A MultidisciplinaryApproach to Sexism in Language M. Hiddas; ENS, Meknes
Sexism as a concept and behaviour• The term sexism coined by Pauline M. Leet in US in 1965 . Sexism a model on Racism.• Sexism in language involves words or expressions that carry negative, discriminatory attitudes towards people on gender basis.• People’s gender: involving mainly males and females• Male sexism and Female sexism.
The most apparent form is Language male sexism• Theories and constructs have been developed, since the first feminist wave.Worth mentioning:• Intentional and unintentional language sexism• Hostile and benevolent sexism- Hostile sexism: manifest in people’s words and actions.- Benevolent sexism: perceiving women as “pure creatures who ought to be protected, supported, and adored and whose love is necessary to make a man complete” (Glick and Fiske, 2001: 109). Averts criticism
Generic “he”• Dear Ladies and gentlemen, if someone loses his way, no one can help him; he can help himself by using the map which has now become his.• Dear fathers, if someone loses his way, no one can help him; he can help himself by using the map which has now become his.• Dear mothers, if someone loses his way, no one can help him; he can help himself by using the map which has now become his.
Generic “she”!• Dear ladies and gentlemen, if someone loses her way, no one can help her; she can help herself by using the map which has now become hers.
Alternatives to generic “he”• Reformulation: plural they, generic you, plural If someone loses his way, they can use the map…• Replacement: “he or she” -- “he/she” -- “s/he” -- “(s)he” -- “she or he” -- she/he “thon”, “co”, “se”, “yo”, “e” , “hu”, “zhe” , “phe”
Other sexist words and expressions• Generic “man”:All men are mortal, Sara is a man; therefore, Sara is mortal. Mind a feminist riposte time!• Asymmetrical pairs:[bachelor – spinster]- Bachelor: a man who has never been married.- Spinster: a woman who is not married, especially an older woman who is not likely to marry.
• Longer statements:- Women are the snares of Satan.- Long hair, short wit.- Behind every successful man is a woman.- Beware two things: a winter blue sky and a praying crone.- All women are whores, except those who can’t (be so).
Do generic words actually enhance generic images?• 115 Moroccan high-school Baccalaureate students, 63 females and 52 males.• 25 generic, non sexist appellations ranging from negative (eg: delinquent, criminal) to positive words (eg: architect and doctor).• Attribution of a common female or female first name (like Ahmed, Nezha, Adil, Shaima).
Results• 41.66% of the attributed names were female and 58.33% were male.• The subjects’ mental image is more male-oriented with very close results between the two sexes:- Females’ attribution to female names: ….. 41.14%- Males’ attribution to female names: ……. 42.30%- Females’ attribution to male names: ………58.85%- Males’ attribution to male names: ………. 57.69%• Language reflects our thought rather than tailor them.
Implications• Sexism in language is a global issue.• Which enhances which, sexism or language? There is an interactive relationship, but language reflects rather than generates sexism.• Language sexism is an additional burden on the part of the language learners and users.• English suffers from many inconsistencies, one of which is sexism.• English needs a rational reform.