In a lecture entitled, “Politically Correct: Do Our Language Choices Matter?” given at Iowa State University, University of Michigan Professor Anne Curzan made the argument that the English language is sexist, Breitbart.com reported Friday.
According to Breitbart:
Curzan argued that gendered words such as “chairman,” and “congressman,” which are incorrectly considered to be applicable to both men and women, are reflections of 18th-century language practices that were devised by male supremacists:
Curzan pointed out that it wasn’t until 2009 that Congress recognized that government positions such as the chair head of a committee, formerly referred to as a chairman, should change their titles to encompass all potential candidates.
It is often thought that the suffix “man” is an all-inclusive and general term, but Curzan compared this to using “woman” as a position suffix. For example, “camerawoman” is not viewed as an all-inclusive title.
This is a practice dating back to the 1700s when male superiority was emphasized through saying in congressional documents, “the masculine encompasses the feminine.”
Curzan’s thesis is seemingly that language choices can have a deep impact on societal attitudes, in this case, towards women.
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“It’s very hard to get people to change their language, but changing language does have the power to change attitudes,” she said.
I’m reminded of something attributed to George Orwell: “Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
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