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Sexism In Language Essay

1480 words - 6 pages

Studies on the Use of Sexist Language and its Effects In recent decades the use of sexist, or gender specific language, has become an area of interest and of controversy among certain groups of people in society. The problem of sexism in society has been an issue throughout most of recorded history. Women in Western culture have consistently been limited and abused, and as a new generation of women fights to make changes, they have found that certain aspects of the English language create obstacles for them in gaining absolute equality with their male counterparts. Specifically, the use of gender-specific titles and of pseudogeneric pronouns forms the basis of sexist language that is in need of reform. In this paper, I will discuss some of the arguments for and against sexist-language reform, and the role sexist language has played on the problem of sexism in society.Women in society have complained about unfairness toward their gender in many parts of the social arena, including job opportunities, career advancement, legal proceedings, right to equal representation, and sexual discrimination in general. Those fighting to correct these wrongs argue that sexist language perpetuates the problems they are striving to eradicate. By using a male specific pronoun to refer to both men and women generally, women argue that those who hear or read what is said or written think first of males, pulling males to the forefront of their minds and keeping women in their historically established place of inferiority. The difficulty that many feminists encounter is that the sexism in language that they want to change is a direct result of unfair sexist behavior toward women. In 1988, a study at Spaulding University in Louisville, Kentucky, groups of students were asked to evaluate sentences with language considered sexist toward women, while others were asked to evaluate sentences that would likewise be sexist toward men. Each group was asked to evaluate whether or not they found the statements sexist. The results of the study were that almost all of the participants in the first group judged the statements given to women to be sexist, while only two of the participants in the second group judged the statements given to men to be sexist. It seems that in the issue of sexism, there should be no distinction between sexist language toward men and sexist language toward women. The explanation for the difference lies in the history of the treatment of women versus the treatment of men. While men have generally been treated fairly and equitably throughout history, women have not. A similar pattern can be seen when one studies racist language. The existence of racist language, which is also an issue today, is because of the existence of racism throughout history. As language has evolved, words have been created and incorporated to reflect the ideals and attitudes of those who speak the language. Today, if a person of color is discriminated against, we call it...

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