Posted in Blogging

Is Virtue Signalling Really All That Bad?

I was listening to this week’s episode of Sibling Rivalry (The One About Wokeness) and Bob the Drag Queen and Monet X Change were talking about virtue signalling.

Bob says it’s okay because it shows safety in whatever establishment that you’re at. Which I get.

Monet cites a Kamala event that shows that virtue signalling could be nefarious. Which I also get

I don’t remember which Kamala event that Monet was referencing and if I stop to look it up right now I will simply never get this post out so I found a different Kamala event instead: Kamala did CNN’s LGBTQ Town Hall in fall 2019 and when she introduced herself with Cuomo, she included her pronouns (“she/her/hers”) while introducing herself. To me, that screams virtue signalling because it is not consistent with her everyday behaviors (that we see constantly because she is a public figure). She was aware of her audience and aware that she could show this small token to demonstrate that she knows the first thing about LGBTQ issues. Does her baseline understanding and demonstration not stand for something?

Deray McKesson on his interview with Kid Fury and Crissle West on The Read TV mentioned enjoying seeing Pride merchandise because it still shows some level of growing awareness and inclusion.

Around 9:30 he starts his discussion on queer representation. He discusses LGBTQ symbolism is now starting to be seen like “it’s a normal thing, not an aberration”

On pride merchandise, which I consider to be virtue signalling on behalf of a company rather than a person at times, Deray has another opinion: “People make fun of all the commidifying pride but like I wish I grew up in Baltimore seeing people wearing the pride flag. That would have symbolized something to me that I never saw any of that stuff in the city when I was growing up.”

The issue with virtue-signalling is that the expectations of what people are meant to do in order to wear XYZ badge of honor is fairly high.

It is one thing to lie and manipulate people. There have been too many instances of people using virtue signalling as a means of lying to and manipulating people. But what about the people who don’t even believe that they’re lying?

For example, if a celebrity puts up a selfie and says “black lives matter” in the caption, they get dogged
for usurping the movement for their own gain,
for detracting from the ~real~ organizers,
for muddling the message.
why are we gatekeeping every single individual who believes in this sentiment? Can we not bring them inside the club and shape their views there?

I think virtue signalling is important because it is showing this massive shift in mass awareness of LGBT issues. It’s not “you can’t say BLM and not RT a gofundme as well” like tbh they can? and maybe they might? and maybe the thought never crossed their mind? people grow and change and learn every single day and have behaviors that simply come from ignorance.

This is a hard realization because I never want to defend a celebrity especially ones that I consistently do pretty stupid/capitalist things, but I think we’re being a little too excessive in our expectations. I don’t do half the things celebrities are demanded to go with regards to how I present my views on social issues but i definitely virtue signal. i need to virtue signal in order to find the networks i want to be in.


Even within the LGBTQ community and as someone who is part of a good 3 marginalized groups here in the U.S. I still don’t feel “woke” at all– I’m constantly asking myself:

is it considered outing someone if you say “my friend xxxx, oh wait that’s their deadname, i mean’t yyyy”?

is it okay to identify is HoH even though I have never considered myself a member of that culture, but feel my experiences are aligned enough?

is it really anti-Black/anti-feminist of me to call Kamala by her first name and Cuomo by his last name?

we need to expand the definitions of activism and people who can be “in the club” and get to wear the badge so that we can compassionately teach more of the intricacies of club involvement. that being said virtue signalling is pretty important. profit-based marketing that preys on people looking for virtue signals from brands they thought they could believe in…. yikes, for sure, but that’s a different issue. there’s no way an entire company / entity / business even has the same understanding of xyz issues that they’re slapping a rainbow flag on so like ???

Posted in The Here and Now

new pic, who dis?

i’ve decided to mentally promote one of my followers on tiktok from the category of Mutual all the way up to Friend; it’s hard being this gracious 😌

his name is R and he lives in kansas and i’m getting more and more drawn to living somewhere rural based on his videos but that’s a post for later

he changed his profile picture to this CUTE avi that i assumed was hand drawn by him so ofc as a ✨ patron of the arts ✨ i asked if he was taking commissions– all to find out there’s legit just a website that you build your avi yourself !!

anyway i made mine and i love them. look how cute they are!!! they make me want to get bangs and repierce my ear . . . stay tuned tbh

made here

i put them in a fit that is most aligned with my most gender affirming aesthetic (peep the florals, the single dangly queer earring, and the BUTTON okay like we’re doing it ALL)

the background is a failed sunset photo i was trying to take among the brutalist architecture of my beloved alma mater but my slippery fingers said, “not today tha’am”. i never got around to deleting the pic though and i ended up making it the cover image for the first original tracks i’ve ever released, so now this haze of color and darkness has a bit more meaning to me

anyway i’m boutta do that thing where i change every single profile picture to this and use it for the next 11 years xoxo

Posted in Linguistics, Writing

Language, Gender, and the Classroom

N.B.: This is an adapted version of a paper I wrote for Applied Linguistics 623: Sociolinguistics Spring 2020 // I would love to hear your thoughts

Sociolinguistics seeks to explore the function of language in a society. As we use oral, written, and non-spoken language at every point of our lives, there are many spaces in which we can examine the linguistics choices we make and why. Language continually shapes how we live and our interpretations of what words and actions mean. Linguistic relativity also known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that a language completely determines a person’s worldview and how a person thinks. Lucy stated that “each language embodies a particular interpretation of reality… which influences thought about that reality” (1997). As a result, with the linguistic diversity that is present in our schools and in the city of Boston, there are so many realities coming to play with every cross-linguistic and even intra-linguistic interaction. 

