Literature, Language, and Life

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Language Acquisition

In our reading this week, Kim Elsesser argues that the Academy Awards discriminate against women by having gender-segregated award categories. She believes that these distinctions imply that women are not able to compete successfully with men as actors.

What is your opinion on this subject? Is it ever appropriate to have separate awards for men and women in any field? If so, in which areas of life, and why? In what areas are men and women able to compete with each other?


With my English B juniors, I’ve been reading and discussing a blogpost by Clay Shirky, a media professor in the United States. After observing his students throughout his years of teaching, and reflecting on his own experiences, he has concluded that women are disadvantaged in their careers not only through sexism, but also in their own reluctance to take risks in order to achieve their goals.

He gives examples of men lying in order to get what they want, not caring what others think of them. And he points out that narcissistic, self-aggrandizing behavior is often found among men who have “changed the world”. Of course, he’s talking about people like Mark Zuckerburg or Rupert Murdoch, who have changed the business and technology worlds.

After talking to my students, I realize that this is a U.S., or perhaps Western phenomenon. Arab women are strong and independent, not because they are narcissistic or self-aggrandizing, but because they know they are valued highly by society, which depends on them for its existence. This independence is often missed by Westerners, because the media provide an extremely flawed view of women’s lives outside Western societies. Arab women know that their goals are not just personal aspirations, but hopes that are tied to the contributions they will make to others later in their lives.

The obsession with competition that is so ingrained in American society is not present in other cultures; and while we value our freedom here in the U.S., we also need to look outside Western tradition to find ways we can become more unified.

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