Mind Your Language


August 10 , 2019 . By Etenat Awol



When I was still in my freshman year at the beginning of my communication studies, I remember our instructor telling us how contexts and intention create a huge difference in processing information and coding meaning. So as communication students, we were expected to give specific emphasis on the words we constructed by being mindful of situations to coherently convey the intended meaning.

At that point, I thought things would be easy and communication flawless if the intention between the sender and the receiver was built on positive coexistence. But looking back now, I realise just having the right intention is not enough. The correct value is also important.

Language plays a critical role in communication by serving as a manifestation of cumulative essentials, such as culture, knowledge, truth and beauty. To such aspiration, let’s consider the idea of a woman’s respect and the notion of value.

It is not unusual to hear about how much women deserve respect due to their multi-functional purpose in society. The catchphrase whenever talking about women and equality is: a woman is a mother, a sister, a daughter and a wife, so you need to respect her. But I question whether that is the right reason to respect a woman. Respecting a woman only because of a bond one shared or a relationship one seeks is not the correct value. The longing of equality, justice and human rights cannot be fully attained through instrumentality. All people should be respected simply because they are human beings.

This principle of human rights works equally for women too. It gives recognition to their intrinsic value, a value that someone possesses by itself, by merely existing at a particular time and place, not because it has a specific domain of relationship or usage to somebody or a society. Women need equal treatment under the law, deserve respect from the community, have every right to make a choice, freedom to make a decision, not because they are related to the system but because it is human to be independently valuable.

Here the capacity to imagine life without the presence of women is impossible. It is true indeed that a woman has all the listed relations to a man. However, when talking about equality of women, it should be underlined that we are not only talking about the woman who is the daughter of a father or a wife of a husband. That is not primarily our concern. Undeniably, a wife deserves respect from a husband and engages equally in decision making in the household. They also possess equal rights in the nurturing of children. In fact, even in earlier times of oppression, there are reasonable accounts of relative respect for motherhood in most cultures, unless a woman gives birth out of wedlock. In that case, she becomes very cheap and is considered a whore. Shunned by the community, she ends up living a hard life humiliated and despised. This shows it is not only the relationship that matters but how she becomes related that remains an essential point for a patriarchal world.

Instrumental value is not very useful to a woman. A woman has an independent self that can stand without relations, and relationships should not define her. Because though I am the daughter of my father, I cannot be the daughter of all men. If that is the prerequisite for my rights, it means I by myself am valued less than the relationship I share to male members of the society.

It is difficult to say that being a mother is a more preferable form of transcendence to be respected and accepted. Looking at women solely from a motherhood point of view is not really respect at all; it is bondage. To find significance in one’s self alone, we as a society have to let go of the relationship we had to somebody as a precondition for valuing women. We should pay close attention to our language when it comes to the treatment of women in society. We should make sure we are communicating the right value.



PUBLISHED ON Aug 10,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1006]



Etenat Awol can be reached at [email protected]






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