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Language and Gender.

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Introduction

Language and Gender The idea that language can be used as an instrument of oppression is one that is held by many critics of varying focus who stress the fact that language is both an instrument of social constraint and a means of resisting that constraint. It is an issue deeply embedded in the literary theory of gender and sexuality, race and nationality, and even social class. The idea of feminist criticism, where language is identified as one of the means through which patriarchal values are both maintained and resisted. Feminists are concerned with two main ways in which they claim women are oppressed by language, the first of which is the idea of male dominated language. The issues can be noted in such minor parts of grammar such as pronouns but these are quite important in representing gender. A perfect example of this is in phrase "his and hers" (normally referring to something such as bath robes belonging to a couple). Here the masculine pronoun his is placed before the feminine pronoun. Many could say that this is sexist but it simply is due to the history of male domination in the English language. ...read more.

Middle

However, although political correctness is intended to be polite and respectful it can seem to be parodic and often hyperbolic. Thus, there are often mockeries of politically correct language, which suggest that some people are unwilling to inherit it. For example, sometimes words such as camerawoman deliverywoman are used in order to seem politically correct. Unfortunately, both seem humorous as the syllabify (in the case of deliverywoman) or the usage (in the case of camerawoman) seems unusual and slightly ridiculous. People have become so familiar with the use of '-man' on the end of many words that it is pronounced as m(a)n instead of m(ae)n. Subsequently, some people believe that '-man' is a suffix and not a word because of the change in pronunciation. The supreme affability principle states that language can convey any thought or meaning, which humans may want to communicate. This is why vocabulary is constantly being developed to reflect new ideas advances. This would mean that people would begin to use more neutral words and phrases as the stress for gender equality continues in modern society. This idea of course feeds back to Edward Sapir and Franz Boas Reflectionist model in that the language will become more neutral towards gender as society does. ...read more.

Conclusion

Studies show that the reason women are more supportive and sympathetic is down to more cooperative game play as children, men are dominant because as young children games are focused on competition and confrontation. There is evidence that the language used to represent women has changed for the better in recent years. We no longer live in an andocentric society, as there as there are gender free words used in replacement of words relating to one gender. In the 70's words like s/he, humankind and chairperson were introduced so that words were not just male orientated. In the 80's the main thing to do was to avoid words with gender marking altogether. Like 'server' instead of 'waiter' or 'waitress'. There are certain words, which their meanings have changed making them more negative. Such as, 'mistress'. This used to be a word describing a housekeeper, whereas now it has gained a sexual connotation and is very rarely used to describe a housekeeper. Although steps towards change are being taken it is going to be a lengthy process and a long time before women become totally equal and this is reflected in our language. Ultimately it will be up to society to decide what is acceptable and it is the people who have the power to make the necessary changes. Emma Billsdon ...read more.

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