Language and Gender
It may not be something we think about or are even aware that we are doing, but language and gender do go hand-in-hand. Since the 60s and the women's movement, linguistists have been studying the difference between the way men and women speak - the findings may surprise you.
When we are speaking, people tend to automatically fall into old customary talk, such as referring to the police as "policemen." Although, we know today there are many women in the law enforcement field, we still as a society take the male-dominant language position to refer to the whole arena as "man." This has caught the attention of many women which is leading to criticism about the way females are being "discussed" or rather, not discussed.
It was once acceptable for men to take the dominate role in the home, work force and also speech. Men didn't have a problem (and some still don't) interrupting a woman when she was speaking to interject his point-of-view. Studies have shown that this is largely due to the above fact and over time males have become accustomed to the venicular. It has also been noted that females tend to take a more cooperative tone with language, while men tend to be more competitive. This is a learned behavior that dates back to the dawn of time - men were the hunters where "survival of the fittest" played a significant role in procreation and life itself, while women were the gathers, nurturers and homemakers.
Times have changed and women no longer want to take the lesser role in the world or in the way we communicate. But can the old habits and standards of our language really be changed after so many years? It won't be easy, but the more we become aware of these gender-language barriers, the more we can work to correct it as a society.
Language has already made some changes with the words actress and poetess being used instead of actor or poet as a general description, but it's not enough. It will take time to change old habits and the way we teach children will also have to reconstructed to include the new female-oriented language. But with the rising of each new generation, these sexist language barriers will finally be eradicated and we will see total equality for women..
Language And Gender Essay
Language and Gender
The idea that language can be used as an instrument of oppression is
one that is held by many critics of varying focus who stress the fact
that language is both an instrument of social constraint and a means
of resisting that constraint. It is an issue deeply embedded in the
literary theory of gender and sexuality, race and nationality, and
even social class. The idea of feminist criticism, where language is
identified as one of the means through which patriarchal values are
both maintained and resisted. Feminists are concerned with two main
ways in which they claim women are oppressed by language, the first of
which is the idea of male dominated language.
The issues can be noted in such minor parts of grammar such as
pronouns but these are quite important in representing gender. A
perfect example of this is in phrase "his and hers" (normally
referring to something such as bath robes belonging to a couple). Here
the masculine pronoun his is placed before the feminine pronoun. Many
could say that this is sexist but it simply is due to the history of
male domination in the English language.
There are many ways in which our language appears to devalue women.
If, for example, you take the number of insulting terms for women and
compared them to the number of insulting terms for men you will notice
a drastic difference. Julia Stanley found that there were 220 words
for a sexually promiscuous woman but only 20 for a man. Many degrading
terms that are used to describe women have no male alternative, words
like 'bitch' or 'slut'. Many of the words used for women are
associated with either animals or have sexual orientations. Almost all
the words are monosyllabic and incredibly harsh sounding. Just from
hearing the sound of the words, their phonological pronunciation,
gives you an idea of how insulting they are meant to be.
Brooks (1983), Dayhoff (1983), Hyde (1984) all researched the reaction
to the idea of the generic 'he', where the default assumption is that
someone is male or masculine. Their research suggests that men feel
included and women feel excluded, in some cases alienated. The generic
'he' is the theory that 'he' has gained common usage through history.
However, the common usage of this term can cause women to feel
excluded by the term, men to feel subject to prejudicial treatment by
language (i.e. when talking about criminals, drug-users etc), men to
be seen as the standard by which we must assess everything (default
assumption). Furthermore, gender stereotypes will carry on existing
unless the generic 'he' and default assumption are changed to reach a
more neutral standpoint. This is why one has to specify when not
following the default assumption, such as in the cases of male nurses
and lady doctors. Many books, which deal with human beings in...
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