Words Have Power

Today I realized words have power when I saw a picture of the King-of-Fools' Queen. She looks NOTHING like Queen Elizabeth!

I'm also reminded of a basic psych class in college. Unfortunately, I can't remember the professors name with any great certainty. The first day of class, she informed us she'd be using the feminine pronoun form instead of the more commonly used "he/his/him". The guys in class closed their books and started looking at the door. I kinda see their point, wondering if it were possible to get a good grade from such an obviously male-hating professor. Which is another case of assumptions about identity based on stereotypes.

The professor went on to explain that she made that decision based on her personal experience. When she was an undergraduate, there was a moment in one of her classes where everyone was supposed to fix an image of a "researcher" in their minds. Then they were asked to write down everything they could about their mental image. The vast majority of students, including my future professor, had mental images of white males in white coats with clip-boards. She was very alarmed that the sterotypes were so pervasive that even she didn't envision a female researcher (although thats what she wanted to be)!

For her own well-being, she decided to try to broaden her mind by consciously altering her default mental images. She found it effective to start using the females pronouns as a way of forcing her mind to refocus on gender in situations. Oddly enough, she had NO interest in refocusing others' mental images. She only brought up the pronoun issue because we would obviously notice it during lecture. She even pointed out that using the feminine pronouns inconsistently was worse than doing nothing, so she didn't expect to see any of us using them unless we were already doing so. Unless we were doing it to mess with our friends (which was Ok in her book, almost as much fun as teasing drunk people).

I really enjoyed the class. Another moment that stands out is the day her secretary mangled an invitation. The professor was winning an extremely prestigious award in her sub-field. VERY big deal. Formal dinner, etc. She recieved the official invitation to the event addressed to "Dr. and Mrs. Doe" Thats right ... her own secretary forgot she was a "Dr" too. (For those of you who care, the proper address form is either Drs. Doe or Dr. and Dr. Doe) The professor was speechless with disbelief. Finding herself unable to lecture, we all got the day off.

She was very open-minded (so I guess the re-focusing was working). One day after class, our first day studying Freud, I asked her "So, you knew he was an incestuous pedopile who single-handedly introduced cocaine to Western civilization. Right? What about the paradox of his most popular theories. They can't be simultaneously be correct, which one are we studying in here?" (I was taking her basic class out of order). She looked at me blankly. The next day she suggested we read what the book wrote on Freud, but that it wouldn't be covered in class or on the test. Ya gotta love a professor thats willing to learn!

Out of curiosity, if any readers made it this far in the post, what image do you have of me? And the image better NOT be of Queen Elizabeth!


I don't think I could have married Queen Elizabeth (either version 1.0 or 2.0). Glad to clarify any misconceptions, although she (The Queen) doesn't care for the image I used.

(Thus I will be posting a different one at some point.)

Happy Valentine's Day!

King of Fools | 02/14/2005 - 06:15 PM

Although it does demonstrate her fine bone-structure and lovely complextion, I can understand that she might like a picture with her eyes open :)

Lucy | 02/14/2005 - 06:29 PM

Caucasian, female, about 30 years old,
honey blonde hair, green/gray/blue eyes depending on the light, aqualine nose, "fine bone-structure and lovely complexion", full lips. I keep wanting to go back to the eyes - laughing, loving, intelligent.

Earth Girl | 02/14/2005 - 08:15 PM

Lol! Earth Girl is a sweetie! I agree to all of it, except I'm seriously brunette ;)

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