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Language and Gender


It may not be something we think about or are even aware that we are doing, but language and gender do go hand-in-hand. Since the 60s and the women's movement, linguistists have been studying the difference between the way men and women speak - the findings may surprise you.

When we are speaking, people tend to automatically fall into old customary talk, such as referring to the police as "policemen." Although, we know today there are many women in the law enforcement field, we still as a society take the male-dominant language position to refer to the whole arena as "man." This has caught the attention of many women which is leading to criticism about the way females are being "discussed" or rather, not discussed.

It was once acceptable for men to take the dominate role in the home, work force and also speech. Men didn't have a problem (and some still don't) interrupting a woman when she was speaking to interject his point-of-view. Studies have shown that this is largely due to the above fact and over time males have become accustomed to the venicular. It has also been noted that females tend to take a more cooperative tone with language, while men tend to be more competitive. This is a learned behavior that dates back to the dawn of time - men were the hunters where "survival of the fittest" played a significant role in procreation and life itself, while women were the gathers, nurturers and homemakers.

Times have changed and women no longer want to take the lesser role in the world or in the way we communicate. But can the old habits and standards of our language really be changed after so many years? It won't be easy, but the more we become aware of these gender-language barriers, the more we can work to correct it as a society.

Language has already made some changes with the words actress and poetess being used instead of actor or poet as a general description, but it's not enough. It will take time to change old habits and the way we teach children will also have to reconstructed to include the new female-oriented language. But with the rising of each new generation, these sexist language barriers will finally be eradicated and we will see total equality for women..