The Sexism of the English Language

cipher42

English as it is currently spoken and understood is deeply sexist. By that I don’t mean that the language itself was consciously created to favor men over women, or that any particular individual or group is responsible for this, merely that English as a language has an awful lot of features that give men status over women. Additionally, I’m not advocating for abandoning English as a language, nor am I implying that it is the only language to have sexist features. The sole intent of this take is to make clear the inherent gender inequalities which exist in the English language and to make people aware of these. So, what specifically do I mean by calling English sexist?


Unequal Terminology

The Sexism of the English Language

In English, there are many terms which have a male and a female variant, where theoretically the two terms should hold the same level of prestige. However, in many (possibly even most) cases, these terms actually end up being unequal, typically with the male form holding higher prestige. A good example of this is the pair “governor” and “governess”. Based on morphology (word structure) the two appear to be male and female variants of the same word, with the same meaning. But in fact, the two are used to mean vastly different things- a governor being someone who hold political leadership in a certain area, and a governess being someone who takes care of children. Not exactly very equal, is it? Some less obvious examples include things like “Lord” versus “lady”, where “lady” can be used derogatorily in modern language (“Get outta the way, lady!”) whereas the only possible similarly derogatory use of “lord” would be in sarcasm. Another thing worth noting is how terms for women consistently end up with a negative sexual connotation, as with the female terms in the pairs “master/mistress” and “sir/madam” (mistress being a side-chick, and master being someone who has mastery in a certain area, or someone in a position of authority. Madam also is sexual, being a term used to refer to the woman who runs a brothel). Even female terms which have not explicitly picked up a new, less prestigious meaning often have more negative connotations than their male counterparts, as with “bachelor/spinster”. Spinsters tend to be envisioned as old, gossipy, and something of a crazy old cat lady stereotype, while bachelors are young and free and vigorous.


Another interesting pairing is that of “to mother a child” as compared to “to father a child”. The meanings of these two pairs are deeply tied to sexist stereotypes of parenting, with “mothering” meaning raising the child and providing it with love and care, and “fathering” almost exclusively meaning the mere act of biologically producing the child.


So, while these inequities in male/female terminology are not necessarily anyone’s fault, and not much can be done about them at this point, it is valuable to note how our language still contains sexist notions about women’s inferiority and the roles they can perform.


Male as Neutral

The Sexism of the English Language

There has been a long tradition in English, thankfully now starting to die out, of using masculine terms and pronouns as general terms. For instance, using “man” as a general term to refer to the human race, or the relatively common practice in history of writing all laws with the “he/him” pronoun. This applies also to more general terms, like words for animals or types of people. For instance, the term for a female dog is “bitch” (or was, before it gained so much popularity as a swearword), but dogs as a category were still called dogs. Same for lions and lionesses, as well as just about any category for humans involving distinct male and female forms (actor, actress; murderer, murderess, etc.)

The effect of this male-neutrality is first, that it presumes maleness as typical, and femaleness as abberant and thus to some degree inferior. Men are normal and representative of humanity as a whole, women are strange and are merely outliers who cannot be viewed as representative samples. This subjects female behavior and tendencies to being disregarded when making rules about the behavior of humans, and means that social structures are biased towards men as they are presumed represent the “norm”. The sexism inherent in this is, I hope, clear.


Secondly, this masculine neutrality allows women to be excluded from the protection of some rules and included in the punishment of others. This was much more the case when explicit sexism in the law was permissible, but is nevertheless a relevant feature to consider the effects of. Take the case of Susan B Anthony for instance. In her time, most laws were written using “he/him” pronouns as the generic. That being the case, she attempted to cast a vote despite this privilege not yet being provided to women. She was of course fined for this as the law was interpreted as only applying to men, so she proceeded to argue that if the masculine pronouns in voting laws were exclusive to men, she should also be exempt from all taxation and criminal laws as those also used male generic pronouns. But, of course, this argument failed, as male generics were only considered generic where it was convenient for the more powerful class (men). Again, this kind of issue is no longer so prevalent nowadays, but presents an interesting example of the inequities male-generics can allow.

Does it Matter?

So, you might think that male generics and male centric speech is simply how our language is, and that it makes no difference in our modern, relatively enlightened society. But sorry, no. Firstly, studies have in fact shown that male-generics result in people envisioning men rather than women significantly more, showing that there is in fact a bias and that this bias can result in under-representation of women or an expectation thereof in certain areas. A more damning study however is that of an instance of a court case where the judge’s instructions were given using male generic pronouns despite referring in the specific context to a female. The issue was one of whether the woman’s self defense had been justified, and it was found that the jury was significantly more likely to find it justified if female or neutral pronouns were used, and were more likely to find it unjustified if male pronouns were used. Thus, male-generics not only influence our mental image of a certain group of people, they can make us empathize more with men and less with women, which carries serious consequences in issues of law and justice particularly.


What Can We Do About it?

So, are these issues even solvable ones at all? I would suggest yes. Now, I don’t claim to be an expert on linguistic change, but it’s clear that our language has changed over time, largely for the better as far as these issues go. What I would put forward as the best way to continue making our language more equal, and thus our biases less pronounced, would be for people to simply be aware of the way they use gendered language and to aim for more gender-neutral speech. In regards to the unequal male/female terms, I would suggest merely either using the male/female terms in the exact same contexts and for the same meanings (difficult since they already have engrained meanings which will be difficult to change) or to simply use the male terms as the neutral and let the female ones fall out all together. I would suggest this second strategy is more realistic, as it’s exactly the kind of thing that has already happened and been happening in our language. For instance, the term “child” used to be a feminine term, but over time its usage changed to the point where we consider it entirely gender neutral. Similarly, words like “actor” are being used and understood more and more frequently as applying to both men and women equally, and even gendered insults like “bitch” are rapidly losing their ties to females in particular, though certainly some femininity still remains with them that we should be aware of.

In regards to pronouns, I find this a much simpler issue. Simply use “they/them”, or at the very least “he or she” if you must (though I find this incredibly clunky and unnecessary, and suspect its usage will be shrinking as time goes on). Additionally, be aware of applying genders to objects with unknown or no gender, though this task is rather more difficult and somewhat less productive.


