What Can Visualizations enGender?
Decreasing Man’s Power While Increasing Grammatical Accuracy
Megan Smith and Le Anne Lucia Spino1
Michigan State University
Previous research in the feminist theory paradigm (Phemme, 2014) has found an effect for visualization exercises and decreased susceptibility to patriarchal modes of thinking in women. In other words, participants who spent five minutes a day visualizing themselves free of patriarchal modes of thinking experienced more liberation from repressive thought patterns than participants who did no visualization. Phatale (1645) found similar effects for visualization and more target-like performance in learners’ production of resultative constructions in L2 Ainu. We hypothesize that there might be a similar effect for the acquisition of grammatical gender in L2 Spanish amongst English learners. It is well-known that English speakers cannot correctly mark gender on nouns, so a well-designed pedagogical intervention has the potential to significantly improve gender-marking for these learners. We tested the following pedagogical intervention: a group of female learners of L2 Spanish spent the first five minutes of class visualizing themselves stepping out of oppressive patriarchal socialization patterns and into liberated ones. We hypothesized that this group of learners would show more accurate performance in the production of gender marking on feminine nouns. Our results showed the following: (1) women who practiced these visualization techniques improved on comprehension and production measures for most nouns, and (2) men in the same condition showed no effect across article, noun, and adjective agreement. Surprisingly, we found different effects for the following nouns: la plancha ‘the iron’, la lavadora ‘the washing machine’, and la casa ‘the house’ (all of which are feminine in the TL), and el poder ‘the power’, los pantalones ‘the pants’, and los cojones ‘manly tidbits’ (all of which are masculine in the TL). Women in this study showed a decreased tendency to correctly mark the first set of nouns as feminine, and an increased tendency to incorrectly mark the second set of nouns as feminine. We interpret these tendencies to suggest that, after completing these visualization exercises, one effect of their liberation from patriarchal modes of thinking is to mark feminine nouns that symbolize their historic subjugation, such as domestic objects, with masculine articles. Conversely, they mark masculine nouns whose referents they have typically coveted with feminine articles.
1 Authors’ names are given in alphabetical order.