Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Contributors for 'A Crisis of Masculinity and Male Bashing"

Frances Huang

Richard Lin

Frances Huang's A new definition of Manhood

Frances Huang
YE4A 1094100030
A crisis of Masculinity and Male Bashing 2006/10/25

A New Definition for Manhood

Things change so the world improves (or corrupts) and especially the ideas related to humanity are always “in flux”. The fixed definition of manhood can be found in the dictionaries - for reference only. Just like the roles of women have changed due to various social factors, the meaning of manhood has also been adjusted to harmonize with the new definition of the role of women. Men used to be the main financial support of the family, but women are capable of creating fortunes now. Men used to be physically stronger then women, but due to industrialization, city men hardly need to use their muscles now. Also, it is very common that men wish to marry financially-independent women so that they can pay the mortgage together. In order to avoid the irrelevant ideas about manhood, the definition of manhood in the dictionaries definitely needs to be revised.

“Medieval knights” and “heroes from movies” sound very romantic and attractive, but are not realistic. Modern women are strong enough to live independently and heroes as saviors to women usually appear in movies only. The popular “male-warrior role models” nowadays is called “Neo-fine man”. This type of men has “the spirit of a knight”. They are not necessarily handsome, but they pay attention to details. They don’t ride horses, but they do housework. They don’t dance with swords, but they take care of children. They don’t wear armors, but they wear smiles. The living style of urban citizens has changed a lot, so have the roles of men and women. It doesn’t matter how the roles have changed. The important thing is that men and women could live together peacefully.

However, male-bashing becomes another challenge for men. The main audience of TV commercials and situation comedies are women. Of course, the producers will produce ideas like male-bashing to please their female target market and make good profits out of women’s consensus of “It’s all his fault! Ha ha...”. Women could somehow express their emotions through making fun of men. These commercials or situation comedies provide a good outlet for women’s anger (or maybe other emotions) toward men. They don’t really do any harm to men-and-women relationships, men probably will also have a good laugh out of it if they ever watch these commercials and comedies.

I’ve done a brief survey (only five subjects and three questions) to understand more about what men think of the feminist movement and male bashing. Three of them don’t think it’s fair to describe all men with “Men know nothing about love.”. One of them agreed that some men actually don’t know how to love. And the last one answered, “I will examine myself if I, as a man, have this problem.” Also, all of them think the feminist movement is quite a positive thing, since it means that women are independent and don’t have to rely on men. Interestingly, opposite to the stereotype of “males aren’t communicative”, four out of five choose to sit down and talk to women when problems occur. From this result (if they are really honest), I think the definition of manhood has really changed and men are less self-centered than in the past.

Richard's Essay on "Crisis of Masculinity and Male Bashing"

YE4A 1094100028 Richard Lin

A Crisis of Masculinity and Male Bashing

The definition of "manhood" is in flux. Every historical era, in fact, seems to have been conflicted over the correct definition of manhood. In the late 19th century, it was the end of the frontier that was bemoaned as signaling the end of manhood. American men lost their freedom to do what he wants. Second, the industrialization and the great migration from farm to city were also changing men’s relation to their work. Before the Civil War, 88 percent of American males were small farmers or independent artisans or small businessmen. But by 1910, less than one-third of all men were self-employed. World War I represented another crisis for the male image. Americans were shocked when nearly half the recruits were physically or mentally disqualified for military service. American men in 19th and 20th centuries were having trouble meeting male demands. (Dunkel & Pialorsi, 2005, p66-P67)

One of the articles in Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with A Thousand Faces” mentioned that “ the hero as warrior, the hero as lover, the hero as emperor and as tyrant, the hero as world redeemer, the hero as saint.” Take Shih Ming-teh for example, Shih is a well-known political prisoner from the days of martial law. Shih is currently organizing a political protest seeking to overthrow the ROC president Chen Shui-bian in an effort to force Chen to resign. He is regarded by many pan-blue people as a hero. Shih was also seen as a brave warrior to fight against the powerful government. Actually, the male-warrior role models cannot become popular without reasons. It reflects the fears and desires of men. It is also created to help reproduce a new brand of toughness. It seems that men can get in touch with their inner masculine selves by involving with this issues all together. Wild at Heart is another very popular book by John Eldredge published in 2001, on the subject of the role of masculinity. John Eldredge has become famous for his "Wild at Heart," which says that a man needs "an adventure to live, a battle to fight, and a beauty to rescue." Regardless of the male-warrior models in movies, games, or books, they all focus on the personal triumph of the hero (Odysseus), a tale about the power of the rugged male individual (mission impossible), and rescue of women to gain affection from them (Trojan War).

