Words Make Men More Important

Simone De Beauvoir's "The Second Sex."

Simone De Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex.”

When a woman marries she usually takes her husband’s name.

We still describe all of us as men, man, mankind, brotherhood, fellowship…

And we are still more likely to use “he” than “she” when describing a person with no specific referent.

Usually, men come first, too: Men and women, boys and girls, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, guys and gals, guys and dolls… 

With a few exceptions:

  • Most of us (even men) are closer to mom than dad, so it’s usually, “Mom and dad.”
  • Since women so often get second-rate treatment, every now and then we try to balance the scales by placing women on a pedestal, “Ladies and gentlemen.”

Women made secondary on purpose

Women were made secondary on purpose.

In an article called, “Disappearing Tricks” Dale Spender explains that in 1553 grammarians created a rule that men come before women — because it’s natural (???)

second sex 2By 1646 the rule was given a new rational: men are worthier, so they have priority.

By 1746 grammarians concluded that there was no need to include women at all. Humans are “men.”

Why? Because the male is more comprehensive. Man embraces woman. Man is simply more important.

Yet people often failed to follow the rule, perhaps saying “they” instead of “he.”

By 1850 grammarians convinced Parliament to pass a law proclaiming that man = woman.

Psychological consequences

Words have consequences.

Language works like covert propaganda. We hear words all of our lives from the time we are born. Unsophisticated young-uns cannot think critically about the things we hear. Plus, everyone around us uses these words, so it feels natural and normal.

And seeps into our unconscious.

And so, ever so subtly we learn our place.

Girls and women learn that we are the second sex.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on May 11, 2016, in feminism, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 60 Comments.

  1. You can’t legislate language, or complain because it is what it is. In French and many languages every day items have masculine or feminine word endings or pronouns or whatever. I’m sure you could have a feminist field day complaining about that, but the language is what it is. Unless you want to set up a 1984 government department of Newspeak in an Orwellian exercise in thought control, you have to live with it. English doesn’t have a gender neutral singular pronoun (other than “it” which is also not appropriate), so the general language feature is to use “he”. Some people in recent times try to use “they”, which is wrong because it’s a plural. There is no solution to this no matter how much you rail about it. People who translate ancient Greek for example recognise that terms like “brothers” is not meant to exclude women, and things along those lines. You can’t castigate them either because language is what it is.

    • Odd you say that when I just gave an example of legislating language.

      But language does — and has changed — lately for the better. Even without legislation. May our evolution continue.

      But I wonder: you’ve written in before and seem attached to patriarchy. Why?

    • You can’t just say we as a society “have to live with it” and that “there is no solution no matter how much you rail about it”. Unless you’re a woman you will NEVER understand what its like to have an entire planet telling you that you are second-rate because of your gender. So yes, language and the replacement of “he” with “they” (no matter how small a change it may seem to you) with the culmination of other changes plays a huge role in the building of a gender-equal society.

  2. The effect of patriarchy on the evolution of languages is overdue for revision. A living and constantly evolving language like English will, I am sure, gradually undergo the required tweaking. That said, nothing can detract from the pre-eminence of ‘mother’; so it is always ‘mother earth’, described in the female gender as ‘dharani’ and ‘bhoomika’ in Sanskrit, Gaia in Greek and Terra in Latin. In Indian culture, the manifestation of all arts and learning is the goddess Saraswati and that of wealth and riches is the goddess Lakshmi. The manifestation of all power and energy is goddess Durga. The cumulative feminine power of these three goddess is believed to control the universe. So,Georgia, it is not as iniquitous as it appears to be.

    • Americans do talk of Mother Earth and mother nature. But we use all of those other terms a whole lot more: he, man, men and women.

      We are changing — and the necessary steps to continued change involve awareness.

  3. In India I should say it is the other way.
    Even our mythologies say that the world is born of ‘Adi Shakti’ that means the female version of the creator.
    Whatever the words say its women that are important in this world.
    Shiva

  4. It’s time we moderate language and voice equanimity more.

  5. While for obvious reasons, I’ve never had to make the choice, I’ve always found it bizarre that women (or anyone else) would change their name upon getting married. You’re not a different person. It’s almost like erasing the identity you have based on all the experiences and friends you’ve met up to that point. I guess it would be more equitable if both parnters adopted the same hyphenated name but that’s only feasible for a generation.

    • A couple nonfeminist women I know said that changing their names — and identity — was one of the hardest parts of marriage. I didn’t change mine. But some people have called me by my husbands last name and it feels like they’re talking to someone else.

