Interesting phenomenon, would love feedback

Carol Barron of Dublin City University told me this story at The Association for the Study of Play annual conference a few weeks ago:

When she was a nurse working in a middle eastern country a few years ago, she was married and yet had no children. The first wives would bring their children in to be examined, and bring the third or fourth wife along to. They would ask her if she was married, then if she had children, and when she said no they would be sad and cluck their tongues and say “oh, so sad, no children, no children.”
The Muslim women were not allowed to take birth control, yet birth control pills was still sold in their country for the non-Muslims. And when the first wives would wander off, the third or fourth wife would pull birth control pills from under their berqua and whisper “no children, children” with a smile.
The fact that these women were able to subvert their culture like this first without getting caught and second without any real concern of getting caught fascinated me. I’d love to hear more from other people who have heard or seen similar experiences of subversion of oppressive culture in this way.


Deep thoughts on language and culture

Happy Halloween/Samhain!
Just reading an interesting article from a man in India saying that because the lower castes are not taught English, they are therefore prohibited from getting high paying jobs: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/15658.html
He writes in the article “A Middle-eastern friend was lamenting that they have been driven into an intellectual blind alley because they are stuck with medieval Arabic, which determines their mindset. (Incidentally, their plight is really bad. More books are translated into Spanish in one year than into Arabic in a couple of hundred years!). They are literally trapped in the language of real and imagined pasts. The very idea of progress becomes impossible.”
Assuming the statement above is correct, I think it brings up an interesting argument (and an entire field of anthropology): how much does language influence how we think and view the world? I don’t just mean derogatory terms like calling someone a faggot (which is bad enough in itself). I mean like everyday things. For example, in Spanish, a spoon is feminine but a knife is masculine. A road is masculine but a mountain is feminine. How does that effect how they see the world? I know in some south pacific language (maybe papua new guinea?) the word for girl translates as “little mother,” or something like that. Just a moment of anthropological introspection.
I’d be interested to hear from someone who actually knows another language (you have seen the extent of my Spanish in the above paragraph: El camino va a la montana. My madre tiene una cuchara. Tengo un cuchillo).