Personally, my worldview has changed radically from about 10 years ago. I have been forced to examine the ways that I and others use words to unknowingly maintain heteronormative standards. This examination has exposed many ways that we default to words and phrases that are not inclusive of all genders and sexualities. For example, there are many issues with telling students to talk to their “mom and dad” from the assumption that a student lives with both parents, that the student lives with either parent, that the student has a good relationship with said parents, etc. All of these underscore the expectation that the ideal or typical family unit consists of a mother and a father. This has been problematized from a class lens but less frequently from a gender lens.

The most specific way that my change in language use has impacted my habits of thought has to do with the way I refer to people I don’t know: while telling stories in the past, I would say “this girl” or “that guy” and use pronouns that align with their gender presentation and expression (which I now know is not always the same as their gender identity). These days, I make a conscious effort to avoid using gender exclusive language in my speech and, whenever possible, gently correct others who might accidentally do something similar. Even phrases like the New England “y’all” you guys can be unintentionally hurtful to people who are experiencing gender dysphoria even though for others it may not be a big deal. 

Gender inclusivity impacts me in the classroom especially considering I teach Arabic, an incredibly gendered language. There are very few opportunities for breaking out of the male-female dichotomy in Arabic. In English, the word “you” is gender neutral whereas in Arabic, you must gender whomever you speak to both in the pronoun and the verb conjugation. This becomes particularly tricky in that there are no collective, standardized ideas on how to work around this. 

On a larger scale, I work in an arts school and as a community, there is a high percentage of students who identify as trans and/or queer and who are free with regards to their gender expression and presentation. It is of utmost importance that we are conscious of the effects that our language use has in setting the culture of acceptance and inclusivity. Sexualities outside of the standard have already been so normalized within our community and even moreso with this generation of students. Our students are moving away from heteronormativity especially with more public figures and celebrities being more open about their sexualities and gender identities. 

 

If I were speaking to parents and educators in my school community to address gender and LGBTQ+ inclusivity, I would explain the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis but also address that I, personally, accept a less rigid interpretation of it: language shapes our ideas as well as perpetuates ideas of language but we do have the ability to change and learn and internalize new ideologies. That’s what makes our work around gender even more important. While using the singular “they” may have been challenging for me at first, it becomes second nature almost instantaneously. It is almost standard practice now to include your pronouns in your email signature when just five years ago that would have raised many eyebrows outside of the queer feminist circles. 

Pauwels said, “taking linguistic action to improve the plight of women was seen as an integral part of women’s liberation” and while I don’t agree wholly agree with this belief, I do think that linguistic action does impact visibility and causes people to consider why they make the linguistic choices they do and where those ideas come from (2002). This could be incredibly important when it comes to changing our internal dialogues and ideologies around gender and sexuality. In learning more about the expansive terminology at our disposal and what words mean, we can make choices about how we want to move forward with our language use.

It is important to include actual queer representation as a starting point. This way, we can critically consider ways to decenter the normative social discourses. Moving forward, we can find ways to represent the even more marginalized LGBT identities (i.e. queer people of color, disabled queer people, “non-passing” trans people). But for now, it’s most important to raise our collective awareness, alter our daily speech to be more inclusive, and honor and value the pronouns of the people in our lives regardless about how we feel about the person. For example, misgendering someone when you’re upset with them or they have done something to hurt you is not acceptable, regardless of the circumstances. 

So much of education, or at least my experience as an educator of a language for which I’m not a native speaker, has been me situating myself as a non expert of the material or topic. For non-queer educators and parents, we should do this as well. 

This movement towards inclusive language should not be sensationalized or happen just during Pride Month: it should be a habitual practice! We should not be afraid to problematize the dominant discourses that are present in our textbooks and articles and academic resources. Our students are wise enough to challenge the materials and discuss how they marginalize and silence the real, lived experiences of people in their classrooms, in their lives, and in the world. Ultimately this shift is not about changing minds or hearts or opinions on queerness or sexuality, but rather an attempt to move the needle on our perception and acceptance of those ideas. We are trying to budge our cultural habits of thought by intentionally engaging in a slightly different habit and discovering why we do so. 

Pauwels discusses how feminist movements in the 1970s focused on the “male dominance in language regulation and planning” and their overwhelming attempts to subvert English’s inherent androcentrism (2002). 50 years has passed since then and while there are still issues in the way that our language use still points to a male-dominated society, we need to be expanding our focus beyond the gender binary. Using the impact that feminist linguistic activism has had on our use of language can be great inspiration for this new wave of linguistic activism and maybe, just maybe, in 2070 the next generation will have normalised a more gender-expansive English, a queer-accepting curriculum, and a trans-inclusive understanding of society. 

 

References

Deborah Cameron Styling the worker: Gender and the commodification of language in the globalized service economy Journal of Sociolinguistics 4/3, 2000: Institute of Education, London 323-347

Pauwels, Anne (2002) Linguistic Sexism and Feminist Linguistic Activism