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Sexist Lexicon – Can It Be Changed?

2164 words - 9 pages

Most societies have been patriarchal historically, and the feminist movement has only occurred relatively recently. There cannot be ideological equality while there is still a stigma to being born differently, or of the “inferior sex.” People make assumptions on others based entirely on their sex, such as females are supposed to be nurturing and weak while males are supposed to be dominant and strong. The vernacular language use implies a sexist attitude that is prevalent in society. There are several solutions to reduce the apparent sexist lexicon.
Sex is defined as the biological and physiological characteristics, which can be simplified to as being male or female (World Health Organization website). However, gender is defined as the “socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women” (World Health Organization website). This means that sex is based on the physical biology of a person, while gender is based on the social roles that the person is expected to adhere to. Linguistic determinism is a theory that says “that language may determine thought,” and it was supported by “cognitive differences that resulted in people who speak in languages with different grammatical structure” (Wasserman and Weseley). Linguistic relativity has greater support, and it refers to “the idea that language can reflect and preserve existing social structures and influence perceptions of reality” (Wasserman and Weseley). The social justification effect is defined as the disadvantaged groups that “rationalize the society that puts them at a disadvantage and to therefore embrace the idea that their own group is inferior” (Wasserman and Weseley).
Gender typing is used to distinguish between the two genders, and determines people’s views on gender roles. The three main theories of gender role development are essentialism, environmentalism, and constructivism (Leaper and Bigler). Essentialism defines gender differences as “innate and the product of evolutionary pressures that differed for males and females” (Leaper and Bigler). Environmentalism “views gender typing as the result of social practices” (Leaper and Bigler). Constructivism “rejects the position that children are passive recipients of environmental messages about gender,” and instead are “active agents who seek to extract and understand the important social categories in their environment” (Leaper and Bigler).
The words girl or woman and boy or man describe a person’s gender, and the aspects that are contained in these words are learned. Children learn about gender roles at a young age (Diekman and Murnen). This occurs from the way that people, such as their parents, treat them. For example, parents associate young girls with playing with dolls and wearing pink, and young boys with playing with cars and wearing blue because that is expected socially (Leaper and Bigler). Environmentalism is apparent when children are taught that...

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