Monday, October 15, 2007

Clumsy, or There are two and a half stories in every one story I try to tell, or Another crappy, rambling, unpolished thought abortion

The manager of my company is a twenty-three year old girl. She’s the second in command, next to Yoshiko. We’re the same age. We both like pretty dresses and eyeliner, but she’s much better dressed than I am, since I’m kind of lazy. We don’t really get along. When I first met her, I thought we were going to be friends. For the first couple of weeks before I started driving, she was picking me up at the train station and driving me to the various confusing places I needed to be. During our long car rides together, I spoke to her in casual Japanese or English, and found that despite being an English teacher, she was remarkably difficult to communicate with. It’s not that she couldn’t understand my words, but there was some unspoken cultural thing happening to which I was still oblivious. She often seemed silent or aloof, despite the fact that (as I would later learn) she’s someone who prides herself on her incredibly bubbly personality. Any question I asked her, she would usually return with a high-pitched, overly enthusiastic response and crisp head movements, then resume her silence. Contrary to the reciprocal necessity of conversation, she rarely had any questions for me. In fact, the first time I remember her willingly offering me any information without prompt was when she was explaining to me why my lesson failed. It was in English, shocking, and without the benefits that hedging and modals give criticism.

A couple months after I began working for the company, I learned that she was not just a fellow teacher who I had been regarding as my equal, but a manager. Was she offended that I had automatically presumed a sort of camaraderie with her, was she resentful and jealous of the attention a native-speaker receives, or perhaps just too self-conscious about her English or my Japanese to try to communicate with me? In Japanese, with other Japanese people, she’s very chatty and friendly. “Friendly” maybe isn’t the right word, but I already used “bubbly”. She’s high energy, and one thing I’ve learned about American culture since being here is that we don’t necessarily like people who come off as overly cheerful, who put on the biggest smile possible when they see you, and whose contributions to even the most banal conversations involve speaking in high pitched squeals. To us, it comes off as fake. In Japan, this kind of behavior is commonplace among women talking to a client, a customer, anyone they’re expected to be polite to. Culturally, she’s incredibly Japanese, and it doesn’t translate well into English. I think to some degree she knows this, which is why she doesn't seem to have a lot of interest in befriending foreigners.

As our relationship grew more tense, and I became aware of the authority this ditzy twenty-three year old had over me, I reacted like the catty woman I am. I passive-aggressively challenged her authority whenever I saw fit.

One afternoon, I was planning lessons in the staff room when she appeared at the door and said, “Please clean your eikaiwa room,” and dropped a dustmop at my feet. I responded with an enthusiastic “Okay!” and a crisp head movement, not because I was mocking her, but that’s just what you do here. When she disappeared into another room, I continued doing exactly what I had been doing before, deciding that I would sweep the eikaiwa room when I felt like it, since there were no lessons there for another two and a half hours, and it was my lesson, anyway, and the damn room was already clean since I cleaned it yesterday and nobody has freaking used it since then. Perhaps Japanese office hierarchy would have required I drop everything I was doing at that moment to sweep an already clean room that is none of her business, anyway, but I chose to ignore it. When I heard her rapidly sob-talking to our boss in the other room a while later, I have to assume it was about something else, but my natural instinct was to feel guilty. Occasional teary break-downs are the consequence of a highly stressful, estrogen-dominated work environment. We’ve all adapted to each other’s cycles, and there’s a certain time of the month you never want to be around the office. I always thought pre-menstrual bitchiness was a myth until I came to Japan. Maybe it’s because Japanese women need to take advantage of the one time of the month they’re allowed to go completely bat-shit. Not that pms was the issue at the time.

Obviously, hierarchy is still a big deal here, and it’s maybe part of the reason why Sayaka and I can never be friends. I get along great with the others, who tend to be part-time workers; housewives in their thirties with babies in tow, and college students. Most don’t speak English. Only two are men, both college students, both remarkably easy to deal with. However, the office pecking order can even appear in the smallest of gestures. Even though it’s subtle, it still kind of gets to me. For example, at the pre-school, we use laminated name-plates that we put on strings around each kid’s neck, because even Japanese people have a hard time telling each other apart sometimes. Anyway, at the end of each class, we sing the goodbye song and the kids return their nameplates randomly to any of the three teachers. My first day at the pre-school, when I was still trying to understand the elaborate system of rituals of the classroom, everything came to me as a disorienting surprise: Okay, we’re chanting now. Now we’re bowing, now they’re giving me things. Now the kids are grabbing my boobs. On that first day, I also experienced the subtleties of being the newest teacher, therefore the lowest ranking. After some of the kids handed me their nameplates, the other two teachers (Yoshiko and Sayaka), without saying a word, dropped the nameplates they had been given into my lap. It was my job to disentangle them, tie them neatly, and put them away, but at the time all I thought was, “What am I supposed to do with these?” It was a simple task, but one the more senior teachers never bother themselves with because there’s someone lower who can do it. Within a couple months, we got a new teacher to help with the pre-school, and Sayaka began wordlessly dropping the nameplates into her lap instead of mine. I give the new teacher the nameplates too, but I’m more tentative about it. I always hand them to her and say thank you.

