Alleen Pace Nilsen, in her book “Sexism in English: Embodiment and Language,” explains how the English language contributes to gender disparity. She is concerned with gender roles in society and believes that both men and women should be liberated from the divisions of social class and racism.
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She claims that linguistic aspects contributed to the Afghanistan women being forbidden to attend school and also to seek for employment far from their homes. Moslem women were also required to wear the chanderi dress at all times. She sees this as slavery.
She is surprised that even alien women who visit these Moslem dominated countries are expected to abide by the laws governing the Moslem women. She further attributes the gender disparities that exist in many parts of the world to language aspects such as proverbs and other cultural beliefs held by a given community.
Summary of Sexism in English: Embodiment and Language
Allen Pace Nilsen sees the study of language as one of the factors which contribute to social problems. In an attempt to find out how language affects the social set up of a community, she concludes that language and the society conflict with each other. She attributes this conflict to the fact that societal values are intertwined with language. As a result, different societies have divergent views on some aspects of gender.
For example, some societies view women as sex objects whose role is majorly reproduction, whereas men are seen as the ones to seek for wealth in the family. The American culture, on the other hand, attaches a lot of value to the feminine beauty of the woman. A woman’s security and acceptance are usually determined by her body attractiveness. In this essay, as well as in all of her essays from the collection titled “Sexism and Language,” Alleen Pace Nilsen holds the view that the feminine eponyms identify a woman with her body, while the masculine eponyms are associated with a man’s achievements.
In the book, expresses dissatisfaction concerning the usage of certain English words. She is uncomfortable with the usage of the word ‘Amazon,’ which she finds derogatory to women. This is because of the meaning “without breast,” attached to it in the Greek language. The word is borrowed from the Greeks, and according to their mythology, women should sell their body parts such as breasts to perform men’s roles.
She views this as gender inequality. The author is also shocked by the language patterns used in literature, in particular, in a western trapper’s diary that was written in the early 18th century. In the trapper, the word ‘teats’ was used to refer to a female’s breasts. The meaning of the word is hills. The author notes with concern about how women’s body parts draw unnecessary attention.
She also suggests that language influences how the two sexes view weddings. The majority of women regard weddings as necessary and cherish the occasion more than men and carry the tag ‘bride’ long before and after the event. Men, on the other hand, do not put a lot of emphasis on weddings, and they are thus referred to as ‘groom.’ Moreover, Nilsen states that words that are referred to males bear positive connotations more often than those that are referred to females.
As is clear from the analysis essay on sexism in language, linguistic evidence suggests that men are more active than women. Concerning marriage, men are expected to be more actively involved in building up the family than women. A man is usually thought to have possessed a woman by marrying her. As a result, a woman identifies herself with the husband because she belongs to him. A man also plays an active role in marriage by breaking a woman’s virginity. The author also holds the view that only a few women achieve greater things in their lives alone without their husband’s support.
In her literary work, “Sexism in English: Embodiment and Language,” Nilsen notes that the English language affects the way men and women perceive things. An example is how women put more emphasis on weddings compared to men, who do not regard the occasion so much.