In any case, I hope it has been made clear that English as it stands does have some inherent sexism that deserves to be addressed, and that this inherent sexism should not be considered an inherent or unchangeable feature of the language.

The Sexism of the English Language
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Most Helpful Girl

  • Cccgala
    "So, you might think that male generics and male centric speech is simply how our language is..."

    I doubt the English language is 'male-centric'. Here are some instances when words that suggest femininity are used in conveying messages.

    1) When agenda about Earth or nature, in general, is brought forth unto the masses, people may find themselves using 'Mother' before 'Earth'.

    2) English speakers interchange 'native language' with 'mother tongue'.

    3) Countries, in literary texts when speaking figuratively about disputes concerning sovereignty and the allegiance of citizens, may be referred to with the pronoun 'she', in reference to 'motherland'.

    If 'man' is intended to be used neutrally, then neutrality must be presumed and not a presumption of superiority of men. If one deems that the situation or a technicality applies to him/her, then the pronoun used (if there would be any) would be the least of his/her concern. English is merely a medium of verbal communication. Presumptions of superiority and inferiority come from the individuals utilizing the language and not from the language itself.

    A 'governess', being a civilian, does not hold the political constituency a 'governor' has; this makes them unequal in the aspect of political authority. However, this does not imply that taking care of the youth, a role undertaken by a governess, is inherently inferior.

    I reckon both 'governor' and 'governess' are different yet noble roles in society. The word 'governess' does not imply that taking care of children is reserved for women; rather, the word 'governess' is a job title that may be used for women who choose to undertake the role of taking care of children.

    Humans advocating for reforms in languages neglect fluency, an aspect of language responsible for the swift cognitive association of semantic terms with tangible or abstract concepts. Language has nuances, and, to a degree, geographical location takes credit for it. Hence, voluntary reforms in language would not be intercepted willingly because concepts have already permeated into speakers' cognition, primarily due to culture. Even if assertions to dismiss or encourage associations are made, it is the speakers that use language to their liking in the end; that liking, oftentimes, encourages the use of terms that have long existed without regard for right or wrong use.
    Is this still revelant?
    • cipher42

      Occasionally thinks are gendered female, sure. But generic maleness for both professions and for general pronoun use is still exceedingly common. And the instances where things are gendered female are still based on traditional gender roles.

      The issue I raised with using "men" neutrally was not about intent, but about effect. Read that part of the take again.

      "Governess" should, etymologically speaking, be the equivalent of "governor". The fact that it is not reflects on the society that caused that change, even if it is not our current one, and may have an impact on the way people view men and women differently in our current society.

Most Helpful Guy

  • madhatters4
    i was certainly aware of much of this. never thought of the governor/governess matter though. that is very intriguing

    i've been cognizant in my life to try and use gender neutral things and especially having a daughter now i find myself constantly catching myself..."that's a fireman... i mean fire person"

    Is this still revelant?
    • cipher42

      @SmokeOh Why are you so offended by people using gender neutral language?

    • cipher42

      @SmokeOh There's no evidence to suggest that. The only thing that's not hard to understand about your statement is that you're so vehemently against this kind of thing (for no logical reason I can think of) and that you're somehow offended by the possibility that people might think differently from yourself. And ya I look like shit- hot shit. But really, how is it dudes still think girls will actually take being called ugly seriously? Y'all will hit on a girl and tell her she's hot and gorgeous until the moment she rejects you, when suddenly she becomes an ugly slut who you never actually wanted anyways. It's like little children insisting that they never actually wanted to play with a particular toy when they clearly did- super transparent, and hugely childish.

    • if only i cared what you thought about how i raised my child

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What Girls & Guys Said

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  • CHARismatic110
    I've thought about this before, but never this in depth. Very interesting Take.
  • JimRSmith
    Informative Take, but I'm afraid I don't care.
  • JulieXO
    I'm all for equal rights for men and women, but being offended by the word mother having a different meaning than the word father is plain stupid. It's a different word, obvioulsy it as a different meaning.
    Our society used to be sexist, but it isn't anymore (at least in the west). The remnants of sexism in our language are harmless, there's no need to make a scene about it and force the language to change (which aou can't do anyway).
    • cipher42

      I'm not offended, I simply think it's an important thing to understand about our language. This isn't about being angry, there's no one to be angry at. It's just about noticing that our language is this way, that that both has implications about the values our society used to hold and has an impact on the values people will continue to hold as long as our language teaches them.

    • moto79

      You rock! This is what feminism does, they are a toxic man hatting hate group. Thankfully the majority of women are like minded like you and see threw their b. s.

  • hellionthesagereborn
    To say this is laughable would be an understatement. No English is not sexist. However your very sexist, I mean why else would you be trying to argue that men are sexist and oppressing women? Why would you be suggesting that the male variant implies a superiority or importance? I mean take the term governor, which was almost always men because women didn't and don't want that kind of job generally speaking hence fewer women in politics despite the fact that their is not one thing standing in their way (hence Hillary Clinton who is just uncharismatic and a terrible person and politician in general getting as far as she did), meanwhile governess reffered to a woman who ran the home which historically was a very important task. Do you think that ensuring the functioning of a family is a worthless job? That taking care of children and thus the future of our society (not to mention the carrying on of our DNA which is the singular purpose of biological life) is unimportant? That's a pretty, to be perfectly blunt, stupid claim. I couldn't even get past that point but I can all but guarantee that everything else you said was equally as sexist towards men and women as your first statement was, not to mention completely inaccurate as every society in the world past present and more then likely future has shown favoritism towards women which is a provable fact (one which you will ignore because your bigotry and sexism is just so thoroughly ingrained that you can't help but feel the need to be a victim of an imaginary evil).
    • cipher42

      You are, as ever, misinterpreting my primary argument. This is not just about intent or about how this sexism reflects on the language or the culture, but much more about the effect this inequality has on how we view the world. As for the intent and moral judgement part, the fact is simply that "equivalent" female terms have far more traditionally derogatory and powerless connotations than their male counterparts. And, they carry assumptions about what the right or natural positions of men and women should be, which is textbook sexism.

