My college philosophy teachers (all men)[1] wielded the maxim “metaphors are poetry and nonsense” and beleived women would eventually quit their nonsense. I took my degree in philosophy, but as a fledgling poet I insisted that metaphors, not mathematical structure, defined language. In the forty years since, research in neuropsychology and cognitive theory have born this out. And yet we deliberately cling to metaphors of war, and just as importantly power, to describe culture and power. Lakoff wants to shift the metaphor to nurturance, and I would like to add cultivation and germination. Both would undermine the assumption of masculine superiority that drives [2] language.

Interestingly, if you study the Christian New Testmanent, the metaphors of nurturance and cultivation far outweigh was and power metaphors.

[1] When John Silbur gave a speech at Texas State University (then Southwest Texas), he said no woman had the intellectual rigor to be a philosopher. When asked about Hannah Arendt, he said her philosophy was as banal as her thesis. Fortunately, more women philosophers have emerged since. My copy of Michèle Le Dœuff’s Philosophical Imaginary is heavily marked after several readings.

[2] “Drive” should be gender neutral although culturally men are still perceived as drivers and women as passengers

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Living metaphor. Follow me @stephens_pt.

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