Gendered language, what is that?

Gendered language, what is that?
gender language

We have grown up in a world with beliefs of Gender stereotypes. Where men and women have different social roles. Men are perceived as independent, active, and resolute. Whereas women are expected to be a benevolent, caretaker, and to be communal. When it comes to language it is a powerful means that reproduce and perpetuate sexism and gender discrimination. The origin of Gender Bias is found in our linguistic choices. If you think of language just as a means of communication, you are terribly wrong. The role of language is much more than that. It influences the way we see the world. Language shapes us in different ways. Language use in our everyday communication makes us aware of how our societies are inherently gendered and what gendered languages are.

The Male Default

Have you ever thought gendering of phrases and words shape our way of thinking about what is masculine and feminine? How it gives rise to stereotypes in society? Most of us take this for granted because it feels ‘natural’. But it’s a reality that language that we speak influences what we think. It creates the gender inequalities that exist around us. Language reinforces the construct of the male gender as a default. The generic masculine framework is present in our culture and language. We use ‘mankind’ as a way to unify us and ‘man’ to describe species. However, the world assumes our collective identity as masculine. Our social psychology has become male bias that even genuinely gender-neutral words have become masculine nouns. 

Caroline Criado Perez writes that: “Seeing men as the human default is fundamental to the structure of human society.”

what is gendered language
gendered language

Gender Norms

These gender norms limit the opportunities for women. It is very important to end gender discrimination because gender equality provides everyone the chance to achieve their potential. However, it can help speed up progress toward ending poverty. So, it is very important to use Gender-neutral language instead of Gender-inclusive language. For instance, it will reduce the gender bias that favors men over women and other genders as well. Hence, it is necessary to make people aware of the beneficial effects of Gender fair language. 

Let’s explore more about what exactly this is and why should you be aware of it? How it influences the attitudes toward women and shapes prejudice against a woman?

Languages fall into three categories concerning gender: Natural gender languages, Gendered languages, Genderless languages.

Gendered Language; What Is That?

Commonly it is a language that contributes to bias towards social gender or particular sex. Masculine nouns and pronouns refer both to women and men. Hence, it is a Gender-Inclusive language. Grammatical and Structural rules of this language are built in such a way that favors masculine forms than feminine terms. The use of gender-fair language can help promote gender equality and prevent the negative effects of biased language. However, the countries whose native languages are these languages have lower female labor force participation and supports for unequal treatment of women. Gender differences and gender roles are more common in those countries.

Examples

  • There are some languages such as French, Spanish, Hindi, and Russian that are gendered themselves. They assign genders to most nouns which leads speakers to feel differently about women versus men. However, all nouns have feminine or masculine, or neutral gender. Depending on the noun in these languages adjectives and verbs also change slightly.
  • The reliance on masculine forms to speak for all the genders. However, the use of ‘he’ in the text refers to both the men and women in gender languages.

Natural Gender languages

These languages do not have gendered nouns but they have gendered pronouns. An article, adjective and, pronoun refer to both females and males. Hence, personal pronouns express genders. 

Examples

English and Scandinavian languages are examples of natural gender languages. In the English language, the pronoun refers to masculine nouns or feminine nouns. Such as “he” will replace Daniel and “she” will replace Nora. Gender-specific names in English refer to people or professions like Doctor, Businessman, Police officer, etc. However, there are asymmetrical feminine forms that arise from masculine forms. Such as an actress from the actor, a waitress from the waiter, and a heroine from the hero. Hence, these feminine forms are perceived as negative.

Genderless languages

These languages do not have marked grammatical genders either for nouns or pronouns. Countries that speak genderless languages have greater female labor force participation and access to political empowerment. Also, check out our blog on the most grammatically complex language.

Examples

Chinese, Mandarin, Finnish are some examples of genderless languages.

gendered language facts
facts about gendered language

Grammatical Gender vs Natural Gender

Natural gender refers to the gender of the character, person, or animal. Whereas, grammatical genders are a way of categorizing nouns and it affects how we imagine or personify ideas or objects. Grammatical gender is a form of noun class system. Hence, some linguists consider noun classes and grammatical gender as similar things. 

Some languages assign gender based on the ending word. Such as in Spanish words ending with -a are usually feminine. Hence la mesa(table) which doesn’t have any physical gender is feminine. 

Some languages assign gender by the physical characteristics of an object. For example, things that are tall or long and slender, or narrow have masculine gender in the Alambak language of Papa New Guinea.

How big a problem is the use of gendered language?

It is very important to be aware of it because it has been a linguistic problem. Hence, it influences how we construct a society and also sets the example of sex roles in our society. Addressing this problem is very crucial to reduce favoritism. While using language we should take care of words and expressions that do not discriminate or cause defense.

The benefit of teaching gender-neutral language to English learners

Learners should be taught how to avoid these languages because it is no longer acceptable in many sectors of society. Once they have left school or university, they should know that none of the sectors that they are going to involve in accept it. Academia, business context, or research publication doesn’t accept it anymore. However, It is necessary to change linguistic habits to eliminate sex differences. In short, the gender difference in a language is forbidden. 

The use of gender-neutral language will promote gender equality and help break down stereotypes. Shifts in policies and social norms will change the level of opportunities for women, the level of schooling, and many other things. 

Conclusion

This is a very delicate and interesting topic to see how language deeply relates to the mindset and behavior of our society. There are many other dominant aspects of inequality such as actual biases in cultures or work environments. Hence, we do not even realize how language use and its terminology relate to Gender politics. It is mandatory to teach the unbiased language from the school level to adopt a neutral form of language. Hence, learning neutral gender language from an early age will help prevent the unintentional use of Masculine generics. Beware of how to avoid it is a step toward gender equality and respect. Hopefully, this blog post will help you know how big this issue is and how mandatory it is to avoid its use.

examples gendered language

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