Sexism in the English Language

  • Length: 1815 words (5.2 double-spaced pages)
  • Rating: Excellent
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Text Preview

More ↓

Continue reading...

Open Document

In a time of war and also in a time when we really needs to unite and help rebuild cities and states from disasters, certain civil right groups continue to introduce and push us to "think in new ways" creating "the possibility of a new reality" (Kleinman 396). The claim is that sexism in the English language has harmed women. Is the claim true? I think not! As Americans, we study our history to hopefully we do not repeat mistakes done in the past. Perhaps in the past, "man" has harmed women, denied women certain human rights that every person should receive, and set them back years in the social ladder, but words alone these days do not have the same setbacks. The claim was a claim of the past. The words in Kleinman's essay, Why Sexist Language Matters, did concentrated on potentially sexist words, but very little credit was given to the evolution from the past, where words possibly prevented women from succeeding, to the present, where women are now women with power with more modern titles. Again, I disagree with Kleinman that sexism in the English language still harms females till this day.
English is a living language, just like Latin and many other languages. Consider the history of the word "man." Old English scholars wrote in a way the word man meant "a human being" and the prefixes wyf and wer (when put together, woepman and wifman) for male and female. A few generations later, Middle English dropped the woep prefix so the male and female was considered to be part of what later was known as so-called generic "man." "Man" stood for "all people" and at the same time "a male human being." Wyfman became "a female human being" and then later woman came about.
Yes, later on in English as the language evolves further when compounding word came about, we had terms such as chairman, policeman, fireman, lineman, and others. Many assumed the generic "man" term to include all. According to Old English as stated earlier, "man" meant to include both genders. Later in the 1990s, fellow women have challenged these existing terms. The trend in the 1990s was where many women became successful some of which became CEOs, presidents of companies, and many other higher positions in the social ladder.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Sexism in the English Language." 24 Jun 2018
Title Length Color Rating  
Essay on Gender Bias in the English Language - Several studies have been investigating the differences between men and women's use of the English language. The problem with studies of this kind, according to Romaine (1999), is that the differences are taken for truths and no further investigations are made as to why these differences exist. The differences could be a reflection on gender issues in society, or even the cause of them. There is seemingly little argument against the fact that English is male-biased as a construction. When investigating male bias in the English language, a few factors should be taken into consideration: words that are in themselves discriminating, that women are not as visible in the language as men, the conn...   [tags: Language and Gender ]
:: 5 Works Cited
866 words
(2.5 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Sexism in Language Essay - Language refers to the method that humans use to communicate either through speech or written. It consists of the use of the word in a structured and conventional way. Language has been referred to as ‘our means of classifying and ordering the world; our means of manipulating reality. In structure and in its use we bring out the world into realisation and if it is inherently inaccurate, then we are misled. (Dale Spender, 1980).Language has power that allows us to make sense out of the reality we live in....   [tags: Language ]
:: 12 Works Cited
2513 words
(7.2 pages)
Term Papers [preview]
Essay about Sexism in Language - Throughout the years, sexism in language has been found to be a major issue in society. Women in society have been complaining about the unfairness toward their gender in ways. In the short essay, Sexism in English: Embodiment and Language by Allen Pace Nilsen, females were not considered as strong as males, and therefore they were giving a weak role in the society. Even in the text On language: You Guys by Audrey Bilger, women were not comfortable with the usage of the word “guys”, because they thought it took away femaleness....   [tags: society, unfairness, gender roles]
:: 2 Works Cited
934 words
(2.7 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Essay on Sexism in Language - Sexism in Language We all know that men and women are different. They look different, act different, walk, talk, and even smell different. In part, the simple fact that we are different explains why we sometimes have trouble communicating with and understanding the opposite sex. However, a close look at our language may show that there is more to the communication barrier between the sexes than meets the eye. I believe that the English language is very biased towards women. We live in a patriarchal society, an “order characterized by male dominance and the means of perpetuating that dominance”....   [tags: Essays Papers] 1977 words
(5.6 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay on Alleen Pace Nilsen's View of Sexism in English - 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....   [tags: Papers] 761 words
(2.2 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
The Relationship Between Gender and Language Essay - The book An Intorduction of Sociolinguistics is an outstanding introductary book in the field of sociolinguistics. It encompasses a wide range of language issues. In chapter 13, Wardhaugh provides a good insight to the relationship between language and gender. He explains gender differences of language-in-use with concise examples. Wardhaugh riases questions about sexist language and guides readers to look closer at how people use language differently because of their own gender in daily life. According to the Whorfian hypothesis, which indicates that the way people use language reflects their thoughts, different genders adapt different communication strategies....   [tags: Linguistics, Sexism]
:: 7 Works Cited
1996 words
(5.7 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Sexist Lexicon – Can It Be Changed? Essay - 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....   [tags: Language ]
:: 10 Works Cited
2138 words
(6.1 pages)
Term Papers [preview]
Child Language Acquisition, Language and Gender and Attitudes to Language - Prior to enrolling in Anthropology 104, my only knowledge about language was that, English is a necessity in my life to be successful and Hausa is a necessity to be able to communicate with individuals of my ethnicity. There was not a single time in my life that I thought any further into language and the driving factors behind language. I walked into lecture the very first day with a neutral opinion and now I can proudly say the knowledge I have gained from this course is one that will be used and expanded for a lifetime....   [tags: Linguistic Anthropology]
:: 5 Works Cited
1599 words
(4.6 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Single-Sex Schooling Causes Stereotyping and Legitimizes Institutional Sexism - ... This is important for all students, because they are able to exercise their full potential in school. Statistics show that males are more suitable to relax and express themselves more effectively when girls are not present and they take more risks in their learning. If single sex schools are needed in order for students to learn better and become more knowledgeable on a subject, many people advocate for single sex schooling. Whatever is needed to improve the education of youth, in a positive manner – it is necessary....   [tags: removing disparities, educational choices]
:: 13 Works Cited
2408 words
(6.9 pages)
Research Papers [preview]
Efforts to Make Language More Politically Correct Essay - Efforts to Make Language More Politically Correct The term ‘political correctness’ is used as an ideal for the type of words we use to describe groups of people; by definition, politically correct lexis does not have any negative connotations. Those who are in favour of political correctness are opposed to words that indicate prejudice when describing or voicing an opinion on grounds such as gender, race, sexual orientation, age or physical appearance....   [tags: Papers] 511 words
(1.5 pages)
Good Essays [preview]