    • Nope. Also are you a feminist? Yes, yes you are. So why is it that "equality" is fem (ale) inist and the evil group that keeps all of us down is patri (meaning male) archy? Seems like your sexist, by your own rational. Sexism did not exist until femininist claimed it did. Prior to that men where content to work their life away putting food on the table for their wives, content to be forced to fight and die against their will as women stayed safely at home, content with using their bodies as a meat shield to keep her alive. Then women like yourself came around and decide that women, despite having no evidence of it, where being oppressed and that they needed more privileges to get unoppressed. Of course we are at the point where we are not even allowed to use words any more because they are "sexist", even though when people use the female varients (using "She" as an unknown for instance) is perfectly acceptable because its not sexist when it gives women more power and privilege.

    • cipher42

      Ah, so you're just gonna switch arguments completely now since your original one isn't working. Yeah, no, I'm not dealing with that. If you're just gonna jump to another shitty argument everytime I shoot down your old one, there's no way we're gonna have any kind kf productive conversation. Attack my actual argument rather than my positions, thanks.

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  • dipta
    I'm not saying you're wrong, but I think you're taking it too personally.

    My (probably uneducated) guess is this distinction in English came as an influence from Latin and maybe Christianity.
    (All Romance languages have a much more predominant use of the male gender as the neutral gender, and Adam also was created first...).

    Yet the derogatory use of certain words is based on certain behaviours present in our societies and I think in this case they only stand out because there are so few female gender words in English.
    For instance, it may be more obvious in Romance languages, but the use of adjectives like drunken, bum, junkie, rapist, etc. are also all used derogatorily and most people directly associate such words to men, not women - even though I'm sure there are also plenty of women who fit the standard.
    Why? Because there are probably many more men who fit the condition.

    Many years back, no woman would be working outside the house, much less running for president or governor, so it makes sense the word governess wasn't used in that sense.
    I think it's not about policing the way people use words, but how to improve our society and how to improve ourselves.
    Personally, I don't think such titles represent me, but I know they unfortunately still fit many women.
    • cipher42

      I'm not taking it personally at all, merely noting that it exists. And the origin of these terms really doesn't matter so much, it's their present existence and how that reflects on and influences society.

    • dipta

      It's a non issue.
      The problem is that some people are sexist, not that such sexism reflects on the language.

    • cipher42

      The sexism doesn't reflect ON the language, but it is reflected IN it. This is not a moral judgement on the language, merely an observation of it and a recommendation for conscious change of it.

  • QooLipBite
    Fucking... You again. 😂

    If you hate men so much, why don't you just go start another language that can display as much matriarchy as it wants 😂

    The fact of the matter is, the world and everything is what it is. No point in crying about EVERYTHING.
    • cipher42

      If you hate me so much, why don't you just go to a different site where I don't exist?

      And the world is what it is because we made it that way, so what the fuck is to stop us making it a different way?

    • QooLipBite

      Uhh... no, you're such a minuscule of an issue to me. "Why don't you just go to another site"

      Well because I don't spend my whole life, time and energy crying about you, whereas YOU spend your whole existence complaining about shit.

      No one's stopping anyone from making differences 😂 It's just that you cry a lot while nothing's being done. You're basically doing nothing apart from spreading hate.

    • cipher42

      You seem to be spending of time here complaining about me. Besides, who are you to judge how much time people are allowed to spend clmplaining about stuff?

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  • MayBlythe
    I read this over 4 times and I still don't understand how any of this is even remotely sexist and all I got from this is that we have fallen so much as a species that the girl who said that everything is racist and everything is sexist is starting to make more sense, cause I can't come across ANYTHING anymore that someone isn't calling is either, anyway my point is no the English language is not sexist in any capacity
    • cipher42

      To father a child is to create it biologically, to mother it is to take care of it and give it love. These two words seem like they should have the same meanings, but in fact the meanings are vastly different and based in traditional gender roles. That's sexism.

    • MayBlythe

      If 'anything' that would be sexist against men cause they (in the definition you gave) have no role in the child's life, so I still fail to see how this is inherently sexist

    • cipher42

      Sexism is a two way street. By relegating women to the caretakers of children, there is an automatic assumption made that men are worse at taking care of kids. Both assumptions are sexist.

  • NearlyNapping
    Who gives a shit about your feminist bullshit?

    Get a fucking life instead of worrying about this kind of bullshit. I guess the whole world is in such a great state that people have nothing better to worry about than fucking words. Some people are worried about eating ans staying alive, and you are worried about fucking words. Commonly known as first world problem - i. e. unimportant bullshit.
    • cipher42

      "Who gives a shit about your feminist bullshit?" You, apparently. If there's so many more important things to worry about, how about you go worry about them instead of concerning yourself with the opinion of some rando on the internet?

    • The words you are so concerned about don't hurt anything. But feminists DO hurt things.

      The irony is that feminists hurt women more than anyone else. YOU are the ones judging women, insulting them, telling them they are somehow inferior. Re-read your take. It's full of negative judgments about women.

      YOU are the one taking words and assigning negative connotations to some and positive connotations to others. When in reality those words are neutral. They only become positive or negative if someone judges them that way. And you are the one doing it.

    • cipher42

      It's not personal judgement that gives things negative or positive connotation, its usage. Learn some linguistics sweetheart.

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  • HereIbe
    Wow, you're a whiny little child, aren't you? If you think English is "sexist", you had better NEVER allow yourself to be exposed to German. Your brain would dissolve and ooze out your ears from the heat of your intemperate outrage.

    Funny thing, though, by any political or economic measure, Germany appears to be far less "sexist" in policy or business practices than is the USA. Therefore, you silly, infantile claims are just that, silly and infantile.
    • Logorithim

      Unfortunately, the German workplace is highly sexist, especially towards mothers and women of childbearing age.

