Friday, 30 November 2012

The influence of gendered language

Dragonfly and Bee go to Russian club every Friday after school. The festive season is upon us, so they are busy preparing their Christmas / New Year show (Новогодная елка). As usual, there are songs and mini plays to be learned and, this year, this has led to Dragonfly insisting that she didn't want to be a blizzard with the girls, she wanted to be ice with the boys.

Now this is something I notice quite often at this Russian club: in shows and songs etc. the children take on more overtly gendered roles than they would at English schools. So, for instance, last summer, her group danced a rock 'n' roll style routine in boy-girl pairs, and for one dance, when there were too many girls, they made a couple of girls sit out rather than have a girl take on the 'boy' part.

This year, Dragonfly is long past her pink girly phase, so she objects to these overtly feminine roles. Looking at the play with ice and blizzards, language is clearly guiding the role decisions: лед (ice) is a masculine word, while метель (blizzard) is feminine. So if a girl plays the role of ice, she will be 'speaking like a boy' (grammatically). Grammar influences choreography and the routine designed ends up gendered visually too: the blizzards are doing some feminine twirling around while ice is stomping about in masculine way.

Anyway, after the blizzard and ice grump last week, Dragonfly has come to terms with the twirling (and has learnt her part) so we'll be sticking with it and I don't have to discuss grammatical choreography with the teachers. Phew!

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