Kitten or Hedgehog?

This week in What’s Christine Reading, the answer is discussions of language and sexuality, feminist linguistics, and queer linguistics.* The readings are intense. And fascinating – language and sexuality and how they inform identity or are informed by identity. Recent studies in language and sexuality emphasize the way sexuality intersects with other codes – like gender, ethnicity, and social class – to form identity.

There are a dozen interesting elements to these studies, but one I find really relevant to the identity-heavy culture we live in is the way our identities are formed by more than one characteristic. How often do I take Buzzfeed quizzes on my own identity? Am I more Emma Watson or Emma Stone? Which Hogwarts house do I belong in? Am I an introvert or an extrovert and what Myers-Briggs combination am I and what’s my Enneagram? I MUST KNOW.

But, of course. Our identities can’t be defined by one characteristic. My combination of identities – straight, white, middle class female with a college education – is bound up in my liberal, feminist, extremely privileged world view. All the aspects of who I am interact to form my identity. It’s not just that I’m an Emma Watson-Ravenclaw-introvert-INFJ.**

We have to string all the parts together because they’re all bound up together. What that means for my essay is that we can’t study language and sexuality without studying language and gender and language and race, etc. What it means for life is… c’mon, you know. We can’t put people into boxes. Because we overflow into other boxes as well.

Maybe it means I need to be nicer when I talk about particular presidential candidates, particular former employers, particular other people I know because… ugh. We’re all more than one thing. I HAD to resolve to be less cynical this year, didn’t I?

Also, because I know you’re wondering:

*As a note, linguistically speaking, queer theory concerns all nonnormative sexualities, including but not limited to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, etc. Also, as another note, I feel there will eventually be a better and more accurate term than “nonnormative” sexuality, but that’s the term currently used in sociolinguistic research.

**Okay, actually, I don’t know my Enneagram.


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