    • cipher42

      Sweetheart, I speak German. My mother is from germany, I was raised bilingual. That said, while German has gender for nouns, I'm not aware of it having similar issues with unequal "equivalent" male and female terms. It might, but my primary language is English, and English is what I know the most about. And as I noted in the take you apparently didn't read, this sexism isn't anyone in particular's fault, and I'm not assigning any blame for it, only noting that it exists.

  • RandomBritishGuy94
    You're claiming "man" is used too much when it should be gender natural terms, but it started out as gender natural. It meant "person" and its “women” that became special within English. Women meant “female human” originally.

    History is important. It doesn’t change the situation now but claiming English is inherently sexist isn’t correct at all. It only came to mean male because there wasn’t a specific word for men well women had their own terms.
    • cipher42

      The origin doesn't matter, current connotation does. And the existence of "female" as a strange or other category is not a good thing, it's the very issue I was talking about- where women are seen as inferior and strange. There is a tendency to see maleness and masculinity as the norm, with femininity a deviation from that. This is sexist, and regards men as the primary population and the population that should get the most privilege in social structure.

    • That makes no sense given the history and, well we can argue about what it means to people today… history matters for things like this. It matters why English isn't a grammatical gender language (like German or French).
      English doesn’t have the issues you’re claiming it does. If anything, the only issue is that, due to history, “man” is not gender neutral when used with another word (e. g. mankind) as it should be. It comes from “mann” (link below). Think about this – if “man” suddenly meant the same as “person” and not “male” when spoken alone would the language have the same problems you are seeing? It seems to shock people that, when you used correctly, “man” is a gender natural term when attached to something else.
      http://www.bosworthtoller.com/022348
      Other languages have the male term mean more. English just doesn’t have many gender specific words.

    • Thank you @RandomBritishGuy94 . This girl has absolutely no understanding of grammar, etymology, and morphology. I studied it thoroughly in University so when I saw this feminist's post I cringed so badly.

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  • rjroy3
    To be fair, "Master" has slave owner connotations behind it and the era of it's usage being positive is long gone. So in that regard it's on a level playing field with "Mistress" in that while they could both be used positively in a more sexual context. In open day usage neither is really a positive thing.

    Similarly (atleast in the US) Madam isn't really a title that is used. Ma'am is used in place of it, which is on an equal plain as Sir for a man. There is some weight to your overall point tho, just some of your examples don't currently hold the same bearing they once did. I think the most fair argument to make your case is how terms used to describe feminine are considered an insult, when used towards a man.

    If a guy "throws like a girl" is a "pussy" or a "sissy" that is considered weak or lesser. But in that same regard a woman being considered "manly" isn't considered a positive thing. So there is some sexist assumptions regarding both sides. It's for that reason I don't think it's fair to say that the English language is inherently male-centric. Tho I can agree there is some inherent sexism in respect to the language usage that's not the actual nature of the language so much as baseline beliefs, within the individual. Words are just windows into the mind.

    Now you can argue that peoples beliefs should change to align with what you currently believe, but forcing language usage is a little too fascist for my blood. Free speech is more important than combating the sexism in language usage. There are sexists out there, but it's not the fault of word usage. Words only convey thoughts.
    • cipher42

      Yeah, the examples I used can be analyzed in more depth, but I think overall the picture painted is clear.

      I don't actually think it is considered as bad for women to be masculine as it is for men to be feminine. Like it's not necessarily good, but it's certainly more acceptable- as with women wearing pants/mens clothing in general being more acceptable than men wearing dresses or makeup. In fact tomboys are often portrayed as good and desirable, while feminine boys are rarely seen as anything but gay.

      We already force people to use specific language. The fact that that enforcement stems from tradition rather than conscious manipulation makes it no less bad, and in fact makes it worse in my opinion because it prevents the biases in language from being recognized and controlled.

    • rjroy3

      Even if we try to decide which negative connotation is considered "worse" from a subjective standpoint. The fact remains there is still a negative connotation on either side of the matter. So it's hard to argue that the language as a whole is male-centric. Sure there are some word usage's that you could argue are kind of sexist towards women, but there are towards men aswell. That can't be discounted. Sexist yes, male-centric no.

      Also tomboys aren't portrayed as good. A girl dominating the boys is portrayed as good, but that's only because it's a situation of the underdog overcoming her male dominated environment. But the nature of being tomboy is not painted as positive. There's even numerous movies of a girl who is tomboyish and longs to be for like her more feminine peers. Ie, a girl being male is painted as bad or unfulfilling for the girl.

      The environment commands of people to specifically determine what they're trying to communicate, but "we" do not force people.

    • rjroy3

      It's like if an officer asks you as the witness to a crime if the criminal ran left or right. The situation commands you to communicate in a way they will understand. You can point, rather than verbally saying yes or right. Your words or form of communication is up to you, but the language doesn't matter as long as the thought it communicated effectively. If you're confusing others with your speech, then that's the issue.

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  • ObscuredBeyond
    Sexism is deliberate intent to suppress one over the other. Unintentional preference for one based on historical experience is not grounds for an accusation. It's a cockamaney conspiracy theory concocted by the self important. Don't fall for this stuff.
    • Languages are the by product of the ever-evolving (Or in some cases, devolving) nature of human communication. More professions traditionally were male, because women back then were less interested. The language hasn't always reflected that these attitudes have changed. But to go out of one's way to feel victimized by that is crazy.

      Did you even consult an etymologist in this Cipher, or did the gender studies "prof)" dictate the narrative?

    • cipher42

      I really don't think sexism needs to be deliberate at all. And the issue here is not with the causes of these discrepancies so much as with the effects. As I said in the take, this is not anyone's fault, and all I'm asking for here is that people be aware of these inequalities and make an effort to change them. What part of that is so unreasonable?

  • Cosytoasty
    I'll give you points for a good take. I think it's making a mountain out of a molehill, but your take was interesting for sure.

    You won't find many women who are offended at being addressed as Madam or Ma'am though.
    • cipher42

      As I said in the take, this can have serious consequences, as in gender bias in trials. But yes, the sexual connotation with madam is especially weak, but it's an interesting example that fits into the pattern of female terms being sexualized.

