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wshaffer
Sur l'internet francophone, tout le monde sait que je suis une femme 
24th-Apr-2014 09:19 am
sunglasses, south-park
Ah, the nuances of how we construct online personas...

In a lot of places where I talk about heavy metal online, I use a gender-neutral name and avatar. This wasn't originally a conscious choice, but once I noticed I'd done it by accident, I kept it up. Partly because it's an interesting social experiment to see how often people casually assume that I'm male, and partly because it's kind of nice to be able to scope out an online space a bit before deciding to take on the burden of identifying as female. I never go out of my way to hide that I'm a woman, but I might go quite a long time without bringing it up.

But I've also recently made contact with a number of French-speaking metal fans and although almost all of them have some degree of English fluency, I'm dipping my toe in the waters of interacting with them in French. It's kind of cool - the international language of heavy metal is this kind of fractured English, so I feel much less self conscious about the fact that I probably go around sounding like this: "Warmest salutations! I like very much your metals, for they possess truly the heaviness!"

The weird thing, though, is that the grammatical requirement for gender agreement between subject and adjective really throws the gender issue into sharp relief. Because it makes it really obvious when someone assumes that I'm male. And I can't even say something simple like "I am American," or "I am happy," without feeling like I'm effectively tacking "AND I'M A GIRL" onto the end.

I'm curious whether other people have noticed this, especially those of you who are much more bilingual than I am. Those of you whose native tongue is a language with gender agreement between subject and adjectives - when you interact with people online in English, do you notice the reduced frequency of obvious gender markers? How do you feel about it?
Comments 
24th-Apr-2014 06:07 pm (UTC)
Can't address your questions at the end, but this is both very amusing and thought-provoking. I've made a conscious decision on the L5R forums to try and advertise my gender -- picked my username before that decision, so it doesn't help, but I have a female userpic and correct people when they get it wrong* -- because their forums are well-enough moderated that I have zero fear of anybody saying something misogynistic (or, well, getting away with it if they do), and I like representing for the fact that a) female gamers exist and b) AEG's various policies, like having well-moderated forums and writing a game that is reasonably non-sexist with reasonably non-sexist art, are in fact paying off by making it attractive to people like me.

Now I wonder about translations of books that deliberately attempt to leave the gender of the protagonist unspecified. Because yeah, it isn't just pronouns: every single adjective would make a call one way or another, unless there's a neuter option in the language. Do they switch? Or is masculine read as "unmarked" enough that it doesn't collapse that particular wave-form for certain?

"Warmest salutations! I like very much your metals, for they possess truly the heaviness!"

This cracked me up. <g>



*Though I did note at one point that mentioning "my husband" in my posts is no longer as useful of a gender marker as it used to be . . . .
24th-Apr-2014 09:00 pm (UTC)
I have really been enjoying the L5R core rulebook's vibe of, "Look, we don't think sexism makes for interesting gameplay, so we've made a very deliberate choice to alter gender roles from what they were in the historical cultures this system is based on." It's refreshing.

I really don't know how books with protagonists of unspecified gender handle this kind of thing. In French, I can think of a few constructions (using descriptive verbs instead of adjectives, using the non-specific pronoun "on") that might let you weasel around the issue for a few paragraphs, but doing it for a whole book seems near impossible.

25th-Apr-2014 06:20 pm (UTC)
There was a point later on where the editor revised a bit I had written to randomly (and unnecessarily) enforce male gender dominance for a particular group, and I called him out on it by pointing at that bit of the core rulebook and saying, look, this is directly counter to the stated intent of 4e. He apologized and changed it back, which made me very happy.
24th-Apr-2014 08:05 pm (UTC)
Heh, interesting. So a data point as context for the rest of my comment: I have strong gender identity as female. I know that some people are not genderqueer and yet do not really feel that strongly about their gender, and that is...not me. Like, I have a friend who talks about always having a moment at the public bathrooms of having to think, "Right, that's the one that means me," and...I have no idea what this person means, emotionally. I can intellectually understand, but that is so not my experience.

Like, if the song was, "If you're happy AND FEMALE and you know it, clap your hands!", then I would be right there on the beat.

So the thing that is always striking to me about communicating in French is not that I'm constantly having to say, "I'm happy AND A GIRL," because that feels just fine, but that when I get into a mixed group, that REVERSES. It PISSES ME OFF. Because it's not actually neutral. It's male. It's that if I am sitting in a cafe in Montreal with five women and we're all happy and one dude walks in and is happy with us, suddenly we're all happy dudes because HE showed up? NO. He can be a happy chick for just five minutes, thanks, French language! Sigh.
24th-Apr-2014 09:23 pm (UTC)
Well, if he's unhappy about being a happy chick, then he's no longer happy, and "Nous sommes heureuses," now accurately describes an unmixed group. Pas de problème.

Yeah, I've always found the handling of genders of mixed groups awkward in French.

25th-Apr-2014 01:04 am (UTC)
Huh. I hadn't really thought about that, because I started really thinking about gender after I stopped speaking French on a regular basis, and I haven't interacted with people in French much online.

My brother's mother-in-law regularly confuses "he" and "she" in English, though, because the pronoun in Mandarin Chinese (her first language) is the same, though written differently in characters. I'm not sure if she's forgetting which one is which, or what.

My niece, however, has decided that Santa is a girl. Which is sort of awesome.
25th-Apr-2014 04:51 pm (UTC)
Santa really ought to be a girl. I love it!
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