On television, we are more likely to find men in action and drama roles and less likely to find them in situation comedies and soap operas. Men are also more likely than woman to be portrayed as having high-status jobs and are less likely to be shown in the home. Producers are likely to portray men as more dominant than women and as more prone to engage in violence. In situation comedies, men are more likely to disparage women than vice versa, but overall men are more often the object of humor or disparagement. They are even portrayed as selfish, lazy, and inconsiderate husbands and poor parents. The commercials in between aren't any better. Among them: A family game ad: A stupid guy and beautiful woman are playing Trivial Pursuit. He asks her, "How much does the average man's brain weigh?" Her answer: "Not much." Even simple camera techniques used on women and men seem to differ. Television camera shots are more likely to feature women’s entire bodies while more often showing men in close-ups of only their faces. I have a feeling that there is a sense of guilt on men today. We are not allowed to be proud of what we are. If I get promotion or any other accomplishment, it must be because of my maleness. That may have been true years ago, but things have changed, times have changed, the workforce and social norms have changed. In fact, I refuse to feel guilty for being who I am.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Students' articles on Political Correctness

Luke's views on Political Correctness

Irene's views on 'The Word Police'

Richard Lin's article on Politcal Correctness

Trisha Hsiao's article, 'The Word Police'

Frances Huang's article, PC Movement- the cure or the placebo?

Frances Huang's article, PC Movement- the cure or the placebo?

PC Movement – the Cure or the Placebo?

As the consciousness of ethnicity and feminism arises during the past decades, political correctness has become a please-pay-attention issue in society. Avoiding the usage of discriminative expressions shows consideration to mankind and concern of equality, which reflects the progress of humanity. However, the world itself is after all not perfect. Over emphasizing PC is like persuading ourselves that the world is full of peace and prosperity by eliminating words such as crime, rape, or hunger. Words can be replaced by sound-better alternatives, but the social problems will not go away as easy as that.

Also, I consider overwhelming PC as being condescending, which sometimes turns out to be hypocritical and might make people uncomfortable. This article reminds me of another article in this book “You’re Short, Besides!”. Sucheng Chan is a “physically-challenged” woman who calls herself a “cripple”. She neither sees herself different from other people nor searches for the protection of PC. On the contrary, people’s politeness toward her makes her uncomfortable. That’s true, being too polite causes confusion and distance. The art of speech is that you say what you mean and mean what you say, of course without the intention of hurting others. The real freedom is in one’s heart, not the words.

Moreover, the very precious part of a language is that it carries culture. From a language, we can sense the ways of thinking, history and the common background of its speakers. Accumulating the assets of cultural heritage takes thousands of years, they shouldn’t be denied even if they were no longer up-to-date. The author illustrates an example from Ms. Maggio. She indicates that “king,” “lord,” and “master” are “especially bad” because they are “hierarchical, dominator society terms”. It is hilarious to me, I think she is being captious (Sorry, but I don’t mean to offend her). These words enrich my childhood. Who can imagine the world without legends that depict the stories of the “king”, “lord” and “master”?

I have more to say about the controversial issue of the usage of “he” or “she”. To spend so much time arguing when to use “he” and “she”, or even creating a neutral term for it is meaningless and not economic. It is also beautiful to give gender-related terms to the world surrounding us, because men and women, the opposite sex, make the world as a whole. Men don’t really argue why we call the earth “Mother Earth”, so why should women be bothered that “Superman” is a man. Maybe that’s why the word “pettish” is often used to describe women. “Womyn” is even out of my imagination. Who can deny the fact that women bear men so that human beings won’t become an extinct species? And I don’t think that having “man” to refer to “mankind” is totally a bad idea. If it means that men play a dominant role and take more responsibilities, why should women be displeased?