      • I think your referring to the English language but think Spanish is even more so that way. For example the way feminine and masculine are split and like it just implied not equal or like masculine is more important especially since often words for people as plural or places take the male ending as in “o” or “os” instead of “a” or “as”

      • Maybe. I don’t know Spanish very well.

    • When I did it, it was to make sure our kids would have the same name as my husband and I both, and legally it was just easier for me to change my name, but that seems to be less important to people these days.

      • I never had kids but if I did I think I would like to look at the ancestral names of both me and my husband and choose the one we like best, from both sides. I like French and so I would lean toward Chapelle. Plus, “Chapelle” has the first initial of my husband’s last name. And, if it was important for the whole family to have the same name, The whole family could change their name.

        Just one option (or 2).

  6. Yeah male is seen as ‘default’, and it’s ingrained in our language, and as a result, our whole world view and culture. Although a small thing but I often hear ‘girls and boys’ and notably ‘ladies and gentlemen’, but yeah, it doesn’t detract from the fact women are seen as secondary. If women were primary they’d be referred to as ‘man’, ‘he’, ‘male’ etc and men would be women, she etc lol. In many languages there are no gender pro-nouns, I wonder how that affects the way genders are viewed?

    • Yeah, I’m curious about how gender is viewed in those societies. But the fact that man almost always come first, and “man” and “he” often encompass women, helps to explain why we tend to think that men are people and women are women.

  7. This topic is interesting. To a certain extent ( a large extent), I agree with the idea of the article. It is an un challengeable truth that women are a bit “devalued” evidenced by strips and strips of culture, language, social behavior… etc.

    Now, the question is: what can we and what should we do about it? Can our children follows both the father’s and the mother’s last name? Yes we can, but when time goes on, things will become rather… messy, especially the family names. Imagine a person getting a noble prize and her name is Julian Amelia Sanders Peterson Grace Alice Morgan Potter Harrington Wang… ( a child gets his father’s and mother’s name, the child’s child will get the child’s name, the child’s wife’s name, and the child’s father’s and mother’s name and don’t forget to add the wife’s family names into the baby’s name) And it will take forever to give out the prize.

    Another problem about adding names up is: who comes first? Julia Peterson Amelia or Julia Amelia Peterson? It sounds nice if we just went for the alphabetical order, but how do we trace it back? Is your father’s last name Peterson or Amelia? Your mother’s? That might become a trouble when the government or whoever is reading your profile and database.

    Can the child pass on with the mother’s name? Yes, ofcourse! Should we do it? We … can try it. I guess most men will not be happy about it, just like women are not that happy about the current situation. Ancient Chinese proverb said that “Do not apply things on someone else if you are not willing to have it.” I know ladies might said that in this case, men should not force women to give up their names either. But the child will have no last names if the father and mother kept on fighting over the names. And right now we don’t really have a proper solution to that.

    • In some Asian and Latin countries they already have a solution to the problem you pose — which varies from place to place.

      And I know one American couple where the woman’s last name is McDaniel and the man’s last name is Pfeiffer, and they named their children McPfeif.

  8. Maybe. I don’t know Spanish very well.”

    Yep, check this out. It’s weird, I iike learning some spanish but I always remember thinking there has to be a strong patriarchal root to the spanish language, probably like the culture, because of how much “masculine” is value and valued over feminine words. When a word is for both genders the noun or plural goes to the “masculine” word, not feminine. Sometimes there’s a neutral, that’s “es”, but that’s for places or things. But then it comes to people it’s different. Check this link to see.

    http://www.studyspanish.com/lessons/plnoun.htm

    “When the plural refers to two or more nouns of different genders, the masculine plural is used.”

    2 perros + 6 perras = 8 perros (not perras)
    1 gato + 8 gatas = 9 gatos (not gatas)

    like I said “a” or “as” is the feminine form for the words and as it said, though for both genders, the ending goes to the “masculine which is “o” or “os” for plural like I said and you see from the example. Perro and gata is dog and cat and as we know, dogs and cats can be male and female. But even if a sentence is about cats and dogs and the cats and dogs talked about are female and male the plural form still goes to the masculine because it must be more important ha

    the word “they” is ellos, even though it would describe men and women, it goes to the masculine. There are exceptions and the feminine and masculine are split if not in plural, but I find it interesting how the plural form if describing things or men and women will go to the masculine ending.