  • bubble_tea
    "... studies have in fact shown that..." "A more damning study however..."
    It'd be very helpful if you could start linking your sources.
    • cipher42

      They were in readings I did for a class and I didn't want to look them up while writing the take, but I can find them when I have time

  • TadCurious
    You're a skilled writer. It's a shame you can't find a more worthwhile topic to write about.
    • cipher42

      Why is this so unworthwhile to you? I happen to like linguistics, so that's what I write about. Besides, most of the potentially more complex topics would probably go over peoples heads. Who's gonna read a take about how ambiguity in language can be explained syntactically as compared to semantically?

  • Nivinxus
    While I agree some of your points... I just can't bring myself to care. The English language will always change, for the better and for the worse. After all, I find that how you say it is a far more effective way in bringing across how you want to display it as. Be it to inflict harm or to support. But hey, was an interesting read.
    • cipher42

      It will always change, so I think we should put in effort to change it for the better.

    • Nivinxus

      Whether we put in effort or not... I think isn't worth the investment, especially when there are far bigger concerns, for both concerned with sexism and those who are not. Besides, something like this is going to have a very very interesting effect on an already divided humanity as a whole.

      Maybe then, I'll care enough about the interesting effects and see if people will actually be more resentful and/or fervent with this... 'issue'

    • cipher42

      You can think that, but I don't. You can have other concerns, but that doesn't mean mine are invalid. You can not care about this, but that doesn't mean that I shouldn't care either. So, what's your issue here?

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  • DevikaButts95
    1. Governor and governess are not male/female counterparts to each other. They are two separate words, although governess is remnant of a more sexist time. From googling I think tutor is the closest male counterpart to the word governess.
    2. You might have a point here, but you were wrong in how you explained it. To mother means to birth as well as raise. To father means to found, give birth to/procreate, and accept responsibility for.
    3. The gendered versions of man/woman linguistically come from a different place than the word man, which was previously used as an alternate to human and people. "Man" referring to humans as a whole fell out of typical use because of "humans" and "people" just being more popular, but the word mankind is derived from that previous gender neutral term. If you brought this up to a linguistics major, I'm sure they're throw a tantrum over it. And while it's true about the dog/bitch as well as other examples like fox/vixen in which that one species also counts as a sex as well as the general term, I find it amazing you didn't include such examples as duck/drake, where the female is the general term. And I'm not quite sure about this because I'm not a linguistics major, but I'm going to guess that those words are also similar to the fact of man/woman, where they both got their definitions from two separate linguistic sources. Could be wrong though.
    But regardless all that above is kinda pointless and rambly. The main point kinda follows from here:
    Does it matter? Not really.
    What should we do about it? It's already been done. You pull out words like governess and mankind. No one is using the word governess anymore, that is a dead word from long ago that doesn't even accurately refer to our society anymore, and mankind is also dead. Humanity has essentially replaced. All you're really looking here is history. Words don't ever lose their previous meanings, they don't get deleted. Like gay still means happy. Rarely is it ever used in such a context anymore. We don't delete word meanings even as they change, cause if you read something from the past it won't make sense and we just lose information about what it used to mean. Everything you bring up is just history, and we already knew we were sexist in the past. This accomplishes nothing for anybody by trying to pass this off as a current problem.
    • And I ran out of room but I would like to add that regarding the "does it matter" section, I want to touch on: "A more damning study... were more likely to find it unjustified if male pronouns were used"
      The above doesn't show anything about male centric speech having any effect on us as a society. It does show sexism, because it shows that when envisioning a woman defending herself, we as a society think she's justified doing so, whereas for envisioning a man, we have a bias where we think he's unjustified. But it doesn't link that to specific linguistics.
      Also "they can make us empathize more with men and less with women" is just wrong based solely on what you said. It would actually be the opposite in that case you summarized, we would empathize more with women according to what you said:
      "The issue was one of whether the woman’s self defense had been justified"
      So either you summed it up wrong or you misinterpreted the study or I misinterpreted you somewhere.

  • soulbabe
    I would like to say I give a damn how words are used "your a sissy " you throw like a girl " but in all honesty I don't care in the slightest I don't mind how English works as long as I'm not being told or forced to be "house wife " ignorant, ware dresses and skirts , hold my tounge in a man's presence, or forced to be of Muslims religion we all good I go about my planing and business and everyone else stay the fuck away from me.
    • cipher42

      Maybe it's good enough for you, but I think we can do better and will continue to advocate for that.

  • Guardian412
    Once again a feminist wants to reinvent the Spanish Vax. If you want equality in a language, learn Hungarian. Its one of the hardest, but there everyone is equal. Oh, wait, you wanted to invent something new in the name of Feminism. Well, you can't as this is already existing in another language. Sorry to burst your bubble. And people asks why no one is taking feminists and stupid SJWs seriously. Well, this is one of the reasons.
    • cipher42

      Orrr we can change the existing language. As it has already been changing. If you don't want to deal with feminists, go form your own country where feminism is illegal.

    • In my country this language barrier doesn't exists and we're living well without feminists. The country is called Hungary and our language is what about you're dreaming of. But my country lives well without feminists as they're a pain in the ass and doesn't serve any real purpose, but only whining and hating men for no particular reason (Okay, the real reason that you chicks can't get a partner, because you don't have any manner, so no gentleman want any of you around. That's the reason of your whining.).

    • cipher42

      K, so why go on the internet where feminists exist? Why not stay away entirely, out of issues that aren't even about your native language anyways? And plenty of feminists can get partners, myself included. Plenty of feminists are actually men, especially where I live. Sorry your world view is so skewed, but maybe try not to project your personal beliefs on the rest of us?

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  • Goochbreaker
    How about we don't play into the NWO propaganda of eliminating gender differences and we all just stay SANE here would that be cool? Fire person... you know why they are called firemen? Because it's a man's job. Get as mad about that as you want, I'd rather have a man pulling me out of a burning building than a women 99% of the time
    • cipher42

      I'm only advocating eliminating gender differences in language and even then only in specific situations. But if you're so entrenched in archaic thinking that you're still calling things "men's jobs", I see why you'd be unable to comprehend my argument.

