Sexist Language

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Words and phrases that demean, ignore, or stereotype members of either sex or that needlessly call attention to gender.

See also

Examples and Observations

  • "Questions and criticisms of sexist language have emerged because of a concern that language is a powerful medium through which the world is both reflected and constructed. . . . Some have claimed that the use of generics (such as 'mankind' to refer to both men and women) reinforces a binary that sees the male and masculine as the norm and the female and feminine as the 'not norm'..."
    (Allyson Jule, A Beginner's Guide to Language and Gender. Multilingual Matters, 2008)
  • "The following practices, while they may not result from conscious sexism, reflect stereotypical thinking: referring to nurses as women and doctors as men, using different conventions when naming or identifying women and men, or assuming that all of one's readers are men.
  • Language in Context
    "The 'language as sexist' prong of language and gender studies has faded in the last two decades . . .. It was soon realized that a word could not unproblematically be derided as sexist since it could in principle be 'reclaimed' by a given speech community (queer probably being the most famous actual example). Similarly, a superficially gender-neutral word such as people could be used in a sexist way: in an article in The Independent (5/1/90), for example, Richard Adams wrote:
    • The commons were popular with Newburians and other locals. People took picnics, 'walked out' with their girls, picked bluebells and primroses in a season

      (see Cameron 1994, for other examples).

  • Sexist Language in The Office
    Michael: Okay, so what I want to engage us in today is a hardcore discussion about women's problems and issues and situations. Magazines and TV shows and movies portray women as skinny, tall goddesses. Well, look around. Are women like that? No. No, they are not. [Points to Pam] Even the hot ones aren't really that skinny. So what does that say? That says that you women are up against it. And it is criminal. Society doesn't care. Society sucks. I don't even consider myself a part of society, FYI, because I am so angry over all of this. . . .
    Karen: What you're saying is extremely misogynistic.
    Michael: Yes! Thank you. That was not necessary, but I appreciate it. And it proves my point: women can do anything.
    Karen: I'm saying that you're being sexist.
    Michael: No, I'm being misogynistic. That is insane, I'm not being sexist.
    Karen: That's . . . it's the same thing.
    (Steve Carell and Rashida Jones, "Women's Appreciation." The Office, 2007)
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    Your Citation
    Nordquist, Richard. "Sexist Language." ThoughtCo, Apr. 10, 2017, Nordquist, Richard. (2017, April 10). Sexist Language. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Sexist Language." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 23, 2018).