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How significant are the ways the English language represents women and men?

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Introduction

How significant are the ways the English language represents women and men? In the beginning of the twentieth century, many people felt that language should be used in certain ways. In "The Semantic Derogation of Woman" Muriel Schulz presents an interesting observation of words which refer to women. She claims that this shows the attitudes and fears that men hold about women. Schultz explains that words descend on several theories of why you can predict that almost always, words, once neutral or positive, meaning women acquire negative and often sexual connotations. Historically men have made language for many reasons. Mainly men have created language because they were the primary creators of most cultures. So, when Schultz examines biases she is asserting that these are male biases that have been handed down through the generations. Schulz notes that it is interesting that terms of showing affection, which are meant to stress those things men appreciate, often become acquainted with a degraded, shameful profession. ...read more.

Middle

These words would also stop anyone from implying inequality between the sexes. However it is an inconvenience and most people now a days do not mind having a title that could mean a male or a female. Default assumptions can also lead to problems in society. This is when people assume something is 'normal'. For example, many people assume a surgeon is a male and would never think of it as a female. Therefore if someone spoke about a surgeon, they would be puzzled if it could not possibly be a male and there was no other route out because it would not occur to them that it could be a female. Adjectives when used to describe the sexes can be both positive and negative. The same adjective when used to describe a different sex can have opposing connotations. For example 'manly' used to describe a man implies strength and bravery. However 'manly' used to describe a woman would imply she was of masculine appearance or lacked femininity or perhaps even implying that she may be of masculine sexuality. ...read more.

Conclusion

Whilst others think that the text was in the generic form, meaning that all humanity will spread the word of the God. -Man as a suffix, similarly, often occur as a derivative of 'humMANity' rather than being a false generic. E.g. manpower, mankind, manmade. The female equivalents often occur as a result of the cultural expectation of the female being the carer, protector and primary educator. E.g Motherland, Mother tongue, Mother earth. Whether or not sexist language should be avoided depends on the circumstances and the context. Demeaning or derogative language is not desirable in modern society where we are expected to be considered as equals. However there are biological differences between the sexes and to avoid all sexist language would not acknowledge this. e.g. mother changed to parent would not acknowledge the unchallengeable biological role of the female. Some of our language has developed over a long period and is part of our culture. It should not be oppressed because a minority of radical thinkers find it offensive. However, the English language is constantly evolving, and should adapt to suit the majority views on what is acceptable. Emily Foley English 22.10.04 ...read more.

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