. The male speech seems to have a profitable, biased judgement about notions, ideas, ‘how-to’ for female and male sex. So maybe the linguistic nature of communication is different for the both of the sexes as well. Perhaps, that’s why the mainstream narrative is filled with phrases like “you never get women”, “women never say what they mean” and there exists a book ‘Everything Men Know about Women’ which begins and progresses to end, all with the help of pages left blank. And perhaps that is because females have different linguistic capabilities; in accordance with their ways of living, thinking and perceiving things. The female and male gaze might, hence, have a different way to function altogether; and just connected and accessible through the use of same language by both the gazes.

Doesn’t this add up to become something to be free from? For it limits a woman, her ways to express, her narrative, her ways of seeing things become history. Where is the female narrative, which is exclusive of her own? A narrative which uses a language which matches her depth, her ability to have two hearts beating inside of her at once, her strength to bleed and ache like the fatal battle-wounds even without a war, her ability to feel so deep and fathom them in another. These words can only wander near the experiences, point-out to them, call them out; but never pour and glide onto them to revel their shape or texture and seep-in to access their metaphorical nature. For the language is situated inside the boundaries marked according to the capabilities of the ancients. And the narrative/demarcation which could reach us was prominently handed over through the ways males processed and expressed their lived and learned experiences.

The language is growing like wild grass but while being encased in the closure. Some climbers can be given a sex-neutral direction but the roots remain inherently ancient and the absence of female contribution to language and eventually the narrative remains permanent. So does it mean that an altogether new language is needed to include a diction and denotation which in its nature acknowledges both the sexes as generically human; without any hierarchy or hegemony of any over the other? Is that even possible? In ‘Feminist Criticism in Wilderness’ Elaine mentions the idea put forth by Robert Graves in his book ‘The White Goddess’. He explores the pre-Classical religions with a premise which is basically feminist. He

“romantically argues that a women's language existed in a matriarchal stage of prehistory; after a great battle of the sexes, the matriarchy was overthrown and the women's language went underground, to survive in the mysterious cults of Eleusis and Corinth and the witch covens of Western Europe.”

The White Goddess ‘combines the powers of love, destructiveness, and poetic inspiration.’ This element makes a comeback in the Romantic era of English Literature. The Romanic era paid utter importance to the subjective, inner existence of others and oneself, the power of emotions as the underlying current in the materialistic occurrence of life. The Patriarchal gods, signifying ‘cold reason and logic’, came to power and brought in the ‘academic poetry’ which dominated the general later poetic scene.

“There is some ethnographic evidence that in certain cultures women have evolved a private form of communication out of their need to resist the silence imposed upon them in public life. In ecstatic religions, for example, women, more frequently than men, speak in tongues, a phenomenon attributed by anthropologists to their relative inarticulateness in formal religious discourse. But such ritualized and unintelligible female "languages" are scarcely cause for rejoicing; indeed, it was because witches were suspected of esoteric knowledge and possessed speech that they were burned.”

Hence, the idea has its roots in some ‘ethnographic evidence’ which also attributes a nature of resistance to the exclusivity of the women tongue. But like every other idea, all of this has some elements which can be bookmarked as ‘debatable’. And like everything this might turn out to be a battle of facts and oral or inside information from the both sides, hence a mix of concrete and soft beliefs. But this is definitely something which is more than an abstract idea and also less than a concrete fact. ManKind needs more in its ideological think tank, perhaps. It should never stop. I wonder how wide can we stretch our imagination to incorporate other things and find their binaries as well.

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