A while ago, Tom Scott, a qualified linguist who makes a living at explaining interesting things on YouTube, made a video about gender in language. It was partly about gender-neutral pronouns in English, and partly about gendered nouns in languages which have them (primarily European languages, where gender tends to match up with sex; in many other languages, genders are more like “animate” and “inanimate”, or “communal property” and “individual property”). He touched on how gendered nouns do actually have some effect on the way we think: Germans speakers and Italian speakers have different (and gender-influenced) perceptions of the connotations of keys, for example. It’s an interesting watch.
However, while Tom Scott has a qualification in linguistics, he does not actually work in that field. Furthermore, he is a native speaker only of English.
Another YouTuber, the Metatron, recently made a video on pretty much the same topic: feminine and masculine nouns in Romance Languages. The Metatron is Italian, and natively speaks Sicilian Italian. He also speaks French, English, and Japanese. He too has a qualification in linguistics, and actually works in the field, as a translator and a teacher. His YouTube videos are on too main topics: mediaeval warfare and linguistics.
Being doubly qualified, as a linguist and as a native speaker, does the Metatron have anything interesting to say on this subject? Of course he does. Yes, gender in the language does of course affect ones perception of objects, and even of abstract nouns. The personification of strength would, to the Metatron, naturally be female.
The Metatron’s video is not a direct response to Tom Scott’s, which was from some years ago. Tom rarely does linguistics videos these days.
Can a female character be a “brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, polymath genius”? Well, I don’t see why not, and nor does Sophia McDougall at the New Statesman.
That a female character is allowed to get away with behaviour that, in a male character, would rightly be seen as abusive (or outright murderous) may seem – if you’re MRA minded, anyway – an unfair imbalance in her favour. But really these scenes reveals the underlying deficit of respect the character starts with, which she’s then required to overcome by whatever desperate, over-the-top, cartoonish means to hand.
Another essay on the subject comes from Carina Chocano in the New York Times.
“Strength”, in the parlance, is the 21st-century equivalent of “virtue”. And what we think of as “virtuous”, or culturally sanctioned, socially acceptable behavior now, in women as in men, is the ability to play down qualities that have been traditionally considered feminine and play up the qualities that have traditionally been considered masculine. “Strong female characters”, in other words, are often just female characters with the gendered behavior taken out.
The movie really brings home (especially through the song lyrics, which are just PERFECT) that this Good Girl / Bad Girl dichotomy is damaging to Elsa, and the only way she can really be free is to reject them both. She doesn’t need to be (and fundamentally can’t be) a perfect good girl, but she won’t find freedom by moving over to the bad girl stereotype offered to her by a restrictive society. She’s only free when she throws both of them in the trash.
Also amazing, and very rare: a cursed girl saves herself.
Strong female character? Perhaps.
With Bryarly Bishop, a creator of beautiful videos.
There’s no other music video quite like this one from A-ha, is there?
(Also, that boy is cute.)
Bill Watterson has said that there will absolutely definitively not be a Calvin & Hobbes film. That’s probably a good thing. I can’t imagine that any such film could be anything less than a travesty. However, there is going to be a film about Calvin & Hobbes and Bill Watterson. It’s called Dear Mr Watterson, and looks like it might be interesting and rather pleasing.
Vi Hart announced that pineapples have Fibbonacci spirals, not bilateral symmetry, and therefore the pineapple house in Spongebob Squarepants is inaccurate.
And so the series designer, Kenny P., decided to redesign the set. Cool, huh?
Meanwhile, the snail which had appeared as a supporting character in Vi Hart’s Spongebob videos went on to a staring role:
And it only gets more epic from there:
(Even CGP Grey says it’s epic, in the comments.)
Meanwhile, back on the subject of Fibbonacci numbers (and Lucas numbers):
Simple rules: complex consequences. It’s wonderful.
Over on the blog of Tullamore Toastmasters I posted some videos of the Swedish Professor of Public Heath, Hans Rosling, whose statistics are fascinating, insightful, and, ultimately, encouraging. The world is in many ways better than we might have thought it was. (The world isn’t only healthier than we might have thought; it’s also a lot less violent.)
I think this might possibly be the best version I know of Tim Minchin’s “White Wine in the Sun”. It was broadcast for BBC Children in Need, and features Tim singing and playing the piano, accompanied on guitar by someone whose name I can’t find. My Google-fu must be waning.