Alice Walker: Fear of Being Feminine

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Alice Walker is an American novelist, poet, and civil and women’s rights activist. She is best known for her critically acclaimed, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple. In this video, she talks about the negative repercussions of referring to women as ‘guys’. The type of situation she is referencing are when someone, say a server at a restaurant, walks up to a group of women and addresses them by saying “Hi guys, how are you doing today?” Men and women both do this in America and it only perpetuates the fear of being feminine, or a female in general. With so many women still fighting for equal rights, it is crucial to be proud of being a woman and for women to not label themselves or other women as ‘guys’. This way of speaking stems from the fact that the English language is a “masculine default” language. This means that masculinity, along with masculine terms, are the default in English and other feminine terms have been unnecessarily created in order to differentiate between a male and female performing the same role. A good example of this sociolinguistic model is actor vs. actress and waiter vs. waitress. The original words are changed when talking about a woman when really, the word itself is just supposed to describe the job someone is doing. Although feminine words are added, many people still use the masculine terms by default, creating an alienation and feeling of unimportance or lack of superiority for women. Unfortunately, the aforementioned linguistic features, along with calling a group of women “guys”, are innate in most people’s vocabulary and using them can be a very difficult habit to break. Walker suggests women coming together to change the way that they label themselves and other women in order to first separate women from men and then empower those women. Although it may seem like a small step on the way to equality, it is an extremely vital one.

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