Monday, September 28, 2009

Critical Reading Collaboration: Kristen Harris and Murriel Mapa

The expectations that were developed prior to reading the text by Rosalie Maggio were based on the title, “Bias-Free Language: Some Guidelines.” This title gives the impression that it will be a piece on how to write more formally, straying away from the bias words that pollute today's vocabulary. Examples of the type of biased language Maggio hopes to diminish are found here. After reading the abstract provided, a clearer understanding of what context the author derives her view from was achieved. Maggio’s brief summary of the bias-free language guides that she made gave insight to her argument. Believing whole-heartily that society needs to carefully choose their words, Maggio begins her dispute.

Michiko Kakutani’s text, “The Word Police” first gave the impression that Maggio’s title did - the idea of being wiser when choosing words. With the use of the word “police” automatically giving the impression of enforcing something, Kakutani gave the notion that she was in favor of Maggio’s bias-free language theory. However, the abstract given before the piece suggested a different type of essay, one that opposed the ideas of Maggio.

Many people find it difficult or annoying to use bias-free language. A short overview of bias-free language can be found in this link. There are four excuses that Maggio dissects in her writing. One excuse that people put forth is the loss of fun their writing will have. Writers are very creative and thoughtful when it comes to their personal writing, and having to stifle this artistic advantage to use the words one pleases is definitely a defeat. Maggio defends the fact that writers take so much time looking for the “perfect” word in their pieces already, that a little extra effort would not hurt. One example of a bias-free term that isn't included in either essay is a flight attendant, opposed to steward and stewardess. Another is the word citizens, which can be used in place of the term mankind. The second excuse for ignoring unbiased language is the fear of losing words. In a world that is evolving every day, along with language, words aren't in short supply. “We are limited only by our imaginations,” according to Maggio. Another reason for not using bias-free words in our language is the frustration of having to watch what one says. Growing up in a society that teaches us manners and conduct, to be able to write what we want without having to think of the repercussions is always a thrill. Maggio counters this with the argument of consistency. Having been able to pick our words wisely with parents, advisers and peers, to be able to look after what we say in our writing shouldn’t be much of a challenge. Lastly, the expectation that filtering what we say will lead to absurdities in our writing. Many cynics and critics of this language lifestyle have given the blasphemous examples that take Maggio’s theory too far. Using words such as “personipulate” and “woperson” is just “a fault in logic,” claims Maggio.

In Maya Angelou’s inauguration poem she presents a wide variety of human beings. Depicting the variance of racial and religious backgrounds, levels of social status and even sexual preference among us, Angelou demonstrates the importance labels have in allowing us to differentiate between each other. Giving examples of racial background such as: Asian, African, Native American, and Greek, the author uses terms we all use in our daily lives. Society finds it perfectly acceptable to use these “biased” terms because they allow us to compartmentalize and separate individuals into recognizable categories; they are not found to be prejudice. These terms were not meant to pass judgment on one another, but to show distinction from one another. Other titles including Rabbi, Priest and Sheik, acknowledge the various relationships one has with their religion and god. If one is not allowed to use these terms Kakutani states “Some messy molar dilemmas,” could ensue; while trying to navigate to the use of politically correct language. Many of these terms symbolize to our author the tolerance we have of others. No longer do we refer to Native Americans as savages, or Asians as gooks. Using her examples of “biased” terms, Angelou illustrates the abundance of diversity and multiculturalism we often fight to protect, and that represents the differences in all of us. This brief cartoon demonstrates that everyone is different, but peace can still achieved.

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