As soon as I became full-time, it became my job to clean the office daily. Now it’s changed, and I view my role in cleaning more as pitching in than as being solely my responsibility. But at first I took this task very seriously, sweeping, scrubbing, and disinfecting to the best of my ability. A few months later, the company hired a new tutor, a male college student. One day, when I came to work he was already sitting at the table planning lessons. We exchanged greetings, and I went straight to get the dustmop and began sweeping, as I always had. When he saw what I was doing, he leapt out of his seat and took the mop from my hands, saying in English, “It is my duty,” and finished the rest of the floor himself. I was stunned, but also relieved to have the sole responsibility of cleaning taken off my shoulders. I learned from others that it was a bit unfair that I had been working so hard cleaning the entire office since I didn’t even teach many classes there, and it’s more common that everybody just helps when they have time. Still, if I come to work and find Yoshiko or Sayaka cleaning, my heart still jumps a little from sudden pangs of guilt. I try to ignore it.

Unlike me, Colin works within the public school system. Apparently, every year during late March, the end of the school year, the local board of education (by a mysterious and perhaps arbitrary process), rearranges the staff of all the area schools. Anyone from the school nurse to the principal has the risk of being transferred to a different school regardless of their desires. They can request transfers or petition to stay, but whether that happens is up to the board of education. The transfers are announced on a specific day, approximately two weeks before the end of the school year, and for days before the staff is abuzz with speculation, gathering in small groups to have hushed conversations. The principal reads the transfers at a staff meeting, everyone reacts with absolute stoicism, and every school is re-shuffled to some degree. No staff member is allowed to stay at any school for more than six consecutive years without transfer, anyway. When Colin told me about this, we discussed how needlessly dramatic and political it seemed, and Japan is all about community so how can you foster a community when everyone is at risk of leaving any year? To me it sounded like a nerve-racking, cruel process.

Then Colin pried his co-workers for more information about why the board of education does this annual shuffling: “So they told me that it’s for the sake of the newer teachers that they do it. If any teacher is at one school too long, they become wagamama (spoiled), and the newer teachers are doomed to do bitch work forever.”

“Oh, my god,” I gasp, “That’s really, really smart!” Spoken by someone who knows bitch work.

Living in a society with such a deeply ingrained system of hierarchy is bound to effect you eventually. In April, after I had been teaching only children for months, I began an adult class with two middle-aged, well-established aestheticians, one of whom is a renowned kimono expert in the prefecture. When they met me, the first thing they asked me was how old I was, then they joked to each other about my answer, about how old that made them feel. Their immediate and continuing consciousness of our age difference, along with the supposed absurdity of a twenty-three-year-old teaching successful, middle-aged women, knocked the confidence right out of me. I could no longer speak with authority as a teacher. I giggled and said um a lot, and any directives I spoke were weak with rising intonations like a question. My lessons wandered, I was clumsy in my transitions. My lack of ability to speak with authority had actually made me a worse teacher.

This wasn't such a problem in America. When I took the TEFL certification course, part of it was a teaching practicum, which involved teaching English to a class of adults. I didn’t have a problem speaking articulately and with authority then, even though I was just fresh out of college, and they were all adults with far more life experience. My mindset at the time was that regardless of my age, I had a skill they didn’t, and I had something to offer them. Now I’m getting back on my feet with these two women, and I’m getting better, but I still have internal conflict sometimes.

It would be wrong to say this struggle to speak with authority is strictly a Japan-related issue. I myself have struggled with it in different situations since hitting puberty. Maybe by being so hard on Japan’s stance on gender and hierarchy, I’m letting America off way too easy.