Finally, I would like to give an example of the Asian pop singer Wang Lee Hom. I was impressed and touched by how he called his own style and his interpretation to it. During an interview with Lorraine Hahn from Talkasia, Lee Hom was asked to describe his style. He replied, “I call my style – and I hope I don’t offend any of the viewers – but I call it “chinked-out”. He then further explained why he used this “derogatory racial slur”, “I want to repossess the word…I hope I can make it cool.” “Chink” to the Chinese has this racial-sensitive meaning as “nigger” to the black, but despite all the unfavorable suggestions to this word, Lee Hom tries to give people a new impression about this word with his influence and his music. He doesn’t change the word, but he tries to change the discriminative content linked to the word. I think it is more meaningful than draining your brain to think what is politically correct and what is not.

France Huang's article on "What’s the difference between boys and girls?"

YE4A- Frances Huang Mei-Tzu 1094100030 2006/09/27

A great number of books have been published to cater for the need to understand the opposite sex. Women say “Men are from Mars!”, but men say “Women are unreasonable!” One side of the human beings tries to understand the other side of their counterparts from their own viewpoint or bias. No wonder men and women sometimes get even more confused when they wish to understand each other in a face-to-face position. In those books, gender differences are crowned with superficial stereotypes and myths. I don’t quite agree with the ideas in those books, even though I must admit males and females are in fact not the same, both mentally and physically. The stereotypes tend to categorize all the men or women into one single type. However, there is not any single person identical to another, like no one has the same finger prints as anyone else do.

In this essay, gender differences are discussed in a more rational way. Boys and girls are no longer facing each other from the Mars to the Earth. I will interpret what the author means by “gender neutrality” as “there is no such a gender divide for boys and girls, and they are free to be what they actually are, like there is no strict line for what he should play with or how she should behave.” On the other hand, the term “gender inappropriate” confines boys and girls to the expectations that the society and culture impose on them. They are educated to think or behave in certain “appropriate” ways. Personally, I think that “gender neutrality” and “gender inappropriate” are the production of humans’ cultural and social behaviors. Men and women are naturally different and no one can deny that it is true. We don’t have to persuade ourselves that men and women are not that different or try to prove that men and women are equal. Besides, even though women are all female, it doesn’t mean that all the women are the same. Don’t forget, every man and woman has unique characteristic, there is no need to draw a line on gender-specific colors or toys.

Conventionally, Barbie dolls are girls’ toy and boys love to watch Godzilla movies. That’s the ruler in parents mind when they decide what to get for their children. I partly agree with the author’s point of view. I notice that, very often, parents will get things that belong to “the right gender”, especially for boys. Boys who are interested in “girls’ things” will worry their parents and might be concerned strange. Parents, as I know, rarely agree to buy a Barbie doll for their son. One the contrary, girls who like to play with toy cars are less worrisome to their parents. For example, my own niece is a beautiful girl who doesn’t like to wear dresses or skirts. From she was young child, she wanted to wear T-shirts with Pocket Monsters on them. She is girlish and looks girlish, but she doesn’t like girlish things. Her parents don’t see this as a problem, though it is sometimes annoying that she refuses to wear the skirt hemmed with lace I buy for her. (See, this is the gender expectation I have on her!)

In short, I don’t think that playing with “inappropriate toys” will be a great impact on a child’s future gender development. When I was young, I preferred watching Godzilla to playing with a Barbie doll. I did have a Barbie doll, but after I shaved off all her hair, I threw her away. Now I am a mature woman who is not confused with my own gender at all. After all, children are curious and they should have the rights and chances to explore the world around them.

Trisha Hsiao's article, 'The Word Police'

The Word Police

In the heart of many controversies lies the usage of political correct language and different views as to its validity. As the notion of feminism and minority arouses, people start to reform the neutrality of bias-free, gender-free language which was discarded by the language users in past patriarchical society. In order to erase the sense of humiliating, unequal, and mocking, people tend to use “a more decent” choice of words to describe controversy issues or terms. That is the birthplace of political correctness.

For the beggars and the disabled we call them minority; for the niggers we call them the black. The use of political correctness does alleviate tenseness in the society. It offers comforts to the victims and it helps cure the scars in their minds. By using appropriate word police, people will create an equal, harmonious and a world of euphoria.

However, overemphasizing on defects bears a resemblance to adding salt to injury, which will call people’s attention to things they did not pay attention on and hurt the victims for the second time. The opponents of political correctness argue that instead of playing on words, we should put those problems into practice. Actions speak louder than words. By the same token, Michiko Kakutani, the leading daily book reviewer to The New York Times, points out in her essay, choosing words to refer to problems with politically correct terms does nothing to fix the problems. “Calling the homeless the ‘underhoused’ doesn’t give them a place to live”. The fuss should be made over the problem of the homeless people instead of what they should be called. Other examples are the euphemisms coined by various governments worldwide, for instance, the propaganda during the Soviet Union period, or the truthful lies during the Vietnam War and Watergate, the recent response towards the bribery issues given by the Green Party in Taiwan.

