To gender or not to gender? (Thoughts prompted by the death of Zaha Hadid)

Thoughtful commentary on gendered language use.

language: a feminist guide

Last week, after Zaha Hadid’s death was announced, someone I know posted on Facebook: ‘It’s annoying that the coverage keeps referring to her as “the world’s most prominent female architect”. Why not “one of the world’s most prominent architects?”’

Most people who responded agreed that it was sexist to put Hadid into a subcategory of ‘female architects’ rather than acknowledging her status as one of the leading figures in contemporary architecture, period. But one person dissented, arguing that since it’s still harder for women to succeed in most professions, drawing attention to Hadid’s sex underlined rather than detracting from her achievements. This commenter also felt that highlighting women’s successes explicitly was important, because it helped to inspire other women and girls.

‘To gender or not to gender’ is a question that has also divided feminist linguists. Robin Lakoff, author of the influential early text Language andWoman’sPlace, is…

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2 Responses to To gender or not to gender? (Thoughts prompted by the death of Zaha Hadid)

  1. Leisa Taylor says:

    Hi Myfanwy Fox,

    I was speaking to Martin Driscoll about you last week – I run a feminist group in Worcester and we’ve had a couple of really (small) successful Spoken Word/Poetry/Performance nights at Cafe Bliss at Worcester Arts Workshop. Our next event will be on the evening of Friday 20th May and is loosely themed around Mental Health Awareness Week. It would be great if you would consider performing/workshopping if you have anything that would suit the brief – celebrating women, feminism, mental health – we don’t pay any money to our artists but are very welcoming and appreciative. I look forward to hearing from you. Leisa

    • Myfanwy Fox says:

      Hi Leisa, would love to come if I can make it. Do you use FaceBook? If so, please say hi on there or email me from this blog and I’ll be in touch. I have a poem written for Poets Against Atos a couple of years ago that might be suitable? x

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