I’m reminded of a class I took in college that centered around activist literature. We had just read a book that concerned the social construction of gender (wow, it’s been a while since I’ve typed those words. How nostalgic), so the professor decided to do a little experiment. When we entered the classroom, we saw two rows of chairs facing each other a few feet apart. We were instructed to leave our backpacks behind the chairs and sit down. When everyone was seated, the professor told us to freeze and look at everyone else’s body language. The configuration of the two lines of chairs facing each other was supposed to simulate a situation we might encounter in public transportation. We observed, in the class of fourteen people, how many of the women had their legs crossed (all but one), and how many of the men were sitting in open positions (all but one, who had his lower-leg resting on his knee in the masculine cross). I was, by far, the most closed person in the group; legs crossed, back hunched over arms folded over my chest. Suddenly the professor points to me and says, “What about you? What would you do if someone attacked you right now?” My instinct was to say that I would curl up in a protective ball, but I wasn’t sure if it was a rhetorical question, so I just shrunk further into my chair and became more the protective ball I had imagined. We shared an awkward classroom moment that occurs when you realize a question wasn’t rhetorical, but it’s too late to answer, anyway.

In that class’s discussion about gender, I listened to other girls voice their frustrations with the concerns they heard over and over again growing up; that girls didn’t speak up in class and didn’t excel in science, when this wasn’t a problem at their school and they were just as openly gifted as they wanted to be. In fact, they were bothered by the media telling them about the struggles they were supposed to be having. I wanted to speak up right then. I wanted to say that some of us went to public school, and I’m not talking about magnet schools. Some of us went to real, salt-of-the-earth public school where as soon as you hit middle school, if you have two x chromosomes speaking with authority leads to all kinds of grief. I came from a system in which it’s okay for girls to be smart, but they can’t quite show it, can’t seem confident in it. If you happen upon a correct answer or a clever observation in class, it has to seem like luck. Maybe you can show sexy-smart, but smart won’t be sexy for many years. If you speak with confidence in your voice, articulate your sentences and thoughts eloquently, you’re intimidating, you’re abrasive, you’re a bitch. And no one specifically says that you can’t express your intelligence this way because you’re a girl. If you asked them, they might even disagree, but if you’ve ever been a girl in public school who has tried to speak intelligently and asserted your opinions, you know what I’m talking about. It was simple cause and effect. Enjoy class, enjoy speaking and thinking, and face the rolling eyes, the “accidental” bumps in the hallway, and from the bolder kids, the names, shouted in passing, for no reason other than to take you down a notch. I was aware of this reality as I saw “the smartest boy in school” argue relentlessly about one of the themes of a short story in our advanced reading class while going on to have friends at his locker in the hall. I knew it was a bullshit double standard that the boys could speak up and argue and be assertive in their intellect, but I just wanted to make my life easier. I learned ways to make the words come out of my mouth seem less threatening. I began to mumble, avoid eye contact, slouch, and after I’d just made a cogent point, add “or something”, or “I don’t know”, or anything else to similarly discredit what I had just said. Maybe irrelevant tangents for humor at my own expense. I developed these defensive tactics myself, and when I got to college, I couldn’t keep up with all the talented, beautiful, intelligent women who spoke in paragraphs with thesis sentences and wrote poetry and quoted obscure bands. I had sabotaged myself, and that was what killed me. What this system took from me, that I had willingly participated in, was my voice. I had sabotaged my own ability to speak, just to keep some sebaceous high school kids off my back, and it wasn’t worth it. I wanted to say all of this, and I would ramble, and I would be disorganized, and my cadence would be halting, coming in sputters and bursts, occasionally interjecting “or somethings” and “I don’t knows” as an unconscious example of exactly how deeply I had fucked myself over. But I didn’t say anything. Even though that was what we were discussing at the time, I decided it wasn’t relevant enough, and I hated it when people weren’t relevant. We weren’t in a women’s studies class, or even a sociology class. We were in a cross-listed English and Environmental Studies class. Before long the topic changed to something else. I didn’t say a word for the rest of the class, anyway.

How does this relate to my problems with Sayaka? I’m not sure. She’s not even the first slightly-senior girl my age who I’ve had problems with in the workplace. Perhaps she’s just reacting to her unlikely position of authority in an ultra-hierarchical society. Maybe she struggles reconciling being a twenty-three-year-old girl who manages a staff of many older, more experienced people. Maybe whenever she has to give instructions to a thirty-four year old former career teacher, the discord tears at her guts as she has to in an instant decide what level of politeness to use. For her, maybe I’m just a big question mark. I’m a foreigner, an English teacher, and a contemporary. Perhaps she doesn’t know what to do with me just like the rest of Japan doesn’t, what with my position in this society falling into some combination of retarded child and rock star. I might be the one who experiences the brunt of her wild mood swings from cheerleader to dictator, since everybody else’s social position is far clearer than mine. In different circumstances, we might have been friends.

