Chauvinist communication

The issue of use of appropriate language has been a bone of contention among people; it has provoked many for quite a number of years. While sexist language clearly reflects sexist social practices, the continued existence of such practices throws into question the possibility of successful language reform.

The issue of use of appropriate language has been a bone of contention among people; it has provoked many for quite a number of years. While sexist language clearly reflects sexist social practices, the continued existence of such practices throws into question the possibility of successful language reform.

Sexist language according to Cameron D. & Kulick D. (2006) “is considered to be any language that is supposed to include all people, but, unintentionally (or not)excludes a gender-this can be either males or females. Sexist language is especially common in situations that describe jobs-common assumptions include that all doctors are men, all nurses are women, all coaches are men, or all teachers are women.”Pg 59. Most people would agree that these assumptions are largely untrue today, though the language used often perpetuates the stereotypes.

According to Lakoff R. T. (2004) says that sexist language is often found to be offensive and prejudicial, by both men and women. Although the past few decades have seen some progress toward lessening the prevalence of sexist language, it still comes as little surprise to many when encountered. Women tend to be more outspoken about the use of sexist language, particularly in the workplace.

Women in particular occupations ,such as “chairperson,” “firefighter”, or postal worker “have been able to  become very clear about the distinction, and the newer, more gender neutral terms are now widely accepted.

Men who are employed as nurses or child care workers may have more difficulty with the perceptions and the sexist language examples that they are regularly subjected to. At its crudest and most hurtful, sexist language is a tool used to damage someone.

Rather than an innocent repetition of sexist behavior and terms many of us grow up with, some people carry that further and try to really emotionally harm a person by targeting them with sexist comments.

But whether it is used on purpose or blindly, it is a form of abuse or bullying and I think we can do well to watch what words escape our lips, just in case we are repeating things we’ve always repeated without even knowing that they may be hurting someone.

Sexism is discrimination on the basis of gender. While it is primarily women who are affected by sexism, it can be used to discriminate against either men or women. The language we use reflects and reinforces the values of the society in which we live.

The English language has developed in a male-dominated, male-centered society. If you examine carefully how we usually express ourselves, you will see how male-centered our language is. However, language is not static.

It constantly changes to reflect the nature of the society. As we are moving towards equality in all areas of life, it is important that our language facilitate and reflect change to encourage a harmonious coexistence among people.

It has been a common interpretation and an assumption that ‘man’ is a generic term, which is referred to all humans- male and female. ‘Man’ was once used as a true generic.

At that time the word for an adult male was ‘waepman’ while ‘wifman’ referred to an adult female. Over time ‘wifman’ developed into ‘woman’, the term ‘waepman’ was dropped and ‘man’ and ‘man’ became associated specifically with adult males.

Today man is used sometimes to refer solely to male humans, while at other times it is intended to include all human beings. The meaning is intended often unclear, whether the intention or the use of ‘man’ obscures the presence and contribution of women then when we use ‘man’ it conjures up images of male persons only, not female or males and females together. 

There are many ways in which this can be discouraged, the language society and a few scholars like Lakoff and W. Downes (2003) have tried to come up with alternatives of words which are not gender biased in all our aspects of living.

For instance in an educational setting there is use of Non-gender biased personal pronouns. Simply stating that male pronouns should be understood to include females does not suffice. Male pronouns should be used in relation to males. When referring to humans in general, or to a group which includes both females and males, ‘she’ and ‘he’ can be used.

Many common sayings and expressions are phrased exclusively in male terms, thus excluding women. Re-phrasing them in gender neutral terms will help make them more inclusive, instead of saying ‘Everything comes to him who waits’, you can say ‘everything comes to those who wait or instead of saying ‘To each his own’, you can say ‘T o each one’s own.

The other issue is the terms of address, the terms Miss. and Mrs. Indicate sex and marital status of the person, while the term Mr. indicates the sex only. It is unbalanced to specify the marital status of women but not of men. Instead of using Miss or Mrs. use Ms.

Chauvinist language is an issue that can be corrected if human beings- male and female will be willing to use language with respect and avoid use of chauvinist language.

iruikmo@yahoo.com