    • Oh yeah, that’s right. I did take a little Spanish in middle school and I remember that. And now that you mention it, this explains why I prefer the term Hispanic over Latino.

  9. So how do you feel about using “they” and “them” for a singular reference as alternatives to the “he/she/him/her” or the klunky “he or she” and “him or her.” I prefer “they” and “them,” but still hesitate to use, because I can’t help but hear the voices of all my elementary school teachers correcting me.

    I think our language is evolving toward “they” and “them,” though.

    • When I was a little kid in grammar school we had a test where we had to write in which was correct: “they” or “he.” I was a little kid at the time and had never heard about feminism. But while I knew that I would get the answer marked wrong, I wrote in “they” anyway, because anything else was just too annoying.

      So I am all for “they” instead of “he.” “They” is wrong grammatically, but “He” is wrong sex-wise. So “they” doesn’t seem any more wrong, overall.

  10. words really do have power. Interesting that words were used to make it seem that “women” are encompassed in “men”/”human” – yet if you think about it- the word “women”, by it’s spelling alone encompasses “men.” wo-men. And men have to come out of a woman in order to be born women don’t. I haven’t read this book- the Alphabet vs. the Goddess- but the author talks about how the eve of words brought in the patriarchy/God and before that there was Her.

    • And interesting how deliberate the whole thing was in the English language — even legislation to make the change to greater patriarchy since people resisted so much. And eventually we did indeed get a world where man = men + women, and where men were primary.

      Sounds like an interesting book. Could be that correlation wasn’t necessarily causal, Though. The written word and big agriculture and patriarchy seem to have arisen together. There are different theories as to why agriculture and patriarchy came together. At base, with agriculture and surplus and wealth there was now something to fight over. And warrior cultures tended to celebrate male physical traits: bigger and stronger, along with warrior traits that we now call “masculine” (violent, aggressive, dominant, Stoic, unemotional…)

  11. Love Latin: agricola, farmer = feminine; porta, gate = feminine; homo, man= man. Not too much logic in our Latin Romance languages. And then we could start with the German. Fun stuff when you get into it. It is the English language and the culture that causes the difficulties with the he, she, s/he stuff. So ONE could always make ONE be the ONE and only pronoun. AAARRRGGGHHH!

  12. We have always seen that men are first in everything and are always thought of as the “universal sex.” Even in Spanish, words like amigos are meant to encompass both males and females even though it is the masculine version. When I was a little girl, I would ask my father what was the term for boy and girl friends and he would say amigos but I was very confused about why. However, I learned to accept it as the way it was just as all women learn to accept that men supposedly encompass women. This shows us the reality that in this world, men are considered more important. Meanwhile the term “ladies and gentlemen” makes us think that women are first in the world although that is only a false illusion. With subtle things like this, men teach women that they are more important than women and that they are to be maintained in second place.

  13. We live in a male dominant society is common and that reflects in our English and grammar (using ‘he’ instead of ‘she’ for describing everything). I don’t think this will change until society stops terming men as the influential sex. Women have made a mark for themselves and have proved they are at par with men in matters of mind too.

    • Yep. And we are beginning to change. I see a lot more “he and she… Men and women” — I try to switch it around “she and he… Women and men” but also more references to humankind, For instance. So we are in transition to a more partnership oriented world. Yay! 🙂

  14. I agree, word do shape and form a sense of identity configuration when applied to language air grammatical context. And I also agree that when I use some of these words they seem so normal and I don’t think of women in the picture. Lately though for the past year or so I’ve been trying hard to make a difference in my languages using more ow woman and man instead of just male like words such as mankind . One example of people using manly words would be if your talking to your female friend and you say “dude guess what happened?” So normal yet the word dude implies the man context or intention . So because we use these words there will be consequence such as offended women when being called dude. Men have pretty much ruled almost every aspect from the household they live to societal structures we have developed that make cultures functioned based on the influence of men’s ideologies . With our present day times through we have a ch ace to use more words that relate to women not just men .

    • I was really shocked when I was first learning about language and examining how it affected our minds. And I know it can be difficult to shift language. I know that I have had to practice at it, Because it does get so embedded.

  15. I strongly support the point that woman and man rely on each other. In my opinion, there are two main reasons that make man have the priority, Adam and physical condition. As we all know, Adam was the first person that created by god, therefore, it is reasonable that man is considered as the earlier human compare with woman. Secondly, due to the fact that mostly male can carry heavier things, and this thing is objective which can be seen by eyes, man is supposed to go in front of woman when danger is coming. But these two things should be taken away as the time goes by. There should not be any gap between man and woman, cause we are both defined as human being.