I recall a time when I was still new to the company, when Sayaka and I were leaving the pre-school with our arms overflowing with baggage and teaching materials. I was carrying the CD player, and as we passed through one of the two gates, I accidentally stepped on the errant cord, tripped, and flung myself and the CD player loudly into the fence, uttering a small, strange scream before regaining my balance. Having witnessed the entire thing, Sayaka’s knees buckled as she hiccupped in girlish laughter. Her body spasming, she struggled to keep hold of all her various oversized teaching materials. “Omoshiroi, Kyashi wa. Itsumo ‘Wah! Wah!’ iuteru.”

Over lunch, I explained to her that I was generally very clumsy. “What is clumsy?” she asked. I didn’t know the word in Japanese, so I looked it up in the pocket dictionary I carried around at that time. “Bukiyou,” I told her. She repeated it, looking a little confused. So I told her about how I spend a good portion of my daily life anticipating accidents that might happen to me. I fall down easily. I trip up stairs. A rainy day leads to me tiptoeing gingerly about every damp surface, gripping the ground with my feet. I see the long flight of stairs from the platform of Saga Station, and I move as far as I can to the railing, freeing the closest hand because in event that I should slip and fall, I’d be able to grab something in time. I imagine accidents where it would be particularly strange or public, or even injurious. I drop things. Appliances and electronics break around me at an alarming rate. I avoid sports, because in gym class, there seemed to be a magnetic pull between balls and my head. I’m too big, and I try to be small. I’m encumbered by my own form. Someone told me that renaissance comedy was based on the awkwardness of embodiment, of being aware of your own body and of others as a thing that is a process, that takes in food and digests and excretes and fucks and ejaculates and becomes diseased and occasionally falls down the stairs. Someone else told me that the main difference between a comedy and a tragedy is that in the tragedy, there are bunch of corpses on stage in the end. But the bit about Renaissance drama would have been lost on Sayaka, so I stopped at telling her that I regularly humiliate myself.

“I see, but I think the word you mean is ‘tsutanai.’ ‘Bukiyou’ is more like you try to pick something up and you drop it.’

That seemed about right, but I took her word for it. Soon we were talking about different things. We were still in a pretty expository phase of our relationship, so we talked about food and traveling. I asked her if she had a good time when she studied in Canada. She flatly replied, “Not really.”

“Why not?”

She smiled a little. In time I would learn that Sayaka smiles to express a wide range of emotions, but this smile clearly had a sadder story behind it. “Because I’m so clumsy.”


Blogger Claytonian said...

I was thinking today about how long I can really stand to be in a ritualistic confucian society such as this one. It was helpful to read your words.

But I can't find that word for clumsy btw, I wonder if it's slang or something.

3:33 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Hey Cassie,
Great post! It's funny, I think I am getting dumber each year I'm alive. I used to think I was smart, but it's weird to know for a fact that your younger sister is so much smarter, but I am very proud of you! Mom wants you to call her as soon as you can because she wants to talk about the trip. Also, she posted on her blog about what happened to Oleander. Thanks again for an awesome post!

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best entry, hands down. This post had such clarity, humor and direction yet maintained interest. It's something right out of syndication.

And you say you're not a writer. You're this writer. This style - the straight-forward yet highly connective - is near impossible to pull off and you did it with finesse and ease.

Seriously awesome.


6:30 AM  
Blogger archipelagic said...

To Clay:

Jim Breen says:

つたない (adj) clumsy; unskillful; foolish; unlucky; KD


My denshi jisho also had a similar definition, but that's out of batteries right now. On that dictionary, if I did the English-Japanese feature and looked up clumsy, tsutanai didn't come up. So I guess maybe it's not a common translation of clumsy, but I think all the common translations on my denshi jisho at least generally relate to being the opposite of dexterous.

4:09 PM  
Blogger AzzidisRidden said...

Wow. Really well written.

And I've been told a million times from a million different sources that the bureaucratic shuffling is to "prevent corruption," but I had such a hard-wired definition of "corruption" that I was never able to understand what they actually meant by that until I read your post. I always just thought "What the hell kind of corruption could they possibly get up to in an elementary school?"

