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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: July ::
Re: To be an actor or not to be an actress
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1438  Friday, 28 July 2000.

[1]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 20:08:01 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1433 Re: To be an actor or not to be an actress

[2]     From:   Marilyn Bonomi <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 06:31:09 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1433 Re: To be an actor or not to be an actress

[3]     From:   Pat Dolan <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 07:01:30 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1433 Re: To be an actor or not to be an actress

[4]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 13:18:35 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1433 Re: To be an actor or not to be an actress

[5]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 09:02:06 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1433 Re: To be an actor or not to be an actress


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 20:08:01 +1000
Subject: 11.1433 Re: To be an actor or not to be an actress
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1433 Re: To be an actor or not to be an actress

Sam Small wrote:

>Kevin? Why not consult your own heart and your own common sense?  I
>think that would give you a better answer than any "Hand Book On How To
>Think".

Perhaps.  But I can't help but reflect that the "own hearts" and "own
common sense" of countless generations of both men and women have led us
to the gender-related linguistic difficulties with which we now
struggle.  I wish I could remember the source, but somewhere -- I have a
strange feeling it's in one of my cultural materialist oriented books of
criticism -- there is an essay where the writer expounds on the problems
inherent in the concept of "common sense."  (One point that writer made
was that "common sense" more times than not is hardly "common," but
rather somewhat elitist!).

In the meantime, I suggest the "E' " (pronounced "E-prime") solution:
Rewrite all English so as to exclude the verb "to be" in any of its
forms.  Thus, the problematic "actor"/"actress" labels can be replaced
with such unwieldy/awkward, but perhaps more accurate and equitable
phrasings, such as "Suzy is studying in preparation for a career acting
on stage."

And no, I do not take my advice, and yes, my own writing is (!) replete
with forms of "to be."  It's an interesting exercise to try, though
(good for freshman comp classes, too!).

Cheers,
Karen Peterson-Kranz

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marilyn Bonomi <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 06:31:09 -0400
Subject: 11.1433 Re: To be an actor or not to be an actress
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1433 Re: To be an actor or not to be an actress

Sam of an apparently Small mind writes,

>Why not consult your own heart and your own common sense?  I
>think that would give you a better answer than any "Hand Book On How To
>Think".

Okay. I'm sorry, Hardy;  I can't bring myself to hit the delete key.

'The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing' does not tell one how to think any
more than the screeds of the American Heritage Institute (or the
writings of Marx or whatever source coming out of whatever
attractive-or-repulsive-to-you-personally philosophical bent or world
view) do.

*Some* people recognize the power of language to shape culture, observe
problems affecting a huge number of members of that culture, and offer
alternatives.  Others seem to believe that if they say it ain't so, it
ain't so.

A brief personal illustration. I am certainly feminist in my worldview;
so is the woman ("Aunt Marge") who was the wonderful child care provider
for my daughter. Her father (we were then married to each other)
certainly was not "sexist" in his expressions.  When Erica was about
three years old,  Marge's son entered the police force. The children
were of course very excited.  Another parent said to Erica, "Do you want
to be a policeman when you grow up?"  Erica replied sadly, "I can't;
policemen are boys, not girls."  She did not mean that she would like to
be a police WOMAN; she did not see police officer as a job open to her.

Where did this view come from?  Not from her parents; not from her
care-giver.  But she was with other children daily; she heard other
adults speak. She watched television.  And she observed, even at that
age, role differentiations based on gender (little boys telling little
girls that they couldn't play X or Y b/c that was a boy's job, for
instance) and drew her own conclusions.

Because I heard this exchange, I redoubled my personal educational
efforts.  And Erica, having graduated from Skidmore (a co-ed school by
the way) in May, is looking for a job in web design, having ignored the
societal stigma against women in the computer technology field.  (Yes--
it's real and exists and I've felt its whips as I switch from teaching
English to teaching networking and web design-- and of the 75 students
enrolled in those two courses for the upcoming school year, exactly TWO
are female).

To tie this digression back to the purposes of this list, Shakespeare
far more than most of his colleagues of then or of today recognized
women as separate thinking, breathing entities  good for more than
maid-service and bed-service.  Juliet is far stronger than Romeo.
Beatrice is a match for Benedick because she does have a mind as well as
a body.  And on and on-- we on the list have discussed Shakespeare's
women often and certainly will again.

So yes, Sam-- some of us do think that the words we use have power, and
that saying "police officer" or "letter carrier" (the name of the union,
btw-- not the "postman's" or "mailman's" union) or even "work hole
cover" is important....

I've had some very limited and even more very amateur experience on
stage and as director (not "directress," Sam).  I was an actor; I
directed actors.  There are no little roles, only little actors-- but
some of the actors suffer belittling when they're told they have to be
"actresses."

Proudly continuing to strive to be non-sexist in language,
Marilyn Bonomi

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pat Dolan <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 07:01:30 -0500
Subject: 11.1433 Re: To be an actor or not to be an actress
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1433 Re: To be an actor or not to be an actress

> Kevin? Why not consult your own heart and your own common sense?  I
> think that would give you a better answer than any "Hand Book On How To
> Think".

Does this go for spelling too? The list of works cited? It strikes me
that such handbooks are particularly relevant when conventions are
changing.

The problem with "your own heart and your own common sense" is that
writing is in its nature concerned with both the heart and common sense
of its audience, which is why we're still talking about Shakespeare
after all these years.

The thread about "turtles all the way down" is precisely about thinking
vs.  "common sense." Since Frank Whigham mentioned Geertz, I'll mention
Geertz's essay, titled something like "Common Sense as Cultural
Something or Other." I believe it's in Interpretation of Cultures but
Local Knowledge is possible.

Patrick

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 13:18:35 +0100
Subject: 11.1433 Re: To be an actor or not to be an actress
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1433 Re: To be an actor or not to be an actress

Sam Small tells Kevin De Ornellas off for using Miller and Swift's
"Handbook of Nonsexist Writing"

> Why not consult your own heart and your own common sense?  I
> think that would give you a better answer than any "Hand Book On How To
> Think".

I find Small's comment arrogant. De Ornellas clearly thought about it
and decided that it's useful to consult someone else's detailed study of
how to phrase things so as not to accidentally give offence. That's
thoughtful. Small assumes that his "heart" and "common sense" will guide
him around other people's sensitivities. That's thoughtless. (Sam, have
you never accidentally given offence because you were under-informed
about people's feelings?)

I might even be doing De Ornellas a disservice here since nonsexist
writing can be about political issues considerably more important than
not offending others--it can be an active engagement with the bigotries
and preconceptions of others in order to change them.

The MLA guide for writers of research papers points its users to guides
on nonsexist language. Hurrah! Unfortunately the MLA also publishes a
guide to job applicants which advises women to wear skirts to interview.
Two letters I sent to the MLA asking if the association stood by this
advice were not answered.

Gabriel Egan

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 09:02:06 -0700
Subject: 11.1433 Re: To be an actor or not to be an actress
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1433 Re: To be an actor or not to be an actress

Sam Small writes:

> Kevin? Why not consult your own heart and your own common sense?

Maybe that's what he did.  His heart told him to be thoughtful towards
how people prefer to be referred to.  His common sense told him that
there might be a reference text on the subject.

> I think that would give you a better answer than any "Hand Book On How To
> Think".

Knowing to refer to expertise shows a pretty good beginning to critical
intellect, IMHO.  Arrogance, after all, is the beginning of ignorance.

Cheers,
Se

 

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