Related Searches

They gave themselves the title they wanted. Of course men had trouble accepting the fact that their boss was female and required time getting used to the change in command.
Where Sherryl Kleinman offers is little or no recognition for the living language that is constantly being changed and readapted as time goes by. Offering only suggestions for using more politically correct terms and examples of attempts to change the way people see the generic man being changed to more "human" only resulted in failure. Kleinman offers she does have a place in society's fight to better the lives of women with "Working against sexist language is working against men's violence against women." (Kleinman 399); however, "I'm not referring to such words as ‘bitch,' ‘whore,' and ‘slut.'" (Kleinman 395). Women have their own sense of pride. If they are in a position of calling the shots with a earned title, they will more than likely be preferred to be addressed by that title not derived from the generic "man" term; such as, Doctor Laura, CEO Barbara, and Congresswomen (or Representative) Nancy Pelosi. These titles can be stretched out to more self-degrading, as some would describe, such as my two female friends that declare themselves as "swimming pool whores." They are two beautiful young ladies who have all the confidence in the world, but they label themselves in a way that so they can reap what they want from the lower life males. "Degrading," some say and furthermore, claims say that some women certainly do not help in furthering the Feminist movement. Ultimately setting back such movement, damaged pride is the ending result. Members of the movement can potentially label my two friends as female chauvinists since they are of no help to the movement being of the same sex.
The idea of a "new reality" is nothing new. The civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. was certainly mind moving. This movement however did not directly interfere with war and domestic problems at the time. World War II has been over for almost a decade and King opened up during a window of opportunity. As stated earlier, our nation is in war and terrorism is at its highest. After attacks on our own soil, Sherryl Kleinman publishes her "Why Sexist Language Matters" paper, calling again for a language revolution to strip generic "man" from titles. There is a time and place for your cause and now is not the time. These days the revolution tends to demonstrate the craving for pride more than anything else.
Is it really just generic "man" that is causing all the fuss? No, supposedly it is not completely accepted that males working for a female member of management. The complications include male interpretation usually takes the female's request literally. "It isn't that women are unaware of status or that men don't build rapport, but that the genders tend to focus on different goals." (Tannen 391). Was the reasoning behind the stereotypical women's management behavior due to the past? Women in the past were forced to be passive and not have a way to voice themselves. In present times, females tend to be passive in giving orders and typically ask if the employee can do a favor unlike the other gender that is used to giving an order when the male would like to see action taken. This sort of language being used is interpreted in many fashions. Supposedly the female asking a female to consider something, the female gets the job done. The male on the receiving end, however, can take it or leave it as the example in Crosstalk by Deborah Tannen showed. In the example, the male employee thought about helping the female coworker but later decided not to help. He was not ordered to help; therefore, he did not help. This is only and example of a language barrier between genders. The growing trend is women becoming more assertive in what they want to have done. This way some female members of management can be labeled as a "bitch" simply for giving orders. This is only vulgar name calling. These situations have nothing to do with Kleinman's case, but the vulgarity and passive-aggressive voice does not help women move forward in getting things done.
Sexism in English will always be around. Words do not fully empower women. Words can potentially motivate women and do whatever they need to succeed. Just because a child was raised to think of only males can be policeman and fireman can only be firemen does not men a female can become a police officer or a firefighter. The sense of pride in what the female does and what she believes in. Words are what the individual would like them to mean. Words can be harmful, but they are only words.

Works Cited
Kleinman, Sherryl. "Why Sexist Language Matters." Conversations. New York:
Pearson Longman. 2006.
"Man." "Gender: Sexist Language and Assumptions." The American Heritage Book
of English Usage: A Practical and Authoritative Guide to Contemporary English.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1996.
Tannen, Deborah. "CrossTalk." Conversations. New York: Pearson Longman. 2006.

Return to