Lecture 1 – Jan 15 2014
• What is gender?
o Grammatical gender
Distinction in some languages to distinguish animate and inanimate
objects as masculine or feminine
• i.e. la/le in French/Spanish
• Distinction in pronouns to refer to a male or female
Do all languages have grammatical gender?
• I.e. Chinese, Persian do not have grammatical gender
• Genderless languages are not immune to sexism
• Otto Jespersen
o Impressionistic methodology
• Mary Haas
o Identified sex exclusive language is Koasati
• Sex exclusive linguistic features vs. sex preferential linguistic features
o Sex exclusive linguistic features
Very few things are exclusive markers of speakers sex or direct indexes of
• i.e. he/she – as soon as you say it you know that you are talking
about either a male or a female
• ‘ze’ – a 3 gender (someone who doesn’t want to identify with a
specific gender) – language is a resource. Takes away the binary
features of our language, broadens the term…
sex exclusive use of language is very rare – may be found among
• Understanding social arrangements between the sexes is key to
understanding the languagegender relationship
o Sex preferential use of language are more common
They refer to tendencies in men and women and how they differ in a given
• Why is language a feminist issue?
o Language reflects society Problematic = Language has no power in society other
than reflecting what’s already there
• Sexist language and sexist discourse
o Emphasizing binary genders
o Some people like the binary
o Mr. vs Mrs.
Why do we care if we are married or not?
No Ms/Miss/Mrs equivalent for men, they are all Mr.
Feminist perspecitive to show that there is inequality for females
o Certain words or phrases become naturalized and we don’t even know where they
come from, we accept that is how it is o Getting away from the norm…white people have race too! Women are not the
only ones with gender. i.e. in a women and gender class its predominantly
women… heterosexuality isn’t studied because it’s the ‘norm’
o Whole notion of context = who can say which words? When is it offensive?
• Semantic derogation of women
o English terms that underwent semantic derogation through history
• Early feminist concerns: sexist language
o Did not take away division between married and unmarried
o Marital status is still extremely important in our s