Those languages indeed have tremendous influence on people. In spite of those appealing words, innocent people remain suffering. Choosing of words only compensate others’ sympathy, it will never solve the problem. We should put more emphasis on solving problems instead of covering problems with euphemism. Political Correctness Movement is a meaningful and helpful reform, but when those advocates go too far, it will become a hypocrisy movement

Trisha Hsiao's article, "What's the difference between boys and girls?"

What’s the Difference between Boys and Girls?

In this so-called gender identity disordered society, the issue of “gender neutrality” and “gender inappropriate” has become a heated discussion topic for biologists and psychologists for years. Gender does not seem to be just sex distinction anymore; on the contrary, it involves biological and cultural aspects.

Some believe people are born to be equal. They are born with bodies designed with the same function and with different features, which means boys could have female characteristics and vice versa. There is no certain role and rule for genders. However, others would rather claim that people are born to be different. Biological elements such as testosterone and hormones manipulate the pattern of their behaviors, which later on imposes stereotypes on different sexes.

Gender inappropriate is the production of stereotypes. Boys should be restless, strong, and full of competitiveness; girls should be talkative, sensitive, and teem with tenderness. Whatever is not tagged to this is considered as gender inappropriate. As a result, boys who ask for a Barbie or girls who ask a Godzilla as a birthday gift will cause an enormous anxiety to their parents. People tend to label objects as manly or girly just like speakers of a language label objects as masculine and feminine. To the same extent, homosexuality and bisexuality are regarded as heterodoxy in the society. Yet, it is a matter of choice. Human biology makes room for every possibility of personality and sexuality. There is no right or wrong orientation, it is how you want to behave affects your gender tendency.

Human biology only does a little help on genetic variations. What causes differences is what we impose on our generations. We are born to be equal and to be different; it all depends on how we draw this blank paper and set gender roles and rules on our own.

Richard Lin's article on Political Correctness

YE4A 1094100028 Richard Lin

I am more sympathetic with those who believe the P.C. movement carries its reform efforts too far than those who advocate politically correct language. People’s attempts to monitor both written and spoken words have become somewhat extreme. Although people would like to see the word change to fit multicultural society, it will also cause us to change our way of life. Our language is on the brink of absurdity because we hide our true identities and inequalities with euphemisms. Some terms are so euphemistic that it makes us ignore the essential meaning of original words, which are concerned with different race, religious and gender. It is obvious that choosing to refer to problems with politically correct term does nothing to fix the problem. Instead of calling the homeless “the underhoused”, we had better give them a place to live. We almost forget the seriousness of people’s hard situation by creating such language. The freedom of speech and expression is also prevented from simply taking out the political incorrect terms. We cannot talk about the existing problems deeply due to the fact that we have turned the words or phrases into mere questions of semantics. If we continue to only concentrate on the surface of word’s meaning, the problems will still not be solved. Likewise, we cannot decrease the rate of violent crimes by avoiding using violent expressions and metaphors. After I have read “The Word Police”, I found the so-called “political correct language” is somewhat of a joke. Kakutani gave us a statement that said even Superman was reincarnated as four ethnically diverse clones. It is not appropriate to change every words that seems offensive to conform to the world free of racism and hate because the way it change the basic meaning of words leads to destroy the significance and characteristics of each words and phrases. The situation goes further complicated by the fact that members of selected groups want to embrace the words others seek to change. For example, blacks still want to use the word “nigger” to strip the term of its racist connotations and homosexuals still want to use the word “queer” to reclaim it from bigots. Kakutani in the article clearly points out that all these rules can make for some messy moral dilemmas. It gets some people to be offended instead of not being offended. I think there are many words waiting for us to change, and it is hard to know whether the changed word is good or not. Finally, it may cause serious vicious circle.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Word Police

YE4A Irene Lin 1094100007

So as not to cause deep resentment of some particular groups, for instance, racial or cultural groups, in language, the term political correctness appeared. For example, the use of “gender-neutral” job titles or the use of “the underhoused” rather than “homeless”, are sometimes referred to as “politically correct”. Through political correctness, people would like to create a society where racism, sexism and prejudice of all sorts do not exist.

