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Gender-Bending

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Wikimedia Commons

For dinner last Shabbos, I made my very first reduction sauce. And finally, after watching several seasons of Top Chef, I realized that the word is ‘reduction’ and not ‘redaction.’

It was, given my lifelong proclivity towards the literary realm, an honest mistake. With scant culinary exposure, I was unaware that the process of reducing certain elements in a liquid via intense heat produces a concentrated, and slightly altered, version of the original mixture. Hence, reduction.

Just two days later, arriving at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the etymology of the word ‘airport’ zipped through my mind. Ah…of course. A port that is a point of entry via air travel rather than some other mode of transportation. Or something to that effect.

I love words. I love the interplay of the letters, their roots, their history. I am enthralled with the relationship between them. And, especially in Hebrew, fascinated by the theological, sociological, and political implications peering out from the characters on the page.

How very surprised I was to hear the following observation from Georgetown University lecturer, Maureen Corrigan, book critic for NPR’s Fresh Air:

It also, I must say, feels very much like a “boy book” to me — all this thinking about thinking; all this meditation on language. Maybe women — so socialized into constantly scribbling “to do” lists — don’t tend to write meditations like this on the instability of words.

My interests and habits are well-established.

But what if I had heard Corrigan’s review of Leaving the Atocha Station at a younger, and far more impressionable, age? Would I have left my innate interest behind in search for a more feminine subject? Would I have learned to categorize books based on gender-interests and, therefore, avoided some because they were “other?”

Or would I have been far too busy thinking about the origin of the word “Atocha”?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Thursday, 10 November 2011 4:21 pm

    Interesting. My boss expressed something close to shock last week when I referred to a class of movies as “boy movies.” This category, at least in my head, includes Caddyshack, the Fletch movies, and anything with The Three Stooges. She seemed to think that there was no such thing as a boy movie. I disagree. As it happens, I do like some boy movies. But women and girls liking boy movies don’t make them more of the distaff variety.

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