    • Well, the reason men come first doesn’t really have to do with Adam or man being bigger and stronger. People didn’t always put men first until the 1500s.

      And actually the first peoples worship a goddess, so you would expect that women would come first based on your logic here.

  16. It seems that since the very beginning of time we have been under a patriarchal rule, which has in turn influenced our vocabulary and societal structure. It is almost overwhelming how macro and micro these influences are — we blatantly see women being depicted in the media as sexual objects or disregarded in the workforce as being inferior to men, but the way that we use words is an example of a micro patriarchal influence. This is something that, as a woman, I did not notice until I came to college, where discussion on important topics such as this are much more relevant as they should be. The compilation of all of these micro-aggressive ways in which our grammar is male dominated influences us unconsciously as we are programmed to believe it.

    • It seems like since the beginning of time, But our earliest peoples were gender-equal foragers. So the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. And most men are feminist, With 90% believing that women an men have people worth And dignity and should have equal opportunity. But patriarchy arose via forces that have nothing to do with men wanting to hurt women — I’ll be posting more on that soon. And then both men and women are born into patriarchy, and these sorts of patterns become embedded unconsciously in our minds.

  17. Courtney Bernardo

    I think that the idea of women being second to man have been embedded to people’s psyche that it’s just seem the natural think to do. I think that society have been such a male dominated world that we say things like ” brother and sister” and its gonna hard to change that idea. Although, I there could definitely a chance and that has to start with women coming in to terms that we do not come second to man. And I think that the times that women get first billing is when its about describing them with a more feminine characteristic like “mother and son”. Overall, I think that when we say ” man and women” it rolls of naturally and I hope that women would have the first billing for ones.

    • It rolls off naturally because that’s what you’re used to hearing. I’ve switched it and it feels natural to me now. And people are starting to become more gender equal so there is hope!

  18. Since language comes to us from antiquity, and not through artificial construction, and since as we all know women are the biggest talkers and gossips, it’s reasonable to assume that any supposed patriarchy in language was put there by women!

    • I explained that language, in terms of patriarchy, was actually deliberately constructed, at least in part. Both grammarians and parliament made rules that you must put man before woman. Or that you can just say man and that means women too. And the shift came after patriarchy. Before that people didn’t speak that way.

      Also, women don’t necessarily talk a lot more than men, nor are they necessarily more gossipy. I’m extremely not, for instance.

      A study published in Science reports men and woman actually use roughly the same number of words daily.
      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/women-talk-more-than-men/

      And, men and patriarchy are two different things. Just like whites and racism are two different things.

      Almost all men believe in gender equality, and almost all whites believe in racial equality. But we were all born into a sexist and racist world, and unconsciously internalize those patterns. Some people work harder than others to change their mindset towards greater equality.

      • Oh come on, I know you dug up some reference to some 1850 English law, but seriously, there is no evidence whatsoever that this had any effect on anybody. As for grammarians, they document what exists, not what they wish existed. If they do the latter, they will be ignored because no grammarian is that powerful. So come on, prove your contention. Show us the survey of pre-1850 literature that proves that any change took place in the use of “man”. I mean come on, think about the 1611 King James Bible: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Go through your KJV and see how it uses “man”.

        The pronouns, I mean come on, English simply lacks a gender neutral singular 3rd person pronoun. It didn’t exist prior to 1746, nor prior to 1646. The idea to use the plural pronoun instead is an old one, but so is the use of “he”. The conflict between getting the singular right versus getting the gender right has always been a tension, and nothing that happened in 1746 changed anything. Look through the 1611 KJV to see too many examples to list.

        Interesting article you quote about words uttered by men and women, but even this study admits that women talk more about people and men talk about concrete things, so in the development of pronouns and such gender language, we still might attribute it more easily to women.

      • I didn’t do any of this research. I’m reporting on research I’ve read about, which I was first alerted to in the scholarly textbook I use.

        According to this research, people had been using gender-equal language. And then grammarians influenced how language was taught in school, yet people still didn’t speak in exactly the way that grammarians wanted, so Parliament passed a law. And now days people are working to move back to the earlier more gender-equal with speaking.

        If you don’t want to believe something you just come up with some logic which makes sense to you without doing any research yourself to find out whether or not is actually true. You also look at how language works today and assume that that’s how it always worked. And then you seem to think that everyone else takes that same approach, too.

