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A sexist English language ?

Updated on March 18, 2017
Chl0eLouise profile image

I am currently studying Sociology in my first year at Cardiff University where I hope to explore cultures and societies around the world.

Do women have to appropriate the language of men to get on with the world?

Let's think about this one. Should we? No. Do we have to? Mmm maybe.

To this day, women STILL have to fight for a place within our society - where men and their language dominate ours. It's time to change..



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Women are kings

Firstly, now is the time to scrap the semantic derogation that is being used. King, Queen, Bachelor, Spinster, Doctor, Female Doctor etc etc. Let's think about this for a minute, a bachelor is defined as an unmarried man whilst a spinster is defined as an unmarried woman. Same counter parting definitions but why are they so different? Sarah Mills introduced the idea of lexical asymmetry - how the connotations of a word can alter how the word itself is viewed. Take bachelor, this noun carries associations of freedom, pride, play however in high contrast is the connotations of the 'female' noun spinster, which is more often associated with loneliness, sadness and being unwanted/unloved (aka, the crazy cat lady). This makes semantic derogation an easy way to degrade women in society, as negativity is built through our lexical choices and expressed. We must challenge the connotations and create change. Women, be kings !

Women, be sure to marry....
Women, be sure to marry.... | Source

Mark the term, Mark the world..

Secondly, the bridge that is gender marking. I call it a bridge because the foundation is there, we purely just need to take the steps over, I will explain. Women are being recognised for achievements across the board, society is in fact changing and we are being showcased for our talents, may it be sport, politics or business. Slowly but surely the playing field is becoming more equal and as a society this is being established as 'normal' in the eyes of men and women. This is the foundation. Language however provides the small barrier that brings us just short of being able to cross over the bridge, the bridge being gender marked terms. When will we reach a point where a successful rugby player that is a woman can be called just a rugby player, not female rugby player. This marked term withholds women from ever reaching the man's world, as a female rugby player is just a branch of the unmarked term that describes a man. The same can be said for nurse and male nurse of course, this is not a 'women are always the victims' text, this is a 'let's establish and generate equality' text. From either perspective, gender marking not only marks the term but marks the mind.

200 Words, 200 Ways to Degrade a Human Being

Julia Stanley - a famous linguist who suggested that there are around 200 derogatory terms to describe a female but only around 20 to describe a male. Most of these 200 words are sexually assaulting (whore, slag, slapper) while a lot of the male terms are effeminate (feminise the male) like gay or puff.

Words reflect society. Therefore just by looking at the mere quantity of derogatory terms that can be used to describe a female broadcasts this idea that a woman being degraded and dehumanised isn't something that is uncommon. I'd put money on the fact that any female reading this has at one point been called an offensive name that wouldn't fit with being said to a male. I'd also put money on any male reading this to probably say the same for them. If words reflect society, let's change society and stop devaluing each other in this way.

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So in response to the question, do women have to accommodate the language of men? I say no, not accommodate. We should change.

Change the views, change the language, change the world.

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