Language Lens

A blog about life, discovery and culture through the lens of language and linguistics.

Archive for the tag “gender”

In the ‘Brain Rooms’ of Men and Women

We’ve all heard of the book “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus,” and I’ll admit that I even read it many years ago.  Raise your hand now if you did too.  But hey, I don’t remember much of what the book said.  I’ve instead lived it like all of you!  One thing that this book clearly achieved was coining a common phrase to describe something that we all know as fact: men and women are different.

The obvious, we are different genders, but we make decisions differently, we communicate differently and we simply think differently.   Here are a few facts that I learned from an entertainment website and blog that I’m beginning to love: Unusual Facts.  I’ve shortened the list, so refer to Unusual Facts for the full story and the original sources.  Meg’s disclaimer: There are always exceptions, so dont take this too personally!


Women – Multiple process
Womens’ brains are designed to concentrate on multiple tasks at a time.  For example, women can watch TV, talk on the phone and cook all at the same time.

Men –  Single Process
Mens’ brains are designed to concentrate on only one task at a time.  Men cannot watch TV and talk on the phone at the same time.  They either watch TV, talk on the phone or cook… (usually) separately.  I see the pros and cons related to multi-tasking and driving, particularly related to stereotypes about female drivers.

Women can easily learn many languages, but can’t find solutions to problems, where men can’t easily learn languages but can easily solve problems.  This is why in average a 3 year old girl has three times higher vocabulary than a 3 year old boy!

When men lie to women face to face, they often times get caught.  Womens’ brains observe facial expressions 70% of the time, body language 20% of the time and words coming from the mouth only 10% of the time.  Mens’ brains do not operate the same, so it’s technically easier for women to lie to a man face to face.

If a man has a lot of problems, his brain clearly classifies the problems and puts them in individual “brain rooms” and then finds the solution one by one.  Women on the other hand do not classify their problems in the same way and instead want “someone to hear them out.”

If women are unhappy with their relationships, they can’t concentrate on their work. If men are unhappy with their work, they can’t concentrate on their relationships.

Women use indirect language in speech, but men use direct language.

Women talk a lot without thinking. Men act a lot without thinking.

And that’s where they say “That’s all Folks!”

Is Spanish Sexist?

Not long after you start learning Spanish do you learn that a huge difference with English is that Spanish has genders, as is the case with other Romance languages such as French.  All words are either masculine or feminine in other words.  For example “el hombre” (man) is obviously masculine and “la mujer” (woman) is feminine, but other words such as “map” (el mapa) are masculine and “rain” (la lluvia) are feminine, words that have no explicit gender reference.

Point 2: The masculine gender dominates the language.  For example, if you have “brothers” and “sisters” together, instead of being forced to use both words as you would in English (unless you say siblings), in Spanish you say but one word to mean both—“hermanos.”  ”Hermanos” could also mean more than one brother, however, so despite being confusing at times the masculine dominance is clear.

Point 3: A common stereotype in Latin countries, some more than others, is that ‘machismo’ is ever present among the men, and some say among women too.  Machismo is synonymous with excessive masculinity, both apparent in attitudes and actions.  For a more academic analysis of machismo, go here… Now. 🙂

A BBC article entitled  ¿Es sexista el idioma español?  (Is the Spanish language sexist?) threw out the question if language is a reflection of the culture or vice versa?   One journalist and magazine director, June Fernández from Píkara Magazine, was quoted at saying that the masculine factor in the language is both a bias and a view of reality for how women are treated.  It seems that Fernández supports the theory that language is a reflection of culture.

Gender is a language trait that politicians take full advantage of in Spanish.  Cristina Kirschner, the current Argentine president, directs both “Argentinos” and “Argentinas” in her speeches, instead of the standard Spanish way which would be “Argentinos.”  Another example is the Venezuelan constitution which includes a long list of positions, including “presidente” (male president) and “presidenta” (female president), ministros y ministras (male and female government ministers), y viceministros y viceministras (you have the idea by this point.)

I see aspects of machismo in the culture, and even in my own culture I saw it.  It is close to what some North Americans would call being a “chauvinist.”  It also struck me when several Latin men told me that they considered women to be the actual machistas in society, as women either demand (or allow) men to treat them a certain way and as mothers, “they taught us to be this way,” one said.

So, gender dominance exists on both a grammatical and a societal level.  The sexism debate isn’t a new one, but what never gets old are the examples of it in language and culture.  One that stood out to me is the translation for handcuffs—a symbol of dominance in itself—“las esposas”, which means “wives” in English.

Need I say more? (Hehehe)

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