Also, I remember taking an honors seminar on Sylvia Plath in college, and giving a group presentation about some of the gender dynamics in some of her poems. The group consisted of me, another boy, and four girls. We divided our presentation into different aspects and decided on an order in which to present.

The presentation went horribly awry when a girl in the back of the room asked "What do you think it means that your presentation enacts exactly the kind of constructed, gendered behavior that you say Plath's poems enact?"

She was commenting on the fact that despite the way we had structured our presentation beforehand, the other male and I ended up VASTLY dominating the conversation. The girl who asked the question, I think, asked it to be more destructive than constructive, but the teacher indulged her, and we ended up talking about it right there. It still bothers me.

Here's why:
In my view, we ended up dominating the conversation for one reason. We took questions from the class at any point along the way, and the girls never spoke up to answer the questions, even when the questions pertained directly to her area of preparation.

I was a grade grubber, and was petrified of that long silence that follows a question and makes it look like your group doesn't know anything, so I usually (along with the other male who, by the way, had no idea what he was talking about) took it upon myself to answer.

Only once did I actually say, "Well So-and-so worked on that aspect so..." and when I did that, it made me feel terrible. No one had appointed me to lead the group, and I felt worse for directing someone else to handle a question that they should've taken it upon themselves to answer. Many times I simply gave the other members of the groups desperate, "Please-say-something" looks and counted to ten before I answered.

Reading through your post, I'm forced to rethink things a little. We did talk a lot about social conditioning then, on the day, but I still felt like I was implicated as a perpetrator, rather than a product of the same conditioning. It definitely doesn't strike me as fair that the conditioning favors my sex, but it's also not my fault.

For my own part I do my best to empower the girls in my classes to answer. When we're playing a game and the boys are yelling at a girl whose turn it is, advising her what to do, I tell them "Shut up, she has a brain, she can do it herself."
When the Odakuma roku-nensei boys get out of hand (they outnumber the girls 17-6), I kick them out of class. I hate watching them turn these girls, many of whom were more outgoing last year, into these timid little creatures who don't even open their mouths when it's "Repeat after me" time.

I don't believe the system is right and, on a conscious level, I believe I can do things to try to work against it. On another level though, I don't have a problem speaking up, I do have the sense that sometimes if I don't do something, it won't get done, and I was happy when that Plath teacher (a woman, if it matters) didn't lower my grade because I spoke more than the girls did.

I guess I felt unfairly targeted by the girl who brought up the question. The answer doesn't seem to me to attack the men who have been conditioned to be confident, so much as it should be to bolster the women who have been conditioned to feel uncertain.

And I don't have room for any universal male guilt. I'm too busy with my white guilt over slavery, my American guilt over massacring indigenous peoples, and my Jewish guilt for faking the holocaust (and for the Fantastic Four movies.... I don't know how we ever got to be in charge of Hollywood, making decisions like that).

And BAM, there's my conditioning. Just like you add "or something," or "I don't know," to an assertion, I add a joke to the end of an opinion. Now you know that I don't take myself too seriously, and I'm a victimized minority too!

Anyway, excellent post.

2:08 PM  
Blogger AzzidisRidden said...

Also, I forgot to say that one of the girls in our group, by all accounts the shyest, said, when asked directly, that she felt like the presentation had been hijacked from her. So, there's that. Here are three more commas to insert into this post, if you feel that, as of now, there aren't enough: , , ,

2:49 PM  
Blogger Claytonian said...

Actually, I ended up in unofficial charge of a lot of situations too. I don't think it was cause I was male or particularly confident, but because I actually know (or sound like I know) what I am talking about. People always leave it up to that guy. Oh, but I just said guy, which may mean I have a male image in my head...

I realize now I misspelled the word when I searched for it, Cassie.

12:31 PM  
Blogger archipelagic said...


The fact that you are comfortable with assuming the role of being in charge of situations, that you openly say that you know, or are able to sound like you know what you are talking about is evidence of this gendered conditioning. If other girls sat back in such situations, it's not because they don't know what they're talking about, but they aren't allowed to comfortably sound like they know what they're talking about. I'm not saying this because I think you need male guilt, but maybe male awareness. You know what else is evidence of this conditioning? The fact that it's taking every ounce of strength for me to not add about three hedges to every sentence I just wrote because I'm so afraid of putting you on the defense. Goddamn me being so susceptible to this. I definitely don't think every woman has these issues but those who don't are really lucky, and probably freaks.