Political correctness prohibits the use of gender-bias language and the like. Therefore, some linguistic mutations appear, for example “womyn” to instead of “women”. However, I believe that the political correctness movement carries its reform too far. It sometimes confuses people or has ambiguous meaning. Take an example from the article, “battered wife” is a gender-biased term and the gender-free term is “battered spouse”. Spouse means a husband or wife. The reader or listener would be wondering what you mean actually.

Secondly, political correct language or euphemism may distract attention from the real problems that exist in the society. Using “economically marginalized” instead of the poor, it does not really make people or the government pay more attention to those people. On the contrary, because of “prettifying” those biased words, those people may seem to be less poor but get less attention, too.

“Lazy Susan,” “bull market,” or “charley horse”, these terms seem to be related to genders. Someone who would like to boast their lack of prejudice wants to give up saying or using that kind of terms. As long as to find out the history or background of those words, that does not really have any gender-bias meaning behind. Those people might hold too extreme views toward that.
Still, I agree with the author’s view that makes changes of those words or terms do not really remove people’s prejudice against genders or races. Words may have little influence in it; however, aren’t those biased words were created by ourselves? We have prejudice against those groups and then we invented those terms to insult or humiliate them.

I would rather try to cast aside one’s bias or prejudice in mind than having changes of words. If we could treat every one, every gender, or every race fairly, those biased terms would not really make them feel harm or disgrace. Those linguistic mutations do not really have to be invented since men and women are treated equally. Racism, sexism and prejudice in the world and society would still be erased as long as we started to erase those things in our mind not from the words.

Luke's Views on Political Correctness

YE4A Luke Li 1094100038

Political correctness was an idea originally used in political language to be bias-free and non-offensive on different ethnicities, races and genders. The term, PC is from America. America is a melting pot for people who come from many countries with various ethnicities. Equity and fairness to different races and genders are certainly required in such a huge nation. That is why political correctness becomes popular in the U.S. People who support this idea try to solve the issue by changing lots of bias words. The idea was well-meaning, but it turned out to be a taboo that forbids anybody to be biased on anyone, even in a humorous way.

There is one thing to notice, that is, political correctness is a concept that encourages people to be friendly to others with different ethnicities and genders. It should be free-will, not forced. And it should work step by step. Political correctness supporters tend to change everything that is against the idea, but what they really change is the lifestyle and culture of the U.S. Changing the ways of living and culture that has grown firm is impossible. One can only suppress it and that is what the political correctness supporter doing now. Political correctness makes people timid of making mistakes or doing what they like.

Being politically incorrect is not a crime, and that is why there is no law to restrict it. People who support the idea of political correctness can only judge it by criticism and consensus. The effect of political correctness can be considered as an action of threat and it is against the freedom of speech. Changing or replacing the spelling of certain words to achieve political correctness does not change the real feeling that is deeply inside our mind. A real successful and respectful male or a female is not determined by simple word “man” or “woman”, “black” or “white”. It is determined by what they have done to the society. The use of words represents our cultures and it is part of us. It will never be apart in our lives. Political correctness through force will somehow turn into a certain protection to a certain group, and that is exactly the other way around, against its own purpose.

Political correctness is not equal to justice and fairness. The real justice and fairness do not only matter by a few words and pictures. It is the self-reflection we practice that affects our behaviors and our thoughts about neutrality in ethnicities, races and genders.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Reflections on Blum's article by Richard Lin

YE4A 1094100028 Richard Lin
Reading assignment

The phrases “gender neutrality” which Blum used in the article means that boys and girls are treated equally. That is, they are not viewed as traditional boys or girls. They are allowed to choose what they like or want to do without any blame from their parents. They are also free from the pressure caused by the notion of political correctness that children are born blank slates to be manipulated. On the contrary, the phrase “gender inappropriate” is the belief that there are fundamental character differences between boys and girls. I remember a book titled “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” With just few words, the author vividly described the diametrically opposite character of boys and girls. It is the stereotypes resulting from cultural effect that makes us to believe the differences between boys and girls instead of biological reasons. In my point of view, I believe boys and girl are born biological different. Still, parents should not train boys and girls to become masculine and feminine to conform to social expectation. Children had better develop naturally without any restrictions from their parents or they will grow psychologically or mentally unhealthy. Thus, I think the phrase “gender neutrality” is worth promoting in our modern society.

