Hebrew as a Gendered Language and an Oppressive Mechanism against Women in the Israeli Society
Date of Degree
Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Linguistics | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures | Women's Studies
Language, Hebrew, Feminism, Gender, Israeli Society
Wherever you look, whether reading a textbook, scrolling through wanted ads, looking at job requirements, or just watching the news on the television – the effects of the gendered nature of Hebrew are noticeable everywhere. For many years I have been fascinated by the fact that Hebrew is a gendered language in a way that promotes patriarchy by using the unmarked masculine form of words as a default. Some claim that the language as we know it today is neutral, and not discriminatory, while others, including women which interviews you can find in this paper, do not experience it as a neutral language. In fact, the way that the language is structured makes them feel excluded and make them experience a world that is male dominated.
In this thesis paper, I am looking at Hebrew in its two main variations, Ancient (or biblical) Hebrew and Modern Hebrew. Chapter 1 explores the first stories ever told in the Jewish Torah – the creation of Adam and Eve, and the untold story of Adam’s first wife – Lilith, in a search for possible explanations as to why Hebrew has developed as a gendered language. Later, I explore the revival of the Hebrew language, a linguistic, social, and a bit of a political event that dates back to the late 19th century and considered until today as a special and rare one, as I am trying to find more reasons as to why Hebrew stayed so gendered even when it had to be developed. My research will also focus on the involvement and importance women had in the revival of Hebrew, if any. By that, I am looking for any patterns of this gendering that can infer on social processes (men’s superiority over women for generations and to this day). There is also an extensive review of modern Hebrew, while it also looks at the intersections of feminism, gender, linguistics, and the way they interact. In chapter 4, I explore the Modern Hebrew as it is used today, still being a gendered and oppressive language. I do so partly by analyzing interviews I made with native Hebrew-speaking women.
It is my hope to inspire a conversation about this issue and the need for a change of Hebrew in order to promote a more inclusive society in Israel and other large Hebrew-speaking communities.
Itzhaky, Rotem, "Hebrew as a Gendered Language and an Oppressive Mechanism against Women in the Israeli Society" (2020). CUNY Academic Works.
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