To Jeff:

Thanks for your response. It was really interesting to hear the other side of the classroom dynamic issues. I think that girl was just trying to stir things up, which put you on the defense and ended up being really counterproductive. But it's good that you can think about it now without feeling like a perpetrator, and it would be ridiculous for the teacher to lower your grade just because you could assume a role with ease that many of the girls in the class may have struggled with. What you're doing now with your students is exactly what you should be doing, and it's a lot more useful than guilt, anyway.

2:43 PM  
Blogger Claytonian said...

I'm not saying this conditioning doesn't exist. People do turn towards guys in groups for leadership.

However, in my group presentation type situations, I was just the vocal one. That's what I'm trying to talk about, cause Jeff got me reminiscing. In fact, looking back on it, most of the guys in groups I've worked with were inarticulate whereas the girls picked up more of slack. Also thinking about it, these girls were usually pretty smart.
So I think it may be more about smartness (lets assume I'm a little smart for arguement's sake), but smartness is often a gender-conditioned trait as well I feel (I think guys are getting dumber though and it's showing more all the time) where girls are ignored academically. So yeah, gender plays a role in everything.

2:54 PM  
Blogger janamarie said...

Hey - I'm a gaijin too, living quite literally on an island.
I stumbled across your blog, and find the discussion going on here really interesting. I loved the middle part of your post when you address that "secret" that it's 'okay' to be a smart girl in high school, but it's so much PRETTIER to be docile and modest about it. I mean, nobody likes aggression... it's so totally true and I felt that for years but thought people probably wouldn't know what I was talking about. But damn, you hit the nail on the head!
I had a really gendered high school, but I think I got lucky, or maybe I was just too stubborn having been raised in a family of strong women. At any rate, I eventually decided the guys who gave me a hard time had little merit to boast of (usually it was the clod-type doofuses who targeted me) and I bullied them right back. I remember being surprised at how easily cowed they were - I hadn't realized that a smart girl can be just as intimidating to men as men are to a smart girl. Thus the inclination, the need, to sort of take her down a notch or two.
It felt so liberating - like I was saying "Yeah I'm an outspoken girl, DEAL with it!" But it wouldn't have felt so good if I hadn't felt that awful looming pressure to just shut up in class for so many years, and the frustration that only guys who I met outside of school were ever interested in me.
I know, too, what you mean about that urge to add a thousand "if you please" or "perhaps" type filler to strong statements you make in print. You don't want to come off as abrasive -- but I never made the leap to connect that with gender conditioning, just assumed it was generic social conditioning. Do men have less difficulty writing strong, direct messages?

As for Japan and gender -- haha, mix of pop star and retarded child is the perfect description. I speak very little Japanese, and sometimes I wonder how stupid they think I am. I don't want to gaijin-smash tradition, or be impolite, so I make a point of helping out with every task in the office. I'm a one-shot, I teach at five different schools, so I think my presence causes a lot of stress in anxiety about where I fit in. I'm definitely lowest, but can you really ask someone to be responsible for cleaning when they only visit you once every two weeks? My schools all deal with it differently - some try to include me by asking me to help out when I happen to be there, others refuse to let me help and insist on serving me tea instead, others just let me alone and hope I'll figure it out on my own.
Anyway, thanks for the intellectual stimulation! Not that the Alphabet Song isn't enough on its own, or anything..
jana marie

4:11 PM  
Blogger archipelagic said...

Hey, jana marie, thanks for reading. It's encouraging to me that you found a way to deal with assholes who tried to intimidate you in class. And you're completely right about the guys who bully girls for this are the type whose opinions really shouldn't matter anyway. Too bad I didn't consider that at the time.

About men being able to make direct statements, I wrote about the feminine speech register in English and Japanese when I was in college, and they tend to have the same characteristics, which are excessive use of modals, hedging, rising intonation, and questions in place of statements. Women's speech tends to be longer and more polite in both languages, but Japanese has politeness levels that are more easily demarcated.

For example, if a mixed-gender group of people are in a car looking for a specific house, and one person spots it, if it's a male he's more likely to say, "This is the house."

If it's a female who sees it, she's more likely to say, "I think this is the house."
or "Is this the house?"
or "This is the house, isn't it?"

5:31 PM  
Blogger janamarie said...

Oh my god that's insane!!! I do that! But I have never noticed it before, or ever connected it to gender - the first statement, to me, just sounds a little authoritarian, as though I'm assuming I'm the only person in the car who has realized it's the house and therefore responsible for cluing everyone else in. Is it really true that guys don't have that thought process as well?

5:45 PM  

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