Alleen Pace Nilsen's View of Sexism in English
Alleen Pace Nilsen began a study of Sexism in American English after returning from a two-year stay in Kabul, Afghanistan. Trying to avoid social issues in her research, Nilsen used the dictionary, as her main source and guide, making note-cards on every entry that seemed to tell something about male and female. She soon discovered that language and society go hand and hand. Furthermore, that the language a culture uses is evident in its values and beliefs. Amore careful look at the English language revealed three main points that Alleen Nilsen elaborates more on.
The first point Nilsen makes is that American culture values woman for their sexiness and men for their success. She finds supporting evidence for that statement with eponyms. In her research she found many eponyms based on the names of famous American men such as Diesel engine, Franklin stove, and Ferris wheel, which honors the man for an accomplishment. Nilsen states that two out of three feminine eponyms relate to a woman's physical anatomy such as Amazon, meaning without breast. To further the credibility of her statement, Nilsen noted her findings from a western trapper's diary from the 1930's. Her most interesting was the trapper's reference to a range of mountains as The Teats, which is now known as The Grand Teatons. Nilsen then wrote to mapmakers and found other breast-related listings such as Nippletop, Little Nippletop, Nipple Mountain, Nipple Peak, and even Mary's Nipple. Nilsen noticed and was surprised to realize how many pairs of words in which the feminine word have sexual connotations while masculine words are connected to a businesslike aura. She illustrates this with the words callboy and call girl. A callboy is the person who calls actors when its time to go on stage and a call girl is a prostitute. Nilsen also compared sir and madam in which sir is a term of respect while madam is known as a manager of a brothel. The word women have so many sexual connotations that people began using lady instead. It was feminists who wanted the women used over lady. That was successful because now it is commonly used without implying sexuality.
Another discovery of Nilsen was the 200 pairs of words with masculine and feminine forms nearly all the pairs had the masculine word as the base and the feminine word as the suffix, which was added. (Example heir-heiress, hero-heroine) Nilsen research showed that the only time the base of a word is not masculine is when it is dealing with sex and marriage. The examples that she gives are bride, bridal attendant, bridal gown, and so on. This is so because marriage is so on. This is so even when a marriage ends in death the woman gets the title of widow. Nilsen revisits her studies twenty years later and has acknowledged that the feminist's movement has caused the differences between the sexes to be down played.
The second point Nilsen makes is that Women Are...