Feminist Code

In 1982 Suzette Haden Elgin decided to test the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, by constructing a feminist language called Láadan and included it in her science fiction Native Tongue series.

To some extent Láadan is traditional in the sense that it includes markers for both speech-acts (such as particles indicating a statement, a request, a promise, a warning, or a question) and grammatical tense (such as particles for present, past, or future). But it also contains features that to me feel a bit more associated with a feminist perspective such as that the command particle is not often used, unless you are talking to small children. I also very much like the evidence particle that indicates to what extent a statement should be considered trustworthy. Here you can choose among the following:
  • Known to speaker because perceived by speaker, externally or internally

  • Known to speaker because self-evident

  • Perceived by speaker in a dream

  • Assumed true by speaker because speaker trusts source

  • Assumed false by speaker because speaker distrusts source

  • Assumed false by speaker because speaker distrusts source who is assumed having evil intent 
  • Imagined or invented by speaker, hypothetical

  • Used to indicate that the speaker states a total lack of knowledge as to the validity of the matter
Another interesting feature is the sheer number of specific words for being alone:
  • alone at last after tiresome experience or people
  • alone "in the bosom of your family"
  • alone in a crowd of people
  • alone and glad of it
  • to be alone
  • alone with terror
  • alone with grief
From Oberammergau 2007
I'm a bit surprised to not find "being alone in a relationship" among them though.

I must admit that I'm a fan of the weak version of the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis since I do believe that language to some extent has an influence on the way we think. That is why I think it's good for you to learn several languages. Similar to the underlying cognitive metaphors we use without thinking, we also sometimes have a gender perspective built into our language.

This can sometimes be very confusing. For example, in Hebrew all nouns have grammatical gender. However, this does not indicate that the object is of a specific gender. For example, a book is masculine and an animal is feminine. This, of course, calls into question to what extent "God" should be considered a "he" just because the word has the male grammatical gender. This might be especially interesting for people in Jönköping to consider, since they speak a Swedish dialect prone to add grammatical gender (in direct violation of "proper" Swedish) and where many belong to a Christian community.
From Celtic Christmas 2015
It would be interesting to develop a feminist programming language. This could be similar to the Volvo YCC project, which had the stated goal of meeting the particular needs of female drivers but ended up with many innovations appreciated by both men and women.

This idea has of course already been proposed and made fun of. In 2013, Arielle Schlesinger posted an article on feminism and programming languages (please note the very interesting and respectful comments!). Not long after, the C+= (C-plus-Equality, or See Equality) programming language for feminists was published. Although the authors claim that it was designed as a playful joke in the hacker spirit and tradition, I agree with computer science student Molly White. In a world with very few women working with ICT and a lot of harassment for those few who dare to enter this field, the last thing needed is a text full negative stereotypes against feminists, mockery of various groups of people, and transphobia even if it was meant as a joke. If you don't believe me, check out some of the responses to Ari's article such as this one (including the comments).

I wish Ari Schlesinger all the best and good luck with your PhD thesis. I look forward to learn more about your work!

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