Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Language Barriers

I had the most interesting conversation with my host brother last night. We were watching the news when they started talking about France passing its equality laws, and most notably the right for gay couples to adopt. Tommaso didn't believe that they should be able to adopt because he believes that a child needs a mother and a father. At first I tried arguing that children that grow up in gay households wouldn't be more likely to be gay because gay children grow up all the time in heterosexual households. But he still wasn't convinced because he believed that a dad and a mom offered different things to a child. I was trying to construct my argument around gender roles, by arguing that if society didn't subscribe to strict gender roles, then two moms could provide all the traits and characteristics of a mom and a dad. However, I ran into one HUGE problem. There is no word for gender in the Italian language. It's the same word as sex. Male/masculine are the same as well as female/feminine. So how the heck was I supposed to talk about the difference between biological attributes and social constructions if there was no word to distinguish them!? In the end, I tried to explain that a women could have social attributes that men typically do and vice versa. Tommaso did tell me that I provided a convincing argument, but he would need more studies to show that children weren't affected in they grew up with homosexual parents. Interesting side note: when Italian women get married, it is the norm for them to not change their name. The kids take the husband's last name, but are able to change their name when they are 18 so that they carry both last names. Fascinating things.

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