Does language used in literature and media embrace gender stereotypes?

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Rachel Smith


Does language used in literature and media embrace gender stereotypes?

Language within our history and modern day societies and cultures plays a significant part in gender stereotypes in literature and media in the 21st century.

There are many derogatory terms used towards women such as 'bitch', 'housewife', 'cow' and ’wench’ whereas these terms wouldn't be used to describe men and there are no male equivalents to these derogatory terms. In 1970, a US feminist tract 'The Bitch Manifesto' attempted to rehabilitate the word 'bitch' claiming that it is used to put down women who refuse to accept male domination. The argument was 'John may think Mary is a bitch because she is aggressive but since he would praise the same quality in James, his use of the word bitch is in fact a compliment’. This kind of linguistic reform ignores the intention of the speaker: when John calls Mary a bitch it is not a compliment. Bitchiness is regarded as a negative female trait and a sign of effeminacy in any male. Speakers are now often hesitant to call a female dog a bitch because they fear they may be insulting the dog.

As a tradition women’s jobs were looking after the children and looking after the family home however the man’s job was to go out to work to provide the family with money for food and other things they needed, however traditions have changed yet the language towards women hasn't.

Recently gender stereotypes have changed within society, as same sex partnerships have been made legal so that gay and lesbian couples are able to legalise their partnership as when a man and woman can when they get married.

The way that language is sometimes used towards women it suggests that women are the 'second sex' because the language used is often masculine and refers to men suggesting that that men are more dominant over women.

People in society find it more acceptable for men to have more than one sexual partner whereas if women have more than one sexual partner, terms used for women's sexual behaviour tend to be demeaning, words such as 'slut, slag, whore' whereas men's sexual behaviour is more acceptable and less offensive, words like' bit of a lad, man of the world' are used.

If a man is single and not married he is said to be a bachelor and have a 'bachelor's pad' whereas women are referred to spinsters which is seen as an offensive term even though it means the same as 'bachelor' but women have argued that there shouldn’t be separate terms for men and women who are not married.

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In the dictionary one of the definitions of 'man' is 'the human race' suggesting that the human race consists of only the male sex. Television programmes that focus on evolution and how man evolved only talk about the way that man evolved and there is no reference to women suggesting that women came after men.

There is prejudices from religion towards women as women are not usually appointed as priests or 'clergymen', also people presume that God is a man even though there is no evidence for this.

In the play 'The Streetcar Named Desire' written by Tennessee Williams ...

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