    • I can comprehend it well, better than you can, and you're the one who made it lol! You are young so you get a little bit of a pass, you've been brainwashed to think this from the cradle so it's not really fair that you have such a shitty understanding in this department, the game was rigged from the start. There is an agenda to make women into men and men into women, to eliminate the differences between the sexes, and this agenda manifests in many forms, one of them is gender neutral language. You can call my thinking archaic, in a sense it is, but in this department we need to get back to our roots, not be 'progressive' because we are progressing in the wrong direction. A man's job is a man's job for a fking reason, like I said, I don't want a woman pulling me out of a burning building, I want the person to be as strong as possible, and 99% of the time that is a man. You think that is sexist? You're damn right it is and there is nothing wrong with that. I discriminate and that's fine

    • cipher42

      You believe that your comprehension of it is better than mine, sure. But that's just because you're so in love with your strawman you're unable to see it's made of straw.

      And how exactly, pray tell, can women be made into men? How is that possible, as far as gender is concerned? Are you admitting that gender is social and changeable? Because that doesn't seem like it ought to fit your agenda.

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  • _Enigma_
    ugh...
  • Arabian911
    what's the big fucking deal, i suggest you stop practicing English and start learning another female friendly language.

    some humans in this world are a real waste of Oxygen.
    • cipher42

      What the big fucking deal is is addressed in the "why does it matter" section of the take. I suggest you brush up on your English so you can actually understand what I've written.

    • Arabian911

      nothing really matters until someone address it, and you did :)

  • BronzedAdonis
    • cipher42

      You gave enough of a fuck to comment..

  • Subflics
    Governor addresses both men and women. Same for president. Bitch originally addressed dogs. Before you come up with something suspecting an entire sex of unequal treatment, please do your research. What the hell do you mean child used to be a feminine title? Where are reading this at?
    • cipher42

      Those are examples of one of the exact things I mentioned in the take, and in fact what I suggest should happen with words like this in general. Clearly I am not the one who didn't do their research, since you couldn't even be bothered to fully read my take before commenting.

  • dragonfly6516
    Wow. Are the feminists really that desperate for a new target?

    If English is SO offensive to you, then do the rest of us a favor and stop using it. That way, we won't have to read stupid shit like this :-)

    You know, since the website requires that all topics be posted in English ;-)
  • Sonjita
    Well, I guess those differences are due to the past when women didn't work so why would you have a female form for a profession women weren't doing? And somehow it didn't change completely even now. I guess it will change with time. As for madame and mistress, I think it's really kind to use such cute words for those. I don't see why women should get offended for it.
  • loveslongnails
    Governess is not the female variant of governor. A female holding the political office of Governor is... the Governor. A female Senator is... a Senator. Statements like this one " Similarly, words like “actor” are being used and understood more and more frequently as applying to both men and women equally" are nothing more than the writers opinion. There's little to support her claim, and it rather sounds like our idiot President when he says "people are saying... blah, blah, blah". Do you want to change "manicure" to "womanicure" when a woman gets her nails done? No, because the root of the word is the Latin "mani" which means hand, and has zero to do with man, woman, males or females. I'd also like to see etymological proof that the word "child" used to be (specifically) a feminine term. I can't find any.
    • Spot on!

    • cipher42

      Governess is the feminine form of the word governor based on etymology. They logically ought to be equivalent words (unless there's a secret history I don't know of?) but are not. And Senator is a good example of why it's unnecessary to have male and female variants for everything, though we can't discount the possibility that the reason it is a single neutral term is because it was a exclusively male term that just didn't merit a female form when the profession became multi-gender.

    • I'm not saying there are no examples of how English has morphed in some poor gender separations. Connotations also come and go, like the wind, if you consider time line usage of a given term. But you should not fall into the trap of thinking you know where language is going without doing real research, and instead substituting that with things you "hear" being used more often in a certain way. Social media reflects only a certain demographic as well.

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  • CubsterShura
    I didn't know that God is a He until I read a religious book in English. My language also has sexism but we have all gender neutral pronouns. And I was taught that God has no gender. Again, as I speak, God really has no gender. I accepted that He is used for the same of using it and I'm not mad about it anymore. But people who say that God is male, may God forgive. 😩

    In Bengali (or as we say it, Bangla), most feminine words of many occupations rather mean the wife of a man with that occupation. Such as, the feminine word for farmer means the wife of a farmer. The feminine word for gardener means the wife of a gardener.

    One way that it makes sense is that many times wives actually join in and do small help without being paid for it. But women who actually take such occupations are never credited. Bangla Academy is making changes in the dictionary so that now we use separate words for the wife of a farmer and an actual female farmer. Especially after one study proved that it's actually women who do most of the farmwork yet they are never considered as farmers.
  • N192K001
    Well, every language has its pros and cons… including gender neutral ones.

    Consider my language of ᜆᜄᜎᜓᜄ᜔ ("Tagalog"; pronounced "tah-GAH-log"), derived from ᜆᜄ ᜁᜎᜓᜄ᜔ ("taga ilog"; "tah-GAH EE-log"), which translates to 「from (the Pasig) River」. We don't have a "he" or "she", since we use the gender-neutral ᜐᜒᜌ ("siya"; "shah"), which can result in ambiguities and serious misunderstandings if the gender is not implied in the name (consider Pat, Quinn, Taylor, or Sydney) or explicitly stated.

    It also makes explaining things in loanword-free, gender-neutral Tagalog alone a longer process than need be. For example, I can reference with "eldest sister" a specific sibling of mine with 4 syllables in gendered English. In pure Tagalog, that's ᜀᜅ᜔ ᜉᜒᜈᜃᜋᜆᜈ᜔ᜇᜅ᜔ ᜃᜉᜆᜒᜇ᜔ ᜈ ᜊᜊᜁ ("ang pinakamatandang kapatid na babae"; "ang PEE-nah-KAH-mah-tan-DANG kah-pa-TEED nah bah-BAH-eh"; 「the eldest sibling that's female」) in 14 syllables. Thankfully, we learned from the Chinese 閩南 ("Min-nan")-speaking traders and/or immigrants "阿姊" ("a-tsé"), which we adopted as ᜀᜆᜒ ("ate"; "AH-teh") with just 2 syllables.

