Feminist Fridays: “The Language We Use For Love”

“Busts”  by Katiuscia Gregoire ( Adroit Journal , Issue 9)

Think of the limits of language, of all the words that have yet to be invented, the emotions not classified or felt clearly enough to have a place in a dictionary, or, emotions that have not yet been translated from one language to another (take, for example, the Japanese word, Koi No Yokan, which describes the sensation upon meeting another person who you realize you will inevitably fall in love with. Or, the Norwegian word, Forelsket, which describes the sensation before falling in love, or the sensation directly at the time that you first fall in love).

We do not know what the first love poem ever written was or what the first recognized sensation of love was, or, if in the time before language, love existed without the words used to describe or define it, or if instead emotions were only developed after the invention of the words used to describe them. Or, if emotions existed and were communicated via touch or some other form of non-verbal gesture.

Now, the language we use for love has become Hallmark, commercial, a series of nouns used on rhyming Valentine’s Day cards and widely purchased and distributed by millions.  While the words have more or less stayed the same, the way love is viewed by most parts of society has finally albeit slowly begun to evolve from a heterosexual expectation, to a multi-faceted (and now legally recognized) acceptance (however the majority of commercialized Hallmark card sections have stayed excessively suburban and heterosexual and will probably remain that way eternally).

Culturally, however, love, or the loopholes you apparently must go through to be loved if you are a woman-girl (or at least the loopholes according to most women’s magazines and the media) require a thigh gap, conventional Eurocentric beauty, and various virgin/whore complex inspired maneuvers.

Love sells, almost more than sex, and the average consumer wants a perfect glossy love story, hence the various multi-billion grossing love flicks, Grammy winning pop songs, bestselling books, and fairytale come to life media sensations turned minor celebrities.

Interestingly, love seems to now be considered creatively passé, as if the language used for it has expired from over-usage, and, often, seems to have been replaced by other forms of expression as with heart emojis, text acronyms, some repurposed forms of slang (i.e.: from “baby” to “bae” ). However, despite the rapidly evolving words we have for love, the sexist expectations and alterations that women are told to undergo have stayed the same save for being updated to fit cultural shifts and modern technology.

It is possible that eventually love will become extinct, or, as we enter the age of the machine, become too un-evolved, and will instead be replaced by a new emotion, gesture, language, or phrase that has not yet been conceived.

Brynne Rebele-Henry

Brynne Rebele-Henry’s fiction, and poetry have appeared in such journals as The Volta, So to Speak, Denver Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, and Fiction International, among other publications. In 2015, she was named the runner-up for the 2015 Adroit Prize for Poetry by judge Tarfia Faizullah. Her debut book Fleshgraphs is forthcoming from Nightboat Books later this year. She was born in 1999 and currently lives in Richmond, Virginia.

1 Comment
  1. This sums up everything I have experienced as a teen girl just starting to delve into the puzzling world that is dating guys. The things I thought were normal or expected by society/media/culture were the least natural to me. But you described this common experience beautifully!

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