Sexism in Language

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“Language is our means of classifying and ordering the world: our means of MANIPULATING REALITY” – Dale Spencer

(Book: Man made Language)

Language has always been an effective tool, either written or spoken, In propagating gender stereotypes or unjustified sexual biases against individuals or groups, mostly women, and sometimes men.

Following are examples:

SEXISM BEGINS AT HOME:

“Larkian aesay nahi hansti”

“Theek se betho”

“Larkay rotay nahi”

“khana bna leti ho”

Yes, it all begins at home. Girls are schooled to be gentle, fragile, and submissive with Ghardari (home-making) and marriage as their ultimate goals. While boys are brought up to be dominant and insensitive with zero sense of accountability. They can smoke, and stay out all night, no one would bat an eye. Not all, but for most girls, a sleepover with a friend is mere a dream.

It discriminatory not just for girls but for boys too. Let the poor lads cry please!

ADVERTISEMENTS:

Numerous advertisements promote the idea of men being the sole breadwinners and women being the victims of “cult of domesticity” (idealized societal standard i.e. submissiveness, piety, domesticity).

The image, which was once used by the feminist’s movement as “WE CAN DO IT, had been giving an entirely different message on women’s role in society (as homemaker).

And Very often, only women in Pakistani commercials are seen worrying about germs and pilahat in their toilet bowl or chiknai on utensils or a dagh on clothes. Men are there in the ads too but just for suggesting the right dishwasher or coming home with a stained shirt.

INSULT TERMS:

The insult terms used for men and women also point toward gender stereotyping. Men are usually attacked for their masculinity, intellectual and physical strength while women, on their physical features and mostly lack of intellect.

A guy who is a little timid would be called “feminine” or “choorian pehn lo” is commonly spoken for someone who isn’t courageous. And being associated with women is extremely derogatory for men which shows the embedded misogyny in language.

In societies like ours, degrading the female members of someone’s family is considered the highest form of insult, because of the concept of honor attached to women only. And we have become extremely desensitized to such profanity that it has become a norm.

Just like language is used to propagate sexism or misogyny, it can also be used to eliminate them, by making language gender-inclusive, gender neutral, and anti-sexism. It is a tool and one shall use it as it deems fit.


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Ayesha Ashraf
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