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.
“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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