“The Barbie versus Godzilla effect” explains how parent buy the “gender appropriate” toys to help their own children to understand or recognize his or her sex. The parents believe that they can make it easier for children to gain personality or find social identity by doing so. Furthermore, parents seem to influence the children’s behaviors through teaching them to assert him or her. Actually, I don’t exactly agree to the ideas “the Barbie versus Godzilla” because I think the children play the toys simply just for fun. The toys won’t have such magical power that fine-tunes children for gender roles. For example, if the boys have preference for painting or drawing, it doesn’t mean that the boys are different from those who like playing basketball. The boys just want to do something he is really interested in and then make it as a hobby.

What's the difference between boys and girls

The following selected essays were based on the assignment on Deborah Blum's article,"What's the difference between boys and girls?".

The students were required to read and answer the questions on Essays from Contemporary Culture, page 236, submitted on 9/27/2006.
  1. What do you think Blum means by the phrases "gender neutrality" and "gender inappropriate"? What is your view of these concepts? That is, to what extent have you thought in terms of "neutrality" and "inappropriate" in relation to gender?
  2. What do you understand Blum to mean by "the Barbie versus Godzilla effect"? Can you given examples that either support or refute her point?

Essays from the following students have been selected:

Richard Lin

France Huang

Trisha Hsiao

Their essays are published on Language and Culture Ezine to share with others their thoughts and opinions on Language and Gender. Please read and give your comments. You can click the 'Comments' button to leave your message. Your opinions matters and will these students improve their craft.

Thank you.

Essays on Kadaba's article, What's in a name?

The following selected essays were based on the assignment on Kadaba's article, "What's in a name?". The students were required to read and answer the questions on Essays from Contemporary Culture, page 178, submitted on 9/18/2006.

Essays from 4 students selected:

Frances Huang
Kevin Huang
Lisa Hsu
Trisha Hsiao

Their essays are published on Language and Culture Ezine to share with others their thoughts and opinions on onomastics, and what their personal names mean and how they reflect their identities. Please read and give your comments. You can click the 'Comments' button to leave your message. Your opinions matters and will these students improve their craft.

Thank you.


What's in a Name by Trisha Hsiao

What’s in a name?
by Trisha Hsiao

Name, universally contains with a given name and a surname. It represents one’s family and one’s identification. In Western countries, people were given their first names mainly from their parents or churches and follow the last name of their ancestors; in Eastern countries, people were given first names from parents, genealogy or fortunetellers and follow their family names. No matter how they get their names, names surely signify their roots and recognition for most people. That is how they define themselves and their generations. However, for the immigrants or the aboriginals, it is not the same case.

For centuries, at the convenience of dominance, the names of immigrants and the aboriginals were assimilated to “easier” ones. Therefore, their ethnicity and the culture were discarded involuntarily. For instance, in United States, formerly called the melting pot, is nowadays a well-known salad bowl. People are seeking for their origins and their lost culture, for they were stripped their culture off when they entered this new country and melted in this pot. Now, they label themselves as a stew or goulash or curry as they consider their ethnic pride as the priority, or what in my opinion, a salad bowl. In a salad bowl, carrots are still carrots, lettuce remains as lettuce, but they still bond together. By tracing back their culture and genealogy, they can preserve their identity in this diversified society.

Besides retrieving mother tongues, folk customs and cultures, rectifying names is the most common means to herald ethnicity. To be honest, some just want to get on the bandwagon and to get some attention; some hope to get rid of the complex of the funny homonym that their names might bring them; some want to label their original nationality, and some gain pride and self-esteem from their original names. As the matter of fact, names connect family’s history and people’s conception. It is a tag that you perceive yourself and influence others’ perception.

Name is like the clothes we wear. It affects others’ perception of us and sometimes, it marks us in good ways and bad ways. It has a magical power to gain or to destroy your confidence. It could fetch your self-esteem by labeling your race, but when your name has a homonym of unfavorable meanings, for instance, anus, ward, or die, you feel shameful of your origin. In addition, when somebody in your family was a notorious person or a criminal, you would not be proud of it. Take myself as an example, my family name Hsiao, in Chinese it is pronounced as the first tone, but it sounds like “crazy” in Taiwanese when you pronounce it with the fourth tone (the falling tone). It influences my confidence of my family tremendously. When I was young, I never wanted to introduce my family name to the others. There is even a slang describing my village, Shetou, as “There are half of crazy people in Shetou.”, for the reason that more than 50% of residents in my village whose last name is Hsiao. Even now, when I introduce myself in English, I always try hard not to emphasize the stress on my last name. I still have a complex of it, not only because all my nicknames came from my last name but also because people often make fun of my last name. No doubt, names surely make a great impact on people’s perception of oneself.