    English can be modified over time. Optimally, the changes should supplement the current and not replace. There are advantages to gendered and gender-neutral languages, after all.

    Interesting observations. Nice read!
    • Cccgala

      'Ate' may also be used to address a young female, in colloquial terms, whom a person have not met or is not affiliated with. For instance, one may ask, "Ate, mayroon pa po ba kayong barya?" in Filipino (Young female, do you still have coins?) inside public transportation where not everyone is familiar with one another.

  • Dim1213
    First world problems
    I dont care and its not really something to complain about.
    Its only made harder when you make it neutral.
    • cipher42

      If this isn't something to complain about, then why are you complaining about my complaints?

    • Dim1213

      Cause this is what this site is about

    • cipher42

      This site is also about writing and sharing takes. So why is complaining okay when you do it and not when I do it?

  • zagor
    Why single out English? The Japanese language is spoken differently by men and women. And don't get me started on French, Spanish, German, and the other languages where a table or chair has a gender! That is about the stupidest aspect of a language...
    • cipher42

      Because that's what I and most people on this site speak. I even said that this wasn't a issue particukar to English in the take.

    • zagor

      Perhaps it is better to use gender-neutral terms, like actor, waiter, etc. Which are of course the traditional male terms, but they have also been used as generic terms for some time, and are shorter and more logical than adopting actress, waitress, etc.

      Does it really matter if the person bringing your food has a penis or not?

    • zagor

      ... unless, of course, they stirred your drink with it, as was on an internet video a while back...

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  • mrsatori
    You've never got to learn Russian, have you? In Russian, there are nouns denoting a nationality. But those are only for males. To make them feminine, you have to add the suffix -ка to the end of a noun. Ironically, besides being a way to name a female representative of a certain nationality, they also stand for household items and working tools.

    But there's nothing strange about that: Languages evolve reflecting its nation's mentality in quite a fun way. And it's not necessarily about the negative aspects of mentality, but merely its general features. And it's more about its history, rather than this day and age.
    • cipher42

      Yes, language is a reflection of culture. But since our culture nowadays is much less sexist, our language should reflect that.

    • It's not just Russian that does this. Grammatical gender is in a lot of languages. Ironically English isn’t one of them.

    • cipher42

      @RandomBritishGuy94 Ya but grammatical gender isn't inherently evidence of sexism. Grammatical gender doesn't even have to be about social gender at all- like you could have different grammatical genders for sentient objects and non-sentient ones.

  • Browneye57
    So what. Time to get a life. Men built the world, get over it.
    • cipher42

      Yeah, men built the world. So lets rebuild it to be equal.

    • Browneye57

      Not ever going to happen. Regardless of what the FI keeps telling you. Things are never, will never, and have not ever, been equal. This is a fallacy perpetuated by the feminist movement.
      Men and women are different - they just never will be the same.

    • cipher42

      Its already happening hon, sorry to disappoint. You can insist its impossible all you like, but that doesn't chsnge the reality.

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  • Philyouup
    Very well stated and articulated. Not sure I agree with it 100% but I do try to use non gendered terms when I can.. Particularly when I don't want to create a picture of just men in anyone's head.
    But there are 2 sexes, male and female and there will always be words to describe them.. but I agree they should not used to divide them.
    • cipher42

      Yeah, having distinct words for distinct genders/sexes isn't a bad thing as such. Though I somewhat disagree with the hyper binary classification of people, seeing as it denies the reality of the existence of folks like intersex individuals.

    • Philyouup

      Binary words came to be, because we are sexual/biologically binary. that is for 99.9% of us. yes there are biologically inter sexed individuals, but they are the exception not the rule, and I think its great we are moving to a society that recognizes the smallest minorities, but basically we are Binary species as are nearly all the animals on the planet. Hence the "Hyper" binary words..
      I understand that we are trying to make a kinder world.. but really labels won't do it.. Mind sets will.. like Doing to others as you would want others to do to you.. Respect for others, regardless of what they can do for you.. and Find out what is hateful to others, then dont do that.. Changing peoples way of thinking about others..( ALL OTHERS) is what we need to do...

    • cipher42

      I realize why our system is a binary. I simply mean that we often insist on sticking to that binary even where it would be inaccurate. Which is pretty silly- like I wouldn't say "no people have red hair" just because only 1% of the population does.

      And I think you underestimate the effect of language on cognition. It's not everything, sure, but it certainly does play a significant part.

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  • FadedGrenade
    I was aware of this but it was never offensive. I don't think it is a big deal. As a female, who gives a crap if nobody says 'governess?'
    • cipher42

      The issue isn't the use of governess, but it's different and inferior meaning from "governor".

    • I understand that governess has a different meaning than governor. But i personally still don't really mind it. I get why people could be upset and this information is really interesting but I don't think it matters to me

    • cipher42

      Sure, that's fine. It can be irrelevant to you, but it's still an instance of sexism in language.

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  • Plumy
    I like English language and I didn't notice some things described in this take, I think some meanings of the word can be affected by the malice of the speaker too, maybe? I always try not to think with malice and often have to ask what other people really mean and it's a little awkward sometimes...
    Thanks for explaining the language also under this aspect 🇬🇧 🇺🇸

    🇮🇹 Italian by the way has variant for most words between male and female like the last letter of the word ending as -a (singular) and -e (plural) for female and -o (singular) -i (plural) for male, just evidencing for knowledge this particular difference with English, it's nice that all the languages even if having characteristics in common they are different anyway, it makes me curious and wanting to learn more!
  • Lynzerilee
    I've never paid attantion to these differences you mentioned, they don't call so much attention. Classical arabic is so much more of that, as there is a long list of words (adjectives) that are neutral in meaning and of which the female counterparts' meaning is offensive, degrading or a plain insult. ( ex : Sakit: man falling vs Sakita: whore ; Mosib: man who is right vs Mosiba: catastrophy) and many others.
  • AD240pCharlie
    While I don't agree with what you're saying, you're presenting your arguments in a rational and reasonable way, which is very rare to see in debates (especially debates regarding sexism), so I have to give you props for that.
    • cipher42

      What is it in particular you don't agree on?