        If you keep arguing about things you haven’t researched, I don’t see the point in continuing to respond.

      • According to Ann Bodine [“Androcentrism in prescriptive grammar”] the 1850 act of parliament had NO EFFECT on spoken language. None!

        How come I present you with facts, and you continue to cite cherry picked quotes from “research”? Facts trump opinion any day of the week. And I might point out that Australia, Canada, the US and various other English speaking countries were well and truly separated from English legislation by 1850, and yet their use of the generic “he” is no different than the rest of the English speaking world. There is no evidence whatsoever that the legacy of English of those people in England is any different than the legacy of English speakers unaffected by this legislation. Come on, use common sense on this, instead of endless appeal to propaganda.

        In one recent (2004) American survey, by Robert Fiske, presumably unaffected by the legislation of a foreign power, 19 people were asked to fill in the blank “Someone left ___ books on the table”. 10 people chose “his”, “her” or “his or her”, and 9 chose “their”.

        Here’s some more facts for you, some pre-1850 quotes that show use of the generic “he”.

        “Who of thise wormes shall be byten, He must have triacle; Yf not that, he shall deye.”— Caxton, Dialogues in French and English (c. 1483).

        “Let each according to who he is say the circumstances, a man as it happens to him, a woman as it touches her. (Ancrene Wisse, 13th century).

        “such a person is very lazy, be he high, or be he low”, Handlyng Synne, 1303

        “therefore every literate man or woman should read each day the orisons of my bitter passion for his own medicine” – The Commonplace Book of Robert Reynes (15th century)

        Generic he is not the invention of some patriarchal parliamentarians nor grammarians. Now certainly you can also find the generic they back then too. Both existed back then, both exist now, both in England, and in the colonies unaffected by the politics of England.

        Case closed, and no amount of selective quoting of research can change this.

      • Some of the evidence you were pointing to is postfeminist – after the time that feminists began to recommend against using the generic he. So many more people have begun saying their, instead.

        And the other proof is that parliamentarians felt so strongly that people weren’t using the generic he that they made a law. And over time people did use the generic he. Before feminism that is all you ever saw in publications. So there is the proof.

      • Before 1850: People used generic he AND generic their. After 1850: People used generic he AND generic their.

        NOTHING CHANGED!

        I cited an academic who said nothing changed. I cited the logic that the English speaking world (US, Canada, Australia) was not under this law, and nothing changed.

        AND

        I cited 4 very clear cases of pre-15th century use of the generic he.

        All this 1850 law proves is that people in that time were using both options, and somebody didn’t like it. You’ve utterly failed to prove the law did anything, and I positively proved that it did not!

        But of course, you will stick to your theory, because why let the facts get in the way of a juicy conspiracy theory about naughty patriarchal men?

      • Your MO seems to be focusing on one small detail — whether or not you have a legitimate point — and trying to distract from the main point, and acting like you’ve completely eviscerated your opponent. Interesting.

        If you take a look just before a law is passed on language and just after, you may not find much difference. As a feminist I have consciously tried to use the language differently, And it takes years to really do it, Because language is so unconscious.

        Regardless:

        Before Parliament made a law, and before grammarians made the rules, people had more gender-equal language patterns. Years later the language had changed to become more patriarchal. Between the times of gender-equal and patriarchal language patterns, grammarians and parliamentarians made their rules. And so you see the deliberate work to change language patterns. And you see a change in language patterns.

        There is your proof.

  19. I am guilty to using masculine pronouns for everything. Even when people talk about somebody in a gender neutral way, I’ll respond back with a masculine pronoun. It just seems so much more natural and easy. Just try option one (masculine) and if that doesn’t work out, I’m corrected. I am of Korean descent and in Korean most of the language seems to be gender neutral (from what I can recall), so I never thought anything of my using masculine pronouns in English. Nobody ever really made a big deal. I mean it was quite bizarre to learn that certain words had a gender when I was learning French in high school, but it never really made me feel guilty when I feminized a masculine word or vice versa. Perhaps, one day, we can work towards an English language that doesn’t have gender specific words just as other Asian countries do.

