[FOUNTAIN]Swear off cursing womenDespite the FIFA hearing, the truth is still hidden in the dark. At the final of the 2006 World Cup, Italian defender Marco Materazzi and French captain Zinedine Zidane exchanged verbal insults and a head butt. Zidane claimed that Materazzi provoked him by insulting his sister and mother. Materazzi argued that he just said, “I would rather wear your wife’s shirt.”
One side is not telling the truth, but there is a more important matter. Why do men mention innocent female family members and not target each other when they curse?
Language reflects the social power structure, and the inferior status of women in gender dynamics is mirrored in language. For example, a “master” is an artisan while a “mistress” is a woman in an extramarital relationship. A “trophy wife” is the young, sexy wife a rich, older man marries as a token of his success. However, a “trophy husband” is an ideal husband who positively supports his wife’s social success.
Most swear words are associated with sexual acts, and those targeting women are far more common and more intense than those targeting men. Just as we saw in the clash between the two footballers, it is common around the world for men to speak ill of another man’s mother to insult him. The mother, wife and sisters are the women “belonging” to a man, and verbally humiliating them immediately damages his pride.
Men use foul language more often than women due to gender dynamics. On men’s unreserved attitude to using curse words, women’s rights activist Shulamith Firestone said that the world is the exclusive property of men, thus they have the right to speak ill of the world. If women or children, or in other words, inferior members of the world, used the same language, they would be criticized for being shameless, she said bitterly.
Reality confirms this biased standard. While people are generous about boys’ cursing, girls’ foul language will be result in a scolding. Probably the most accepted image of a cursing woman is the “foul-mouthed grandma” ― an eccentric old lady with little femininity.
Because curse words are social taboos, some scholars pay attention to the effect of resolving oppression through using inadequate language. They theorize that women curse less than men do because they internalize social oppression more closely.
In short, using too much foul language or too little of it is a problem. Women have not been able to release stress by cursing but have been constantly humiliated by male-oriented abusive words.
by Yang Sung-hee
The writer is a culture and sports desk writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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