    • A few things:
      While I understand the logic behind a biased language making it easier to empathize with men, but biological and neurological research has found otherwise, ESPECIALLY within men. While women in general are better at empathy overall, men actually show a lot more empathy towards women and sympathize with them a lot more than they do with other men. For example, when talking to another man, brain scans have shown that areas of the brain associated with the usage of tools are the most active, however when talking to a woman, the amygdala - the emotional center of the brain - is the most active. This is understandable, though, and it's an evolutionary advantage for men to be more considerate towards the female of the species, andexplains why we observe the same behavioral patterns in many other mammals.
      I have some other examples of some details I disagree with, but I'm running out of characters, and actually I have leave very soon, so I will explain more tomorrow.

    • cipher42

      Those are studies on different things though. This is not about the amount of bias that already exists due to non-linguistic causes, it's about how much linguistic factors influence gender bias regardless of the bias that might exist from other sources.

  • readywriter
    I find your writing very interesting, however their is a taste of female jealousy in the text. You have careful to document your intent is not to revolutionize the language but point out what you believe are faults and inconsistancies. Space does not allow me to make a complete statement on each item you note. However I think that there is a lack of recontion of changing meanings to words and the substitution of neaw ones for old. You very first example about governor and governess is a good example. In the 17th or 18th centry I would certainly agree with your meanings. But the fact remains that the leader of many island countries and kigdomes where women rulers and guven the title Governess. In modern times and with a lack of well known Governess leaders it is heavily regaurded as you say. Today we do not use the word anylong unless it is tradition. The prime Minister in France and Germany are merely called Prime Minister. I personally hate the address 'Dear Ms' when everyone knows it is a woman. To pretend that it is neither Miss or Mrs. is irrelevant. It is not suppose to imply a state of marriage. Therefore the meaning of Ms. or Miss must mean something else. It is just that it is a new word. Being titled Mrs. apparently means something different today even though it is the same word. I commend you on your thoughts and will read your opinion when I have more time.
    • cipher42

      That's all very well, but the fact is that "governess" retains its connotation of children's care taker. The vast majority of people would equate it with that, thus that is its primary meaning. And you might note that I did advocate for the usage of male generic terms (not pronouns) as generics until they lose their male connotation (as happened with child becoming generic). That's hardly indicative of jealousy if you ask me.

    • I thought we weren't going to have a discussion and not a flair of anger.

    • incorrect usage. "were"

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  • PrincessPie
  • wankiam
    its very much changing in england today. its humankind today like all those in the police are persons and atresses are now actors but have to say, while i respect this change i do wonder if it really matters that much. better to address other inequalities in my view than to attack a language of the past
  • strangytie
    You've developed a very clear and thoughtful approach. I've thought about these things, too. I agree that our language skews things to favor male authority, but today those connotations have been sliding away. The male terms are becoming neutral which, while not entirely the best way, is a good start.
  • KnightCross
    Guys, that's it! Now Feminism wants to change English Language to advertise their agenda! How far can we let those lunatics go?
  • Namkrow
    Are you kidding me? Even language is sexist? Fucking seriously? There was a picture of a Tumblr conversation in which a linguist destroyed a woman claiming the same thing you're saying by providing the original languages some words evolved from and how certain English words evolved to be what they are now. I wish I could show you that conversation because it proves there's nothing oppressive towards women about the English language. Get over it and grow up. There's more important things to worry about.
    • cipher42

      Go find me that tumblr conversation then. And I did say in the take (have you even read it?) that this isn't anyone's particular fault, just that it's bad and deserves to be changed.

  • pervertedjester
    It seems you're basically pushing for a softer language which hides more and says less.
    • cipher42

      How does using male and female terms that are actually equivalent softer? How is not using male generics softer, or hiding? How does any of this make language say less? Explain.

    • Softer language takes the life out of Life.

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  • GuyAdviceFromGuy
    Lord - You think medieval times when a man would be a prince or hold authority over some land

    Goddess - Purely sexual, like a woman who dominates men sexually

    You are right, this is all bullshit and needs to stop
    • Langseax

      I’ve never looked at the word ‘goddess’ in that way, perhaps it’s something people who are addicted to porn do.

  • Logorithim
    Since German nouns have gender, many translations into English from German I've seen are highly sexist, e. g., "der Kunde" is "the customer", and Germans writing in English will often use "he" as the personal pronoun or "him" as the direct object.
  • SmokeOh
    get over yourself, all languages have their own special structures, no one is gonna change English so you feel better about yourself.
    • cipher42

      English is already changing, and has changed significantly over time. So sorry honeybunch, but this kind of change is already happening, I'm just helping it along.

    • SmokeOh

      you can lie to yourself but it ain't happening, stop being a dumb fuck and grow up

    • cipher42

      It is changing. Again, "child" used to be a feminine term, but is no longer. This change can and does happen. So really, why are you lying to yourself?

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  • OfDeath
    I agree with most of it but I disagree that it's wrong to use the word man to describe all of man kind.
    MAN is present in the word woMAN and huMAN so that's just the obvious word to describe them all.

    Also having said all that, there still needs to be words to describe feminine things that you might not like to suck it up. Spoonful of concrete and harden the fuck up.
  • Anpu23
    I must correct you on one point. "Man" is a gender neutral term, the original term for a male human was "were" https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/were but fell out of use because males became identified by their profession not as a group of itself. As a better understanding a gendered pronoun for males was considered useless as a generic male was considered a nothing, instead he became a merchant man, a beggar man, a swords man etc. While women on the other hand kept intrinsic value in and of themselves.
    • cipher42

      Neat. But the fact is that in modern day usage that history is lost in the meanings of pronouns, so they function largely as I described

    • Anpu23

      true, but it's a misunderstanding based in language.

    • cipher42

      Ish. It's an interesting origin, but in modern English it's so unknown that it's lost any of that old connotation, like "child" previously being a female term.

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