To eliminate some exclusiveness, in the beginning of 20th century, being Americanized is a first and the must for immigrants and aboriginals, they changed their names in order to adapt to new circumstance, but most of the time they are involuntary. Homogeneity was believed to be what united this new found land. An Americanized name was the notion of belonging of the same entity. Same case happened in Taiwan for the aboriginal habitants as well. Some gave up their origins for what they believed as the definition for a country, but this belief now faces the challenges. It is no longer the problem of being hyphenated as a legal citizen or having a localized name; it is how you define yourself. Everyone starts to put their ethnic pride in the front burner. However, as Henry Giroux, a professor of education and cultural studies at Pennsylvania State University said this shift could create a tribalism that might cause an ethnic exclusion within the country. If every ethnic group becomes ethnocentric, it will create conflicts between different ethnic groups. All men are created equal. Only if every ethnic group has the tolerance and respects toward each other, will we have a peaceful and diverse culture. What is in your name represents not only your origin and culture, but also what you embody in yourself.

YE4A 1094100041

What's in a Name by Lisa Hsu

What’s in a name?
by Lisa Hsu

Everyone has name ever since we were born, no matter who give you the name or whom you are named after. The functions of names are powerful and they tell stories.

Names can tell stories. Take my father’s name as an example; “Hsu Jin Wang” is a very old-fashioned, traditional Chinese name. I ever asked my father whether he likes his name or not. My father told me that he never liked his name but since the name is given by his father and is followed the family lore. He never wanted to change it. Hsu is the family name, it represents that we come from Ilan and we belong to Taiwanese ethnic group. We are not Hakkanese or Aborigine. The middle name “Jin” follows the family lore which is base on a rule of genealogy. Every male who is born in my father’s generation must share the same middle name, Jin, means “to take in” in Mandarin. According to the family lore, my uncles’ names are not difficult to guess. They are Jin Fa, Jin Tsai, Jin Jei, and Jin Fu. The last character of each name is given based on the expectations which my grandfather wishes his sons to have. He names his sons as Fa, Tsai, Jei, Fu, Wang in the hope that he wishes his sons can make a good fortune, have the best luck of everything and then let our family has good reputation. As my father learned the meaning of his name, he never wanted to change it because his name preserves his heritage, shows the expectations of his father, connects him to the family and in a way, shows his respect.

Name is powerful for its functions such as claiming and preserving heritage, representing identity, showing ethnic pride, symbolizing culture and language and influencing others’ perception of us. For instance, my experience with an Albanian friend is quite interesting. The first time we met he said “I personally don’t like Chinese much and I hope you are not Chinese.” I must admit that I introduce myself to him with a very great pride because I felt offended at the moment. I am always proud of my oriental look and name that embraces my ethnicity and I never think that Caucasian is the higher race than Asian or any others. I replied “My name is Hsu Ling Chiech in Chinese, Ko Ling Geh in Taiwanese dialact and Lisa Hsu in English, pure soul in meaning.” Surprisingly, he didn’t not feel offended by my attitude but he was very delighted to learn that I am a Taiwanese because Taiwan Government has supported Kosovo during their civil war and has given financial add and help developing their country after the war. My Taiwanese name influenced his perception for oriental look people and, in my point of view; it’s not because of the name but because of the functions which names embrace that change the perceptions. Just like the biographer Justin Kaplan said, “Names have more than simple label value.”

As people know the power in the functions of names, many are fetching their names back. Some change their names to trace back their root, some do so to enrich the ethnicity of their names, and some change names because the fortuneteller told them that their names bring bad luck to their lives. Whatever the reason is, we must bear respect in mind. Globalization has made our world a smaller place, people move from one place to another. Almost every country is multicultural society nowadays. The notion of having homogeneity is changing into having pluralism, in other words, it’s time to change the melting pot notion into the salad bowl. Isn’t it good to be able to taste every ingredient in the dish instead of stewing them together and become one flavor? Only when we know the flavor of each ingredient we will be able to know what the best dressing for the salad is. The answer is yet very simple, just as my father mentioned, “Name tells who you are and whatever you belong, after knowing the depth of it, respect yours and respect others.”

