Linguistic bias against women

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Although the women’s liberation movements held in the yore have erected the notion of sexual equality, women in many societies around the world are still treated as powerless and mediocre. They are discriminated not only in the intellectual areas like education, politics, power exercise and legal practice, but also in the language we converse. Due to such discrimination, the way we use language today renders the women invisible or trivializes them.

Many linguists argue that sexism in language refers to a bias through the patterns and references of male usage are taken to be normative and super-ordinate, and those of women are contemplated to be deviant and subordinate. There are several forms of language that help to buttress the idea of male superiority and female deficiency. For example, in English, the use of “man” in isolation or as an affix to refer to all of humanity such as “mankind”, “manpower”, “chairman”, “policeman”, “spokesman” and “manhood” often nourishes the patriarchal subordination of women to men.

Even in Nepali there are various forms of language that insinuates an inherent male dominance and superiority in many fields of life.

Owing to such an embodiment of male-oriented terms, the invisibility of women has been fostered since it not only sustains the conceptual inequality, but also boosts the unfair tendency that strengthens the notion of biasness against females. Another conspicuous error that shows gender bias is the distinction between “Mr” and “Mrs /Miss”. Such distinction tends to mask the marital status of men but not women, since it is found that the distinction between “Mrs” and “Miss” is not paralleled by a pair of male titles showing whether or not the bearer is married. This implies that it is more important for a woman than for a man to show whether they are married.

Although the use of sexist language is often unconscious and unintentional, it undermines the goal of a non-discriminatory and inclusive society. Therefore, the idea of eschewing both explicit and implicit sexism in languages should be made a fundamental, social and political project of feminism. Besides, every language user should develop the habit of using gender inclusive terms as it is believed that language can be used as a constructive tool for fortifying equality.


Date:- 2011-11-03




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