How we Come up with Sexism in Language
The overall theme of Sexism in Language is how the way we speak, whether it is a conscious realization or not, places women in a position that is subordinate to men. Three main points are brought up in this film. These are: words people use that convey the misguided notion that men are superior to women, how children are socialized into this idea from a very young age, and the change that is taking place within language to equalize the roles of men and women.
Many words that we use are so common to us that we do not even realize that they are not inclusive towards women. A lot of these words are in reference to occupations. Such words include mailman, policeman, second man, milkman, etc. There is logical reasoning as to why we use these terms when talking about jobs. Years ago, women were not allowed to work. They stayed home to tend to the house and children. Things such as the railway were started at a time when women were the homemakers and men the breadwinners. Therefore, men created them and masculine terms (words pertaining only to males) were used to refer to the occupation as well as things that went along with the occupation, such as second man. However, times are changing. The film interviewed a woman who works on the railway. She loves her job and is very good at it. She does, however, have to deal with all the masculine terms that refer to the job. This is hard on her because the terms do not include her when she is a part of what they refer to.
How it works
There are also many slang words that people use today that stigmatize women yet make men appear more manly. Many of these slang words revolve around the idea that oversexed women are disgraceful while oversexed men should be applauded. At a very young age, society begins to teach children of their roles in life. Children are taught to be sexist from the beginning. This is done many times through childrens storybooks. The example given in the film was a storybook about trains. This book conveyed the message very clearly that men like trains. Women were not a part of the train industry in this book. Things like this give children false assumptions of their place in society according to their sex.
A group called The Joeys expanded on this issue. They sing songs that make fun of the ideas society has about how men should and should not act. They include lyrics that say men should never cry, men like fights, and men are strong. They are a very comic group that recognizes that men can have feminine traits and vice versa and it is okay. And they broadcast this idea to get other people to see as well.
The third point that the film brings up is about the change that is taking place within language today to account for the uniting of the sexes today. Language affects the way we see ourselves and the way we treat others. For this reason it is important that we change our language to be inclusive towards women and accepting of women with masculine traits and men with feminine traits. Journalists contribute a huge amount to the language that we use. We read their articles and copy their phrases and words. An example is an article in the paper about a man who has just graduated. The paper refers to him as brains at the beginning of the article. In the next few pages is an article about a woman who has just graduated. She is first referred to as a former beauty queen. She is also talked about as the daughter of whereas the man had his own identity. This shows how women are known for their looks and men are known for their brains, and how women are known in terms of their relationship to a man, in this case her father. A non-sexist code of practice was developed for journalists. It is a guideline of politically correct ways to say things so that people do not get offended. However, people have not begun to follow this closely yet.
There are many sexist words and qualities of language. Some are easily recognizable and some take thought to realize. Nonetheless, a change needs to take place within language to account for the changing times. Women are no longer supposed to be the homemakers. In fact, sometimes it is crucial for both the man and the women of a house to work in order to pay the bills and eat. For women to take on this role comfortably, they need to feel accepted and with masculine terms used everywhere women do not always feel as if they are a part of something.