What's in a Name by Kevin Huang

What’s In a Name
by YE4A, Kevin Huang, 1094100039

I think the reasons Kadab cites for why people change their names is a very strong point to notify the reader that there’s actually lot’s of people changing their names legally to pronounce it correctly and easily and to Americanize it. In my opinion, I believe few people who change their names are because they might be ashamed of their own ethnic appellations since some people might make fun of their names.

The melting pot in this article probably refers to a huge area with many different ethnic groups, using America as an example. Nowadays, ethnic pride is growing fast and more and more different ethnic groups are living in America. Therefore, foreign ethnic groups and Americans can be described as goulash boiling on the fire to fit their selves in and to be part of it. Although, they all live in the same place yet their names still influences them. Others may judge them just by the name. For example, even if you’re an American born Chinese, a citizen of America, yet, still you have a Chinese name such as Huang. Some people will still define you as an Asian. No matter what happens, you are still going to be an Asian. Your name represents your nation.

American identity is no longer defined by homogeneity. It is now defined by pluralism. I myself agree to this point. It’s a combination with many other different ethnic groups and culture. Without combining different culture but deucedly defining our own culture, this will lead our social world back to tribalism. And tribalism will lead us to complications and clash with different cultures. This is not what the social world needs.

What’s in a name? by Frances Huang

Language and Culture – What’s in a name?
Frances Huang Mei-Tzu 1094100030

Names represent every single person. The first gift given to a new-born baby is certainly a name. The name carries the family’s love, blessing and their expectation of the baby’s future. For example, my name in Chinese is Huang Mei-Tzu, which means beauty and mercy and those are the qualities my family wish me to have. A man without a name is like an abandoned child without an identity, doesn’t know where he comes from. The importance of a name is universal, no matter what culture we are from, we have a name that stands for our ethnicity and family line. We should not give up our names easily.

However, during the period of immigrating to America, immigrants had to change their names, both involuntarily and voluntarily. Some people, like black slaves, were brought to American and forced to work for the white. Like insult added to injury, they were further deprived of their names and identities. Alas! They totally lost themselves in the new world. Also, some immigrants had to make their names easier or shorter for the immigration process. During that time, it was urgent for them to get into the country. They would do anything for it, even if it meant their names and identities must be sacrificed. On the other hand, some immigrants worshiped American powers. They wanted to blend in the American culture from inside to outside, from their living style to their names. So they were wiling to have an American name even if they didn’t look like one.

One thing that will never change is change itself. The “melting pot” that most of the immigrants wanted to melt in is now changing to a “salad bowl” where every racial group in it is getting united and influential. The urgency to blend in and survive in America has eased, like luxury comes after the basic needs. When the immigrants have all settled in America and names are no longer a problem for immigration, they started to think of their roots and heritages. The ethnic consciousness has arisen among different racial groups living in the States. It might be dangerous because racial division will cause the government to have difficulty running the country and the potential of racial conflicts within the country might rise.

In Chinese culture, names, especially family names, are very important. There are sayings that reflect that names show one’s identity, like “Walk without changing the first name, sit without changing the family name.” which means “Whatever I do is magnanimous, so I will not have to hide my name.” However, cases of changing names happen in this society as well. When a man becomes a son-in-law who lives in the wife’s home and assumes the role of a son, the man is considered changing his family name, because his won sons will inherit his wife’s family name. Another reason for changing names is for a better fortune and life. Fortune telling is common in Taiwan, and name fortune telling is quite popular. Believers change their names with hope of changing their fate and wish to bring luck and prosperity to themselves in the future. But I think that is the power of self-hypnotism, you believe that your fate is changed and then you act on that way, eventually good things will happen.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Language and Culture Ezine

This blog is created to publish selected students' essays on various topics that are related to learning languages and different cultures. The essays published here are original pieces written by the students enrolled in my Language and Culture at Wenzao College. Please take a moment to read their articles. These essays will give you a chance to understand what young Taiwanese EFL students have got to say on various thematic issues that affect our daily lives. Please leave your comments if you have any, and the student authors will try to respond as soon as they can.