  20. jessica alvarado

    In regards to Shiva’s post, I would like to say that I admire how much the Indian culture positively respects women and femininity. This makes me ponder as to why the american culture has always been so patriarchal and came to the conclusion that religion is possibly the biggest influence. I don’t mean to bring up religion because its such a delicate issue, however i can see much patriarchy in Christianity and Catholicism which to me are the biggest and well known religions in American. It can be arguable that these religions are mostly the same and have many patriarchal. A perfect example would be, “we were made in HIS image.” So, I understand that God and Jesus Christ are both thought of to be men within these two religions, and its pretty much engraved in my mind and others as well I can image. And being that I am Catholic i question myself why it is so patriarchal and if maybe have taken to far in regards of how women have been positioned in the world because of our religious faith and values…. Just a food for thought.

    • The irony is that Jesus was a feminist: https://broadblogs.com/2015/04/03/jesus-was-a-feminist/

      Religion itself isn’t patriarchal, But it is a strong conveyor of whatever ideology you want. And every religion has more and less patriarchal sides to it. Fundamentalist forms tend to be patriarchal (at least in the patriarchal world) so Hinduism can be patriarchal, But it doesn’t have to be. Same with Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Etc.

      For your thoughtful questions.

  21. It’s hard to believe that at multiple points in history some people (or should I say men?) sat down and decided to make women linguistically inferior. I believe language matters a great deal because it shapes the ways in which we think. In languages where all nouns are gendered, people associate gendered traits with objects that are not inherently gendered. For example, German speakers associate “key” with masculine traits while Spanish speakers associate “key” with feminine traits (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46ehrFk-gLk). It’s damaging to make men the grammatical default and women secondary/other because it makes women a perpetual exception and men seemingly lacking in a grammatical gender of their own. It seems like the words “female” and “woman” mimic the notion that women are an alternative version of human. However, I’m not going to argue for spelling it “womyn” instead of “woman” because of the association this word has with trans exclusionary radical feminists. Besides, people don’t constantly think of “female” and “woman” as “feMALE and woMAN,” as if the first syllable is a modifier of the second.

    This post reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend who is a trans girl. I complained to her about gender neutral words like “sorcerer” and “actor” being seen as masculine and people feeling the need to use the words “sorceress” and “actress” instead. I argued that having different words for women makes them seem other. In fact, I don’t see why we say things like “men and women” and “boys and girls” in the first place. There are no categories besides gender into which people are routinely separated in everyday speech. We don’t address people as “rich and poor” or “young and old.” I don’t think it makes sense to make such a big deal out of gender categories in most situations. What my friend said regarding words like “sorceress” and “actress” is that they allow people to claim “a decidedly feminine identity.” I guess that’s another way to approach the existing problem of masculine language being seen as the default and gender neutral words being likely to be taken to refer to men.

  22. This is definitely an interesting post and it brings up one of the many interesting topics discussed in “The Second Sex.” The difference between human beings and other animals is the fact that our communication is verbal, with a set of defined words. These words are able to be utilized as the communication factors that people use to function in society. As such, the history of words is significant in analyzing society and the current state of societal functions. An example of how words connect expectations would be in the employment field. Often, air plane attendants were women and have been referred to as stewardesses though they have recently been referred to as simply steward. However, as the more proper term, they have been referred to as simply “air plane attendants.” Perhaps this is due to dispel any stigma or gender role to the position and open up the job market. The same concept applies when discussing actors/actresses or chairmen/chairwomen/chairpersons. Of course, this connection the language is not the explanation or solution for gender inequalities, it is an interesting, and crucial, perspective on such inequalities.

  23. I think it is important to underline that words are more than descriptive, they are also normative and carry gender accepted cultural values in them. There are many inequalities in language that serve to normalize cultural concepts of what is masculine and what is feminine. Many of these inequalities confer the basic message that men are doers and producers while women are watchers, caretakers, and consumers.

    Some examples of this are a congressman or mailman instead of a congressional representative or a mail carrier. Likewise, a housewife did not leave room for men and a more appropriate term would be homemaker. Some professions are associated with one gender. For example, I have heard someone described as a “male nurse” on more than one occasion. I think an interesting one is the term stewardess over a flight attendant. This is similar to the moniker “housewife,” except the male term steward carries a slightly different meaning. My online dictionary defines stewardess as “a woman who is employed to provide meals for and otherwise look after the passengers on a ship or aircraft” while a steward is defined as “1. a person who looks after the passengers on a ship, aircraft, or train and brings them meals” and “2. an official appointed to supervise arrangements or keep order at a large public event, for example a sporting event.” With the feminine charged term, it implies care or service while the masculine steward can also denote leadership. There are other good examples like “manning the front desk,” or a “manager” which is derived from the Italian maneggiare, meaning “to handle or to control.” Likewise, labor